Video Just Got Easier
This month, I’d like to look at what has changed about online video, examine some of the capabilities that are available to you, and consider some of the reasons that video should be part of your content strategy.
The internet is the new TV (don’t you just love statements like that?). Chances are, you are probably so immersed in it that you haven’t even noticed how radically video has changed the internet, not to mention your own viewing habits. Think about it: there is very little in the way of television programming that you can’t access online within hours of its initial broadcast! Network websites and Hulu.com deliver many popular television programs officially, but there’s no shortage of television programming captured by viewers and uploaded to YouTube, provided you’re willing to watch it in shorter segments at lower quality.
A recent Integrated Media Measurement survey showed that, in the last year, 5% of former television viewers have already switched to watching programs online, both as they become available and at a later point after initial broadcast. This figure is not even taking into account all of the user-generated video content being watched online (the number of videos on YouTube has been estimated at over 80,000,000). Whatever that number actually is, it’s a lot. Meanwhile, Wired has reported that viewing on all three “screens” (tv, internet, and mobile devices) has generally increased over the past year, with the average amount of television watched increasing to 8 hours and 18 minutes a day. This is the highest average ever! These statistics show that internet video is on the rise, but they also suggest that the more video is watched online, the more it’s watched everywhere. Anyone interested in seeing some correlating numbers on reading?
Recently, the New York Times Magazine featured an entire issue on ‘screens’. I think it’s a must-read for anyone working in advertising or marketing. Here’s a choice quote from Benjamin Palmer, CEO of the Barbarian Group:
“What the proliferation of screens has done is give a bazillion creators the power to publish. There are now billions of hours of content, which means new places for advertisers to latch on to — lots of content that pockets of people find interesting. But the shift you’re describing makes things more complicated for advertisers too. When the TV networks held the reins for content, all advertising had to do was buy into the public consciousness of entertainment, which was television.”
What this “shift” means is that companies cannot simply buy in to the public consciousness anymore. They must create in to it now by allowing their products, services or processes to exist transparently online. Video is probably one of the most direct ways of doing this, as it is a format that lends itself easily to customer testimonials, product demos, personal introductions, commentary, event coverage, etc. Really, when it comes to video, options abound.
All of this is really just a little background, which I hope provides some context for what I have to say about online video. The subject of video in general is obviously just too big to cover in our newsletter, so for now, let’s just say that the influence of online video is growing too rapidly to be ignored by anyone. Video can be leveraged by businesses now more easily than ever before. Next, I’d like to review some examples of how video is being used among our clients’ websites, as well as those of some other companies.
Many of our existing clients are starting to include video in their content strategy. Assuming they have some internal process for creating the videos themselves, getting them on their website is actually pretty simple. What we typically recommend is first converting them into Flash Video format (.flv). This way, the videos can be stored in a central location in the database and then matched to a Flash Video player file on any page template as they are needed. Using this approach, all kinds of creative opportunities become available in terms of how the videos appear on the page because the player itself can be “skinned” to fit the look and feel of the website. Below are several examples of how we’ve done this in some recent projects:
Many of our clients are also starting to explore using free tools like YouTube, Vimeo or Viddler to embed videos on to their website. This is a great place to start with video since these services make uploading and embedding your video content so easy and inexpensive to do. Strategically, there are other advantages to using this approach as well. First, by using a third party to host and deliver your video, you don’t need to worry about using extra bandwidth on your website. If you expect many viewers to access your video content, or if you have longer videos to display, this might be a serious consideration. Additionally, setting up a YouTube, Vimeo, or Viddler account allows you to have a profile on these websites where your videos can be viewed, tagged, shared, or commented on. Viddler even allows you to add comments to the timeline of your video, so that they will visually appear an the point of your choosing. Having an outpost like these will help your video to be seen by more people and perhaps drive more traffic to your website. Below are several examples of some of our clients who have taken this approach:
I also wanted to point out a few other sites that use video in helpful ways. These are not sites that we built, but are great examples of how video can be featured from a variety of sources but integrated in to the overall user experience of the website on which they are embedded.
Until recently, video as a content strategy probably hasn’t seemed like the best investment for many businesses for some pretty good reasons. First, producing a video can be very expensive and time consuming. You’ve got to assemble a creative team and equipment, come up with a good idea, shoot the thing, edit it, format it for online use, and then figure out how to get the file on your website. Of course, this isn’t all necessarily true anymore. While creating a broadcast-quality promotional video still might require all of that investment, creating a casual but effective video on the fly can be done very simply. In fact, I’ve noticed that many casual and lo-fi videos appeal to people online because they just seem more authentic.
Second, tracking video hasn’t always been the most straighforward thing to do. Sure, you could easily track how many visitors came to the page on which the video was embedded, but aside from building some custom tracker or guessing based upon the page’s bounce rate, actually evaluating the video’s performance was pretty difficult. Today, that’s no longer the case. Google has added some really powerful tools to Google Analytics, among them being a video event tracker. Using this functionality in combination with a custom video player on your site, you could now potentially determine when viewers stopped watching a video, and where they went afterward, with much greater precision.
Lastly, video files themselves have not always had much positive impact on search engine optimization. Because the content itself couldn’t be indexed, most sites might have been better off using text to communicate what the video attempted to, provided that was even possible. However, now that there are so many popular platforms on which to support your video (YouTube, Vimeo, Viddler, etc.), they have value as promotional outposts for your company. Putting your video content on any of these sites will increase your visibility, allow for user comments and interaction, and potentially drive more traffic to your site.
I expect to see much more video in the near future, and so should you. As I reflect upon the past few months, I can’t think of a day on which I didn’t receive a video message on Facebook, video chat with a coworker, family member or friend, talk about video with a client, or see a video related to my industry online.
If you think about it, it really makes sense that video would become so prevalent so quickly. You can absorb so much more information, more quickly, from a video than from a paragraph of text. This doesn’t mean that video is always going to be the best choice of media, but it does mean that it’s going to be used more and more frequently. Believe me, I cherish language and the written word and have plenty of paranoid dystopian reservations about the influence of technology on society, but I’m accepting the shift nonetheless. Eventually, the ubiquity of words on the internet will almost certainly be eclipsed by video, so now is the time to get on board.
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Because this newsletter has been all about video, I also wanted to include a few videos made by the Newfangled crew:
From Mark O’Brien
From Able Parris
From Steve Grothmann (he’s the bassist)