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Choosing an Online Video Platform

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At fewer than 400 views per day, that number wouldn’t budge the Nielsen ratings in any market, and it would be worth little or nothing for any advertising-supported viewing model. On the other hand, you’d have to assume that the majority of the folks watching the video were considering hiring a malpractice attorney in New York. I spoke with Robert Sullivan, who assured me that the YouTube video had generated several new clients and that from his view (and from the view of his firm), the YouTube video was a fantastic success.

I scanned YouTube’s channels to get a feel for who thought it was worthwhile to post videos to YouTube. I noted that General Electric has its own channel (131 videos, 452,000 views), as did H&R Block (9 videos, 391,000 views), E*TRADE (13 videos, 1.6 million views), the World Economic Forum (897 videos, 354,000 views), and the White House (10 videos, 351,000 views). Though companies such as Black & Decker, Callaway Golf, and Bosch don’t have their own channels, their products are certainly well-represented. As you’ll read later in this article, Kohler and Co., which uses Brightcove as its SaaS provider, has also posted 10 videos to YouTube, with more than 100,000 video views. Clearly, exposure on YouTube isn’t for everyone. But for many products and services, it’s an inexpensive route to a vast audience you probably couldn’t reach by posting videos on your own website.

Beyond delivering more eyeballs to your video, another community benefit of UGC sites is that the players are usually easy to embed into another webpage, essentially allowing you to syndicate your video to other websites. For example, suppose you had just visited the Topel Winery (Figure 2) and wanted to include a video of your visit in your personal blog, or suppose you were a wine reviewer and you wanted your web readers to see the winery you’re talking about.

Figure 2
Figure 2. Easy embedding is another benefit of UGC sites.

Click the EMBED button shown over the proprietor’s left shoulder, and Vimeo will produce the codes necessary to embed the video and player in any other site. Certainly, if you were hosting your own videos, you could create a player with this feature, but it would be an added expense.

Choosing a UGC Site
Now that we’ve identified the benefits of UGC sites, let’s identify a few of the sites, discuss how to narrow down the list for your own use, and describe how they work. In choosing a site, remember the two functions of the UGC service: content delivery and community. Obviously, if the service doesn’t provide adequate content delivery services, community doesn’t matter.

There are multiple UGC sites out there, and the number appears to be growing as social networking sites such as Facebook start to incorporate video. Table 1 lists some relevant content-delivery-related features of several of them. As you can see, duration limits of 5–10 minutes are common. Most sites let you upload an unlimited number of videos, though some, such as Vimeo, limit you to total bandwidth usage per week.

Table 1

On the distribution side, most sites now support high-definition video, though that’s probably more than most businesses need right now. In terms of quality, Table 1 includes the distribution specs and codec, but the best judge of quality is your own set of eyes. Whichever site you choose, be sure to check its terms of use, since not all sites allow "commercial videos," though the term is loosely defined and appears to be sketchily enforced.

Virtually all UGC sites make it easy to embed your videos back into your own website, so that’s not a real differentiating feature. Typical features include those shown in the Vimeo player in Figure 2, including simple playback controls, a full-screen option, and the ability for viewers to rate videos and email the link to other potential viewers.

In terms of community-related features, if you’re hoping to gain viewers through your service, you should understand the general focus of the users. For example, while both Facebook and YouTube have a general audience, Vimeo and SmugMug are targeted toward videographers and photographers. That’s great if you’re selling products or services into that market, but it’s of little importance otherwise. Similarly, blip.tv, one of the more popular UGC sites, is oriented toward serialized video episodes. It might be a good fit as far as content delivery is concerned, but it’s probably not much help in the community department.

If there’s a good match between your products and services and the target audience of the UGC site, note that you can usually create a custom landing page that contains all of your videos and provides some measure of branding. Finally, if you’re seeking the community benefit and hoping that potential viewers will watch your video from that site, consider whether you can exclude third-party advertising from your landing page, since advertisements for teeth whitening or Viagra might not look appropriate next to your video. Advertising-free pages are not an option with Facebook and YouTube, but they are available for a small fee from Vimeo and SmugMug.

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