Choosing an Online Video Platform

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Content management capabilities vary by service provider, but they typically include the abilities to tag media for search and retrieval, to track the number of plays for each video, to select preview images or thumbnails for the videos, to incorporate multiple videos into a playlist for sequential playback, and to incorporate the uploaded videos into your own content management system (see Figure 3 for a sample administrative panel).

Figure 3
Figure 3. The administrative panel from VMIX’s online video platform

If you plan to offer multiple, related videos in a content window (see Figure 4), you’ll also want the ability to categorize related media into groups, either manually or by creating genres. To keep the viewer engaged, you’ll want a dynamic presentation that updates with each video the viewer plays in order to continue to present the most related videos. Obviously, this is a playback function, but you can’t make it happen without strong, back-end organizational capabilities.

Figure 4
Figure 4. You’ll want a stand-alone player to embed into a page and, perhaps, the ability to easily create video libraries containing items with related content as well.

The Player
After uploading and organizing your videos, you’ll want to turn your attention to the playback side, more specifically, the player and video window options. With these options, most vendors offer the ability to create a branded player with all the normal playback controls and embedding and email options, if desired. Another common feature is the ability to embed a single player in a page and, perhaps, the ability to create a video library for viewers to click through, such as the Kohler library shown in Figure 4.

Be sure to check the extent to which you can customize the player and video libraries presented within the page, and note how easy or how difficult these features are to customize. For example, VMIX offers drag-and-drop widgets that let you easily add players and video content windows in a variety of shapes and sizes to your webpages, along with a comprehensive programming interface for customization. Brightcove offers four levels of player and video window customization, from simple enabling and disabling of player-related features to a programming interface for custom programming or dropping in third-party plug-ins.

Also investigate whether you can create different players for the various pages on your own website and custom players for customers or others who you may want to use your videos. For example, since Kohler sells solely through distributors, it has produced extensive libraries of streaming content to reach potential customers directly. Kohler makes these libraries available to their distributors with a custom player that reflects both Kohler’s branding and the distributor’s branding.

Once you have your player, you’ll want to know how and where your videos are being played. Most UGC sites tell you how many viewers clicked play and started to watch your video, but they provide no details beyond that point.

In contrast, SaaS vendors present true viewer analytics, which sounds like a fancy word for statistics, but it really goes a step beyond that by allowing you to analyze patterns within the statistical data. One great example of this is the Engagement function in the Ooyala analytics. Engagement allows you to track how long the typical viewers watch your videos and points to where they drop off (Figure 5).

Figure 5
Figure 5. Ooyala lets you see where viewers stop watching your videos, which is invaluable data for video producers.

As a video producer, this information could be invaluable. For example, if you have massive drop-offs in the first 30 seconds or so, you have the data to back up recommendations, such as ditching the CEO’s greeting or the 20-second introductory animated collage. If few viewers make it through to the end of your 4-minute product demo, you know that you need to get to the point more quickly or, perhaps, present that video later in the sales cycle.

On a more basic level, most SaaS providers can detail video plays, bandwidth, and the country and domain of your viewers. Some offer the ability to download CSV files so you can further analyze this data in Excel. If you’re a current user of analytics programs from providers such as Google, Omniture, or Visible Measures, look for the ability to integrate your data into these packages.

Interactivity is the ability for viewers to click the video window to make something happen, whether playing another video, jumping to a different webpage, or retrieving a PDF file. If you’re integrating video into a streamlined sales cycle, it’s a great way to present the "call to action" whether it’s "click here to download a contract" or "click here to contact a sales representative."

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