Giant Web 2.0 Lies
99% of online videos are some kid swinging a lightsaber for five minutes!
I will admit that I find the "Star Wars Kid" very funny (search Google for "Star Wars Kid" to find the back story), but as I grow older I find my palate longing for a bit more civilized content. Yes, users generate some very funny and entertaining videos, but sometimes the old media guard provides production value that helps tell some very cool stories. So how much traditional media content is out there on the web?
In the last few months there have been a flurry of deals between YouTube and the BBC, Joost and Viacom, CBS and Brightcove, and a host of other traditional media outlets serving up their content on social networks. The realization that two kids in China with a webcam can compete with episodes of Lost has finally started to sink in, and that’s pushing more professionally produced content online. Most of the major broadcast and cable networks offer their content on their own websites, but these recent partnerships with Web 2.0 companies are pushing the envelope on how we will view our favorite shows in the future. Don’t count old media out yet, but there is something to be said when there are more people watching a clip of Saturday Night Live on YouTube than there are watching it on TV.
We should pay our ad agency a lot of money to do some viral videos!
After seeing some very mediocre attempts at creating viral videos by major companies, I wanted to find a word that best fit this new class of video spam. Spam + Viral + a rapidly spiraling descent with ugly consequences = Spiral Video. Spiral videos are an unfortunate and all-too-common appearance in the everyday landscape of online video. Greedy corporations view viral videos as another way for them to advertise their products, but in this new Web 2.0 era, any attempt to lie to consumers can have disastrous effects.
A great example of how not to launch a viral video campaign was put together by the Sony PSP advertising department right before Christmas 2006. With slumping sales of the PSP and the brisk sales of the Nintendo Wii, Sony tried to jumpstart some buzz by launching a fake blog and fake viral videos. They hired a marketing firm, which paid two actors to create a rap video trying to convince their parents to buy them a PSP for Christmas. The truth was exposed online that the whole thing was faked, and the negative PR is still flying around on the internet. Search for "sony psp blog" and see the fallout from a failed Spiral Video.
An example of someone that has handled viral marketing in the right way is Dove, with its "Campaign for Real Beauty." They launched a web-only video called the "Evolution Film" and asked people to comment on their forums about how our perception of beauty had been skewed. They were open and honest and invited people to have real conversations. The video has spread across most user-generated video sites, and a quick search for "Dove" reveals the popularity of their successful campaign. The essence of participation is a key differentiator between a true viral video (spread by somebody else) and a spiral video (spread by yourself, and very poorly I might add). So remember that a viral video is only viral if somebody else says that it is—and it works best if someone else actually creates the video without your help (and your agency doesn’t count).
We can’t share our videos online; someone might pirate them!
Part of this myth is actually true, of course. People will and probably already have pirated your videos. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t share them. One of the most powerful pieces of the Web 2.0 shift is that everyone is now a content viewer, generator, and reviewer. Regardless of whether you have 30-second spots that you have paid six figures to produce or R&D home movies showing your product in action, you can benefit from the power of others. Even traditionally produced entertainment content (movies, TV shows, etc.) can benefit from the power of the community.
I was researching a story on presentations, and I saw a FedEx commercial on TV that fit perfectly. I went to the FedEx website and spent several minutes digging around the site looking for television ads. I finally used the search feature and found the TV ads page and the particular commercial that I had been seeking. I watched it again and chuckled and then realized it was a FedEx flash player but there were no "embed" or "share" features on the video. I wanted to share this video with lots of other folks—which would have spread FedEx’s brand message to new viewers—and I couldn’t. So I went to my favorite user-generated video site, where a quick search revealed several users that had uploaded that very commercial, and so I used that one. By trying to hold on too tight to their "asset," FedEx had missed out on who-knows-how-many opportunities to interact directly with potential or current customers.
The toothpaste is out of the YouTube, and any video is fair game to be shared on the web. The future success of this medium is to find a way to share content in a legal and safe way that will allow everyone to participate in the process. Look at some of the current produced content on sites like blip.tv, and watch to see how online video will work in the next five years.
Online video is for web-savvy people and companies!
Here is the part where you get involved. Anybody can share video online and tell great stories about their lives, their passions, or their business. The fact that you are reading this article probably means you have a mobile phone, digital camera, video camera, webcam, or some other device that captures video. You most likely also have a computer and internet access. Congratulations, you can generate online video and join the Web 2.0 revolution.
Pick something you are passionate about and enjoy talking to others about at parties. Shoot some brief clips of yourself or someone else sharing some stories around your niche. Your computer probably has some free software on it that can edit video (iMovie, Windows Movie Maker, etc.). If not, go to www.download.com and get a free video editor. Stumble your way through the editor and export a video file—actually read the tutorial if you get stuck. Pick a video-sharing site (you can find a list of them here.YouTube, Google Video, Revver, and blip.tv are good starting points, but find one you like. Load up your video for free and then share the link. If it goes well, you may consider doing it on a regular basis and actually building a video podcast. This seems too easy to be true, but honestly this is how everybody else got started. Get in now and beat the rush, one day everyone will have their own channel—whether they like it or not.
Web 2.0 Wrap-Up
There are more myths being generated every day about Web 2.0 (or whatever you would like to call this next era of the web). And while we should be cautious about embracing the latest and greatest buzzwords, we also have to understand how these very exciting advances in technology are affecting our business. With the rapid change in online video you can bet that whatever I have said here will be different in three months, but the basic principles of Web 2.0 are here to stay. Share your ideas, be open and honest, and invite others to participate and you will be successful.