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Streaming Media West: Keepin' It Real

So what could National Geographic do with all the rest of the content?

"With so many researchers out in the field—using everything from low-res to high-definition cameras—we had lots of content," said Scolnik. "Plus, with this content being our own, we weren’t very rights-encumbered."

At first, using quite a few of these short clips, National Geographic tried lots of short clips—around 20 to 30 seconds—of what can only be described as grotesque videos from the animal world.

"We spent lots of money—and got lots of hits—doing this," said Scolnik. "But there was no ‘there’ there and these people never came back. Why? We weren’t being true to ourselves and what National Geographic stood for."

So National Geographic created a short-form group, hiring people who would have been part of the target audience. Scolnik described them as as several Web 2.0, digitally obsessed people who work alongside the company’s Emmy-award winning filmmakers.

Scolnik said National Geographic set an arbitrary maximum time of short-form clips of no more than 7 minutes. This wasn’t based on any hard and fast rule but seemed to be the right length to get the story across as well as meet the needs of the web audience.

"We now serve an audience on the web that looks like a web audience," said Scolnik, "and it’s completely different from the audience that our magazine serves and also completely different from audience our television group serves. But we’re also finding that the release of clips on the web—from, for instance, a series of Egyptian tombs that were being opened—actually drives more interest in our television shows."

Scolnik said the short-form group also purchased Final Cut Pro stations because the Avid equipment used by the television group was expensive and—more importantly—slow.

"A final way we’ve been real to ourselves is to create our own player experience," said Scolnik. "We went out the door with a pre-packaged Brightcove player solution, but found that we needed flexibility."

After creating their own player, Scolnik says National Geographic’s video views per month have been increasing every month by at least 200% per month, up to almost 15 million streams per month.

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