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eBay Embraces Enterprise YouTube

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A funny thing happened on my way to writing a case study about eBay's use of their enterprise YouTube. Specifically, the discussion transitioned from tech talk, like identifying channels and moderation workflows, to the social forces driving eBay's decision to implement its enterprise YouTube and to surround it with complementary functionality.

As you’ll read below, eBay (Figure 1) didn't implement their enterprise YouTube solely for tactical reasons; it was also a strategic measure to help ensure the long-term competitiveness of their products and services. In the words of Ryan Burnham, who manages eBay's internal webcasting and streaming, “the exponential leap in technology has driven a rapid expansion of what the devices in our pockets can do, while social media sites like Facebook and Twitter are shaping how everyone—not just millennials—discover and consume information. If we're not providing parity experiences for our employees, we’re by default expressing a corporate policy that it’s OK not to keep up, which puts us at risk for producing substandard products and services.”

Figure 1. eBay credits its enterprise YouTube from Qumu with helping foster innovation across the eBay Inc. portfolio of products and services.

Enterprise YouTube as a vehicle for ensuring long-term competitive advantage? Pretty heady stuff. But I get ahead of myself. So let’s start with the basics.

About Enterprise YouTubes

As the name suggests, enterprise (or corporate) YouTubes allow employees and other stakeholders to upload content to a centralized location for internal distribution and, at the discretion of the organization, external distribution. There are multiple vendors that offer enterprise YouTube products, including Qumu, who supplies eBay’s product, traditional online video platform vendors like Kaltura, webcasting vendors like MediaPlatform, and companies whose focus is enterprise YouTubes like Vidizmo, which we'll be reviewing in an upcoming issue of Streaming Media magazine. The list is growing; just this week VBrick announced its own enterprise YouTube offering.

Figure 2. Qumu supplies enterprise YouTube functionality as a component of its Video Control Center product offering.

At a high level, the features offered by most vendors share many common elements. For example, all products enable organizations to specify which employees can upload content, with well-defined moderation workflows. All offer a portal for viewing content, and most can integrate with existing enterprise portals with single sign-on capabilities. All products enable the creation of channels and the ability to control which employees can view content in those channels. All enable the sharing of both live events and on-demand videos, and most provide detailed analytics that enable system administrators to track who watched which video and for how long.

Beyond this general functionality is a wealth of functions that fewer organizations actually leverage, like the ability to use the system for testing and certification, or to monetize content. Like the proverbial elephant, enterprise YouTubes look and feel like many things; it all depends upon where you touch. As it is with Qumu, enterprise YouTube functionality is often part of a much broader product, a specific interface or set of rules that gets enabled, rather than a standalone product.

eBay’s Scenario

As an example, eBay started using Qumu’s Media Publisher product in 2006, but didn’t implement enterprise YouTube functionality until 2010. At the time, the primary motivation wasn’t for employee uploads, but so that their team could manage its increasingly video-related publishing without involving an intermediary. To explain, most video publishing applications are highly centralized, with a few administrators uploading a large number of videos for viewing by many. By deploying the enterprise YouTube, eBay was able to efficiently and economically empower communications stakeholders to use video to dialog with their constituents.

As Burnham explained, this is critical in an enterprise as large as eBay Inc., which has three main divisions: eBay marketplaces, which includes the main eBay Marketplaces site plus eBay Classifieds Group and StubHub; PayPal, which includes Bill Me Later and Braintree; and eBay Enterprise (formerly GSI commerce) which fulfills online orders for brick and mortar companies. All three are international divisions, with eBay running in more than 31 countries using countless languages. When video distribution was highly centralized, communications around these divisions and geographical locations was very challenging.

When eBay first deployed Qumu, video communications consisted of quarterly CEO announcements. Today, Burnham sees three general types of content in the portal. First are VP-level webcasts, which occur two or three times a week, and often have a mix of local and remote viewers. Second are communications pieces from various departments, like a very popular weekly “PayPal in 90 Seconds” video, which informs PayPal employees of the progress around their business and geographic units and gets thousands of views a week. According to Burnham, this type of video is the “new document” and generates much greater attention and interaction than memos or other text-based documents. The third category is from general employees, and may be training videos, a product demo, or other quick-hit videos meant to be relevant to the business unit.

Channels and Moderation

Each division has its own channel and multiple subchannels tailored to its audience. All employees can upload content to the general channel for uncategorized content, while the ability to upload to specific channels is limited to stakeholders within those channels.

Burnham estimated that around 1,000 employees have uploaded some form of video content. One huge use case are periodic hack-a-thons eBay holds to generate new ideas for a product or process, where employees often use video to describe or demonstrate their concepts. In any given week, about 100 videos are uploaded into the system, though there are special cases like the hack-a-thons that spike that number.

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