Archive for the 'Web Video' Category

Jun 23 2008

Getting Started With Web Video, Part 2: Video Hosting and Distribution

Published by Loren under Web Video

This is Part 2 of a 3-part blog series about video on the web.  In Part 1, I discussed the ins and outs of screencasting.  In this installment, I’m going to tell you how to get your videos out onto the web, attracting eyeballs in a number of communities, and ultimately driving traffic back to your own sites.

Web Video Distribution

This part can be a point of major hesitation to people for a lot of reasons:

  • Where do i host my videos?
  • How do i embed my videos on my site?
  • How big is too big?
  • What freaking format do i even use?

Like most things, the short answer is “It depends.”  Big surprise, huh?  But seriously, you have a lot of options here, and some may make you more comfortable than others.

The fact of the matter is that this part is strongly tied to how you market your videos (remember how important that is?), so we’ve got a firm Snowcap Labs recommendation to make in the end.  But for completeness, i want to cover all of your options so you can make the best decision for you.

Hosting Your Own Video

This is probably the mechanism most people expect to do by default.  The basic process is simple, you just upload your movie file to your server and embed a Flash movie player that points to it.  The basics of file upload are beyond the scope of this article, but here are a few Flash video players that you can use to your heart’s content without paying a dime:

You will need to make sure that you are exporting your video files into a format that your chosen Flash player is capable of opening.  Unfortunately, it looks like FlowPlayer is the prettiest, but the most prohibitive in terms of formats, while the JW player is ugly with the most functionality.  There are definitely more options out there, Google remains your friend.

Now, if you’re planning on getting a lot of traffic to your videos, I’d like to take a moment to suggest you not host it on your own box, but rather to host it on Amazon’s Simple Storage Service (S3).  This is basically a simple way to leverage the immense infrastructure built by Amazon to host their web scale retail store for your own needs.  The upshot is that you won’t slow your server down to stream video, it will never go down due to high traffic, and it’s very competitively priced (15 cents per gigabyte, transfer.)  Again, this is beyond the scope of this article, but there’s an excellent write-up on using Amazon S3 here, and it works as simply as the FTP method once it’s set up.

Using Web Services to Host Your Video

Another option for hosting your video is simply to not do it yourself at all, and let someone else handle the load.  The sheer number of video sites that let you use their bandwidth to do what you want with your video is astonishing, and they work the same way as the Amazon S3 option, only they’re easier and free.  You simply create an account with them, upload your video, then copy the embed code over to your own site.

Here’s a list of some video sites that allow this:

Video startups are so numerous that this service is effectively commoditized, so you have the freedom to pick on features.  For example, Vimeo allows HD content.  Revver shows ads over your videos and shares revenue with you.  Youtube has integrated viewer tracking/analytics into their offering.  So take some time and find the one you like.

But before you rush off and start this process (or rush to the comments and start flaming), there’s an important branding/ownership discussion to have here.  Many people get concerned when they imagine embedding someone else’s Flash player on their site, because it says “Youtube” (et al) all over it.

“Won’t My Brand Suffer Using Another Company’s Player?”

That is logical, and I’m glad you’re thinking like a marketer.  Your brand IS very important.  But it’s a fallacy to view external video sites as an attack on your brand.  In fact, they are a boon. You see, hosting your videos on other sites means you get free exposure to an entirely different community from your own, and some of these communities are absolutely massive (Google alone controls almost 40% of online video views!)

As for that ugly logo that has someone else’s site’s name on it, don’t worry about it too much.  At this point, web video viewers are essentially “ad-blind” to that kind of thing.  As long as the “Play” button is large and beckons action, it really doesn’t matter who provides it for you.  Pick the service you ultimately embed based on the features you want, and the user experience that best suits your site.  Many players are actually really unobtrusive with their logos!

Your exposure in these external communities is critical to getting the word out about your video initiative.  So it really is all about the marketing, but it works in a counter-intuitive way.  Here at the Lab, we rush to syndicate our videos to as many services as we can, often trying new ones as soon as they enter the scene.  As a result, we’ve learned a few things about how to maximize the usefulness of these sites.

Video Publishing Best Practices

Now that I’ve convinced you to utilize other sites, there’s a next step.  This is where you turn it all around and actually embed YOUR branding on THEIR sites!  Here are some our tried and true techniques for driving home your brand when putting video on other sites/communities:

  • mention your site in the video, and give your viewers a call-to-action of some sort
  • always embed your URL directly in the video (so your branding appears on their site!)
  • always fill out descriptions, and include a link back to your site as close to the top as you can
  • tag your videos (appropriately) to increase search exposure on the target site
  • rate your videos (or get your friends to do it for you) to help your relevance

Your logic senses are probably going crazy again at this point.  After all, if you are trying to get exposure in external communities now, wouldn’t you want to post every video to every video service you possibly can?  Yes! Absolutely!

“But isn’t that a lot of work?  Video isn’t even my core competency!  Do i really have time for this?”

We hear you loud and clear.  And luckily some smart folks on the web are listening your needs…

Total Web Syndication for Your Video

This next technique is an absolute coup, and it’s our firm Snowcap recommendation for your video hosting and distribution needs.  Utilizing this next set of services can totally transform you from a lonely video geek with no real traffic into a web celebrity with fans on every social video site and loads of traffic to your own site daily.

The problems with syndicating your videos to every video site under the sun are various and sundry:

  • it’s a lot of work uploading, describing, tagging, etc to each site
  • it’s hard to track your stats, comments, ratings, etc on each site
  • every new video site exacerbates the problem

This is where some new syndication sites step in.  These sites have distribution platforms that allow you to upload your video once, set a description and tags, and then automatically syndicate it to lots of sites at once, with all of the pertinent details in place.  The only trick is that you have to have accounts with all of the destination sites, and you have to configure these services for each one up front.  Once they’re set up, however, you’re ready for one-step syndication to dozens of video sites.

The distribution sites we’re experimenting with are:

It’s important to go ahead and sign up for all three right now, as they syndicate to different sets of sites (with some overlap, of course.)  They also each have different features going for them.  TubeMogul has an awesome tracking and reporting interface, for example, and Blip claims to even have an in with television for some set-top boxes.

Yes, it’s going to take some work getting set up on the dozens of target services, and then getting set up on these syndication services.  But my advice to you is to embrace the struggle.  You should take the time to craft profiles on each site that really reflect the spirit of your video project.  If you’re organized about it, it may go faster than you think as you can use the same descriptions, avatar images, tags, etc for each site.  You’ll probably also want some standard username and password across them all for simplicity’s sake (or a password heuristic, if you’re the uber-security type.)

What’s Next?

That’s it for Part 2.  In the next installment of this blog series, I’ll be discussing live video and all of the possible ways you can leverage it to turn your fans into fanatics who multiply for you again and again.

What are your favorite video hosting services?  What features are your favorite?  Do you have experience cross-posting video to lots of services?  Horror stories?  Leave me some comments!

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Jun 20 2008

Getting Started With Web Video, Part 1: The Art of Screencasting

Published by Loren under Web Video

(Part 2 is here.)

At the current rate, there are 10 hours of video uploaded to Youtube every minute. “Who has time to watch all that video?”, you ask incredulously. And you’re right:  this trend represents an abysmal signal-to-noise ratio.  But as a savvy web professional, you also know that this should inspire you to action, not inaction. Not only should you be participating in the new video landscape, but you should also be avidly marketing your content!

The time for web video is now, and this goes for most any person or business with web properties and a message to spread (I’ll assume that includes you, humble reader, or else you wouldn’t be reading this, right?)  But many people still see video and have a knee-jerk reaction of “Oh, that’s not for me,” or “Video just doesn’t make sense for what I do!”  But I beg to differ!

In Part 1 of this 3-part blog series, I’m going to talk about screencasting:  what it is, how easy it is, and how you can use it for your business.  In Part 2 and 3 I will be discussing web video distribution, and live video on the web, respectively.

The Art of Screencasting

Ok, maybe that’s a little bit melodramatic.  Screencasting is really just the practice of recording your actions and voice while you use a computer. It is a means of demonstrating software in order to easily share information so other people can enjoy it and learn from it later.  Let’s start with an example.  This video was recorded and post-produced in under 10 minutes by my 2 partners, Charles Lumpkin and Josh West:

The web marketing particulars he discusses here aren’t important, but the notice the cool effects we’ve utilized.  You get a nice view of Charles’ face to start off, and then the content takes center screen.  This is just one example of using a screencast for training/education purposes, but the applications are virtually endless.

Here are some other examples:

  • efficiently sharing knowledge between your gurus and your staff
  • inexpensively training your staff in new software
  • profitably training someone else’s staff in new software
  • explaining features of your site or software to your users in a simple way
  • getting the attention of would-be customers in a compelling way
  • etc…

What it all comes down to is the cost of communication.  If you are paying your guru $100,000 a year, you really can’t afford to have her spending 60% of her time training every new hire.  Instead, have her do the training once, with a screencast, and let her get back to being productive.

If you add a new feature to your web site, but you can’t explain it without an 8 paragraph essay, you will have considerable drop-off in adoption.  However, if all your user has to do is click a “Play” button and enjoy a pleasurable video demonstration, you may have the highest adoption rates you’ve ever seen.

Screencasting Software

So that’s the cost of communication, but what about the cost of production?  Is screencasting going to break the bank and waste hours of the company’s time for 5 minutes of video?  Absolutely not.

If you’re going to get started creating your own screencasts, you’re going to need software.  For Windows, there’s Camtasia, which comes in at $300.  Not too bad a price, and it seems like everyone in the world uses it, so there’s no shortage of (you guessed it) videos explaining how to do various things with it.

My favorite screencasting software is called Screenflow for Mac OSX (Leopard only.)  What I like about Screenflow is its extreme ease of use, its facial branding, and its price-tag of $100.  This software is seriously slick, with an amazing interface for both recording and post-production.  You can literally just sit down and start using it, and in almost no time have something worth publishing.  It also records your face while you demonstrate, making it really easy to create a brand for yourself, if that fits your situation.  It’s also really fun!

Screencasting Hardware

Now, if you don’t already have a webcam, I don’t suggest you break the bank to get one.  You don’t need one at all if you don’t plan to show your face, but it can really help make things more personal if that suits your situation.  A typical $25-$50 webcam is all you really need, and truthfully, all of the extra bells and whistles that typically drive the price up just get in the way and cause compatibility issues. A built-in laptop camera is actually ideal!

Lastly, you’re going to need a suitable microphone to do your voiceovers (no internal laptop microphones allowed!)  You will at least need something external, even if you keep it cheap.  Here at the Lab, we use the excellent Blue Snowball, a USB microphone which you can purchase at your local music shop for ~$100.  This microphone is amazing, suitable for a number of uses ranging from podcasting/screencasting, to musical instrument recording, to live recording in a public or group setting.

“Okay, I’m Making Video, Now What Do I Do With It?”

Now that you’re cranking out stunning videos with aplomb, it’s time to get some exposure with them!  In Part 2 of this series, I discuss the ins and outs of getting your video hosted, embedded, and happily playing along with the rest of the web.

All of the oh-so-important marketing happens when actually putting your video on the web, and I’ve got a couple of tricks up my sleeve that will blow your mind as they give you the reach and audience that was previously reserved for major players with major bankrolls!

What kind of projects are you considering for a screencast?  Are you stuck in the process somewhere?  Leave some comments and let’s get this discussion started!

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Jun 18 2008

TRESemme Nails the Message, Misses the Market

Published by Charles under Branding, Web Video

Earlier tonight I was watching (which is really great place to burn a few hours and watch some TV online). I noticed an interesting video advertising concept. TRESemme was running a series of ads throughout the videos. Before the video began there was a screen asking you to “Choose the style you prefer:”

Tresemme Ad

I think this is really cool. Here they are actually involving you interactively in the advertisement. When you choose one style over another it gives you tips specific to that hair style. Now that’s an interesting concept delivered over time. If you did this with more fine-grained segmentations you might actually be able to create ads for direct response advertising. I give TRESemme kudos for coming up with a cool concept.

BUT they did miss the market big-time. Why in the world would you show a hair care ads deliberately created for women to a man watching “Weird Science”? It’s about as far off the mark as you can get, but the concept still stands.

What questions would you like to ask your audience?

2 responses so far

May 15 2008

Leveraging Free Web Video Services to Spread Your Marketing Message

Published by Loren under Web Video

Note: A hearty welcome to the members of the Atlanta Web Entrepreneurs Meetup! This post’s raison d’etre was my participation as an expert on web video at the “Ask The Experts” panel for the Meetup on May 15th, 2008. I would recommend any entrepreneurial types in the Atlanta area to attend this Meetup, the networking opportunities are enormous.


By now, you’ve probably watched hundreds of videos on YouTube. You might even have an account with YouTube to help you organize your favorite videos for posterity, or for participating in the community. If you’re tired of adhering to television’s strict schedules and spotty on-demand coverage (like me), you may also be watching your favorite television on the internet through sites like

So, given these things, video on the internet must have finally arrived, right?

Wrong! But we are starting to see the beginnings of what it will turn into. It isn’t that the TV or YouTube models are wrong, per se, they just aren’t finished growing into the Web. Humanity has MUCH more diverse needs for video than the ones served by these approaches, and the Web knows it (much as it slowly comes to know pretty much everything.)

Today, I’m going to explore a few of the new Web services out there (as well as techniques for some older ones) that are pushing this envelope. As always, I’ll be speaking with an eye towards leveraging these platforms to spread your brand, which can be anything: your startup, your cause, your organization, even your face. So what services am I talking about?

Here’s the table of contents:

We’ve got a lot to cover, so let’s get started…

Tracking Your Viewers and Maximizing Exposure With YouTube did an amazing thing by leveling the playing field for video on the Web. It is now trivial for anyone to create and share videos across the Web, a huge component of which is linking to or embedding video on blogs, social networks, and the like (and I’m going to assume you know how to do these things already.)

But as marketers, we like to be able to track our visitors, and all of this embedding and linking to YouTube means we aren’t in control of the content we post there. Or are we?

Enter YouTube Insight. Launched in late March this year, Insight is like Analytics Light for video. It breaks down the viewers of your videos by lots of interesting metrics, so you can tell in which countries you are most popular, or on what search terms your video is showing up (searches on Google or YouTube.) There’s potential here to do some traditional keyword research and targeting (which many of you will already be familiar with.)

Here’s the overview video from YouTube:

“But how do I target keywords? ” I hear you ask. “Google can’t understand video yet, can it?”

No, not yet. But you DO have a description and tags at your disposal. To me, it is really sad how few people take the time to fill out the description. Believe me it is worth it, even if you aren’t engaging in exhaustive keyword research! I’ve had my videos embedded by spiders just by mentioning key phrases in the description, like “Amazon Kindle” (don’t laugh, this was my first web video.)

A couple of quick tips (i consider them best-practices): Always make a link to your own website the very first thing in your description. Most of the content will appear “below the fold” as it were, because users will have to click “More Info” to see anything beyond the first few dozen characters, and you want as many people exposed to your link as possible. Also, getting your link on-screen during the video is wise, if you can manage it. If you achieve that, then embedders become your friend, because no matter where your video is viewed, your own website gets exposure.

(The embedding tips go for all video services.)

Lastly, tell all of your close friends/fans to rate all of your videos. I can’t prove that it helps you show up anywhere, but it would be hard to believe that Google isn’t using those ratings for SOME kind of relevance, probably in YouTube searches.

Technically, Google also allows people to create video responses, but they downplay this option, and its frankly rather clunky to use. If you’re interested in this type of interaction, then you should check out…

Seesmic: Bringing the Video Conversation to the World is a new startup from the prolific Loic Le Meur, a man who seems to have made it his personal goal to break down global boundaries and become friends with everyone (seriously, everyone.)

(Note: Seesmic is not officially “open” yet, but you can sign up for it via our video comments at the bottom of this post.)

The point of Seesmic is to make it trivial for anyone with a webcam and microphone (most modern laptops are perfect) to quickly record video and post it instantly (unlike YouTube, which has processing lag time built-in, even when you record via the Web.) Seesmic has a sizable community that spans the globe and is always lying in wait to respond to your posts, so you can literally fire off a video about whatever you are thinking right now and have a response from someone across the pond in minutes. Check out one of our first experiments with video conversation.

Here’s an interesting response from a complete stranger, posted mere minutes after our initial post:

Another really powerful possibility with Seesmic is the concept of an “all-video blog”, that is, a blog in which all posts are videos and all comments are videos. Seesmic has an amazing WordPress plugin (and now a Disqus plugin if you’re not on WordPress) which allows you to create video posts or leave video comments on the fly. It’s as easy as clicking “record”, leaving your message, previewing your message, and clicking “Publish Now” when you’re satisfied.

Again, Seesmic sets it live immediately, there’s no post-processing time involved.

I see this as a major first step to video becoming a first-class citizen of the Web, as a video-only blog seems much more compelling than all that text we constantly deal with. We will naturally tend towards throwing the keyboard away, as more and more people realize they can interact much more meaningfully (and easily) with video systems of this nature.

“But I don’t want to converse with people, I just want to broadcast live!” I hear some of you grumbling. Let’s look at some live video options…

Produce Live Television With is one of a handfull of startups that are putting the power of live broadcasts in your hands, for free. You can sign up for an account quickly and easily, and from there it’s one more step to broadcasting live to as many people as you can convince to watch you.

Oftentimes, we will hesitate to post videos because we feel like they are not good enough, or there needs to be more polish. I think a lot of people share in this feeling. After all, we all want to leave a great impression on our viewers.

Being live changes all of that, because it changes expectations. When you broadcast live, it excites your users greatly, especially if they can interact with you. Of course, allows this interaction. There is a chatroom attached to your channel, so that you can host a kind of show for your viewers.

Here’s an example of someone playing GTA4 live (you can easily send different video sources to while interacting with vitriolic viewers in his chatroom (and drinking and driving in the game):

We’ve considered doing a live show every day at a certain time, discussing web marketing and fielding web marketing questions from anyone who cares to join. It has Twitter integration, so you can let all of your followers know that you are live and increase your live viewership. It also allows you to record sessions and make them available to be viewed at any time.

If you were to utilize all of these things, you would almost certainly form up an audience after a couple of weeks. It may sound time-consuming, but really, what better way is there to build your brand than to involve your fans directly, daily? Biweekly or weekly would certainly work also, but the uptake would be commensurate with your frequency. The more often you post, the faster you get an audience who cares about you and comes back.

For those of you who prefer a little more power over the production quality (you want to embed logos, or put text on the screen, etc), I highly recommend the CamTwist software (Mac only.) Ed Dale is the master of utilizing all of these things. He uses his Thirty Day Challenge as an excuse to indulge in his technophilia, I think. (We here at Snowcap Labs highly recommend the Thirty Day Challenge to beginning web marketers.)

Here’s Episode 2 of Ed Dales Thirty Day Challenge Show. He’ll briefly discuss the technologies that he is using for your edification:

For those of you who want to be able to do live video without the need for your laptop, wifi access, and production software, there’s…

Live Video, On Location With Qik just had its alpha launch this past winter, and already I have seen such amazing things as foreign diplomats interviewed live at Davos by Robert Scoble and some of the first footage of the Tesla Roadster by Jason Calacanis.

Some Davos action:

And holy crap this car is fast:

How did they achieve these things? Well, aside from being prolific bloggers or self-made millionaires, all they needed was a certain phone, a nice data plan, and the wherewithal to go record something.

This service is not exactly free, I suppose, since you have to buy hardware and potentially change carriers. The Nokia N82 and N95 can use Qik, but Scoble tells me that the N95 is preferred for its 3G access (more bandwidth = better video.)

Sound easy? It is.

So who is this for? What kinds of brands can leverage this? Actually, I have a hard time thinking of brands that couldn’t leverage this:

Got a music blog? Broadcast from the next festival you go to.

Got a band? Broadcast from backstage or from the studio (everyone’s a groupie!)

Got a business blog? Broadcast from the next conference you go to.

Got a big, stuffy, corporate business that needs to look more human? Walk through the cubicle farm and ambush your most photogenic employees with a quick interview.

Got a cat or dog blog? Well, you probably don’t need any advice from me on how to follow your animals around taking annoying pictures, but now you can do it when you walk your dog in the park.

Like, you can embed your live channel on your blog, removing the need to visit someone else’s site for your content. Let’s take a music blog scenario for illustration:

You’ve got a music blog with your Qik channel embedded. You’re away at a your favorite yearly music festival, blogging it in the afternoons when you get access to the bloggers tent (or what have you.) Night falls, and your number one fan has gotten off of work and is now reading your coverage of the festival (a festival that he desperately wishes he could attend, if only he didn’t have that pesky day job!)

Now, your favorite band begins their set. You pull out your phone and begin to record. Suddenly, in your number one fan’s browser, your movie starts to play automatically…

“What!”, he thinks. “That’s Ultra Clown Jacuzzi Pop taking the stage! Holy crap, this is live!”

Now what is this fan going to do next? First of all, he’s going to link everyone he knows to your blog, instantly. Second of all, he’s going to come back again and again, whenever he thinks you’re going to broadcast.

Here’s Calacanis at Duran Duran (…i think?):

I just can’t imagine a better way to explode buzz around your brand, week after week (the frequency-to-uptake ratio holds, as with

So What Are You Waiting For?

Aside from these, there are many other great video services and software out there that I haven’t covered, such as Vimeo for hi definition content (that you don’t want YouTube to mangle), or ScreenFlow (Leopard only) for creating super-pro screencasts. The best thing you can do is start using them!

It’s no secret that video is about to happen to the Web. I’ve even heard talk that the new face of huge corporations is going to be the video blog. So if you’ve often felt that you “missed the boat” on this whole World Wide Web thing, and have been wondering when there will ever be as much opportunity as there was in “the good old days”, I’m blogging to tell you that those days are still ahead of us.

What uses have you found for video on the Web? Would you like to see a more thorough treatment of any of these technologies, or others? Leave us a comment (preferably a video comment!) and we’ll work work to dig deeper and teach the techniques that YOU need to get your brand out there.

Thanks for reading and watching!

2 responses so far