Jun 23 2008

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

Published by Loren at 9:23 pm 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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3 Responses to “Getting Started With Web Video, Part 2: Video Hosting and Distribution”

  1. Anssion 24 Jun 2008 at 8:46 am

    Great entry with really good tips for video publishers.

    How do you mean FlowPlayer is “most prohibitive in terms of formats”? It supports all video formats supported by the Flash platform, meaning that FLV and videos encoded using the H.264 codecs are supported.

  2. Roger Hutchisonon 24 Jun 2008 at 9:06 pm

    Great Post Loren!

    There’s another player that I’ve been trying out called Wimpy, which comes in different flavors depending on what you want to use it for.

    Since I develop and host many of my own videos the “Rave” version is nice in that you can show several of your own videos in one video window.

    Keep up the great writing!


  3. Jesmion 07 Jul 2008 at 8:11 am

    Google and Seth MacFarlane have cut a distribution deal that will send fifty short two-minute episodes of a MacFarlane-created show called Cavalcade screaming around Google’s AdSense network. It’s an interesting use of the AdSense network and one that is likely to garner Google new composition partners whether it is successful.

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