Media Company's Online Video Attempts

Minnesota’s local media sites, including TV, Newspapers, and Radio, are experimenting with video on the web based on the rationale that advertisers will pay a premium for video ads. A fair assumption.

However, one of the biggest problems I see with the online video offerings of media companies today is that they are being held back by their video content management systems, which tend to be much less feature rich that freely available alternatives.

Here is a quick list of 10 specs I would expect a company that’s serious about running a business around online video:

1. Good quality audio

2. Flash video (not a proprietary player that won’t work for all of your viewers)

3. Full screen option

4. Video that looks good full screen.

5. Related videos after a video finishes (you want to keep people around, right?)

6. Email-able video links

7. Embeddable video

8. Deep linkable video

9. Closed captions

10. RSS feeds for videos (lots of opportunity here)

Bonus: 11. Live video streams

Bonus 12: Live chats.

I don’t know of a single mainstream media site that comes close to providing this level of technical support for their video content. Sadly, mainstream media sites are likely paying a boatload of cash for proprietary video CMS’s rather than using free, feature-rich, platforms instead.

Want to increase views? Make it easy for people to link, email, embed, or RSS your videos. Let them know what else may interest them.

The closest to completing this list among Minnesota media companies is TheUptake.org, a non-profit company that relies on mostly free software to serve and manage their organization’s video content. And someone else who has this figured out is Ben Higginbotham over at SpaceVidcast where he provides a ton of options for viewers to consume, interact, and share the content he and his audience creates.

Microsoft to the Rescue for Mac Based Netflix Users

One of the biggest pains I experience as a Mac user is having to boot Windows if I want to stream movies on Netflix. In fact, that’s one of the only reasons I ever boot Windows.

So, why doesn’t Netflix support streaming for the Mac? According to a report on MacRumors, it’s Apple’s fault. Apparently, there is no DRM solution – outside of Apple’s – available for streaming to Macs today, which is preventing Netflix from supporting users. Apple hasn’t been willing to license their DRM system, so Apple is hurting the usefulness of their own computers.

Could this be because Apple doesn’t want people to stream movies from Netflix and would rather see them purchased through iTunes?

Ironically, it sounds like Microsoft could provide Mac users with a solution to a problem Apple isn’t willing to solve:

Microsoft’s Silverlight video technology appears to be the most promising solution which will support cross-platform (PC and Mac) DRM-encoded video. Silverlight is available in beta for Mac from Microsoft.

Sounds good to me.

NBC Fragmenting Online Video Distribution

Om Malik takes a look at NBC’s decision to move from YouTube to their own distribution network co-owned with News Corp called Hulu. He suggests that this is a bad move since it fragments the video distribution market:

It is my belief that these companies are in the business of content, not distribution. Offering their content on their own properties may give them a lift in terms of page views, but at the same time they also run the risk of losing the audience that simply seeks out such content on sites such as YouTube.

He makes a good point, but I think the point he’s making will become less and less relevant over time. It’s certainly relevant today, but as more and more viewers choose to aggregate content that interests them using either client software like iTunes or Miro, or web based options like Google Reader or yet to be invented video aggregation services, it won’t really matter where the content is hosted.

Reading blogs is a perfect example of how video distribution is going to evolve. I read Om Malik’s blog using Google Reader. His writing could just as easily be in an online tech magazine, group blog, or online newspaper. It doesn’t matter. I read his stuff even though he’s not on the YouTube of online video. In fact, there is no YouTube of written content and there doesn’t need to be one.

In the long run, it’s not going to matter where the content is hosted since viewers will end up watching it wherever they choose.

If it’s not easy for views to watch content where they choose, they’ll just steal it rather than being forced to bounce around the web seeking out their favorite shows.

Brilliant Examples of User Generated Video

How do you build a loyal following? Get your users to participate in the content you’re creating. One way to do this is through comments on blogs, where people who’ve contributed their thoughts to a site have simultaneously become invested in the site itself.

Taking things further, how about getting your audience involved in creating videos?

Gmail did a great job of this with their “Gmail: Behind the Scenes” video where people were asked to send in video clips of themselves passing a gmail envelope around. This video is approaching 5 million views as of this writing:

Or, how about this tribute to US troops serving overseas where their loved ones contribute shots of themselves holding photos while singing along with the catchy tune:

Could you create a video that creates a common bond among your audience members or customers?

Ben, did you catch the diss on iPhone users in the first video?

Cheap Point and Shoot Video Options

I ran into my good friend Mark Eibner at the Inman Connect conference in San Diego at the blogger party thrown by Zillow.com. Mark was shooting some videos with people attending, including me, using an RCA EZ201 Small Wonder point and shoot video camera.

He took the footage he shot, uploaded it to JumpCut
(the Small Wonder has a USB jack, so you can plug the camera directly into a computer) and threw a title into the video before publishing it to his blog.

I had my Canon SD800 IS point and shoot camera in my back pocket, so I whipped that out and captured a short shot of Mark interviewing John McKnight from RealTyger.com.

For comparison’s sake, I uploaded and edited my clip using Jumpcut too. Jumpcut is a free online video editing service owned by Yahoo that allows you to upload video, edit clips, add audio, titles, and effects, then publish to your website, blog, etc.

Here is my Danon SD800 IS shot, JumpCut edited video of one of Mark’s interviews:

The Small Wonder retails for just over $100, and does one thing very well. But that’s all it does. For example, it doesn’t shoot still photos. The Canon SD800 IS currently retails for around $300, and is great as both a camera and an on the go video camera.

JumpCut is an easy to use video editing tool that offers most common editing features. However, you’re locked into the service, so videos created on JumpCut will reside on JumpCut. Yes, you can post them to other sites and email them, but they’ll use the JumpCut player. A better option, in my opinion, is to edit videos on your computer, store a local copy, then upload the video to the service (or services) of your choice.

iJustine's Lifecasting Setup

One question that Justine seems to receive with every fresh encounter she has while in iJustine mode is, “How does your setup work?” or some variation on that.

Perhaps this will help explain how one lifecasts these days.

First, she has a hat with a Logitech webcam bolted into the visor:

Justine's Webcam

The camera runs from her hat down into a purse she carries everywhere with her:

Justine Visits Minneapolis
Photo by Aaron Landry

And that purse holds a small Sony Vaio laptop with an oversized battery and an integrated Sprint EVDO card that’s pushing whatever the webcam sees and hears to the web.

The laptop is is configured to not go into hibernate or sleep mode when the lid is shut, so she can whip it out at any time to see what people are talking about in her chat room, and going in with a few comments of her own:

Aaron & Justine

In fact, she doesn’t even have to stop walking to see what’s going on. For example, I grabbed the video below on my Canon SD800 after Aaron Landry (guy with the camera in the video) received an SMS from a friend telling him that Justine’s video was stuttering on her site:

Click To Play

The laptop is surprisingly small and light and runs for an amazingly long time considering that it’s pushing and receiving data continuously over the EVDO connection.

Ustream.tv Handled 75,000 Live Streams

It turns out that Steve Jobs can drive traffic.

No surprise there.

What’s interesting about this is finding out that Ustream.tv was able to handle 75,000 concurrent streams of Steve Jobs on their streaming video platform (with some strain):

Biggest…Day…Ever

Unfortunately, the increased load (several times our normal levels) did strain the system, but thanks to the heroic efforts of the technical team, we kept the system running. Our apologies to anyone who experienced technical difficulties during the massive surge in usage.

That’s an impressive milestone, especially considering that the service was free for both viewers AND publishers.

Jeremiah Owyang weighs in with some analysis of this milestone for Ustream:

First is shows that live video web streaming is coming to the fore-front of new technology. I’ve reduced my live blogging efforts when I can just setup a cam and listen.

Secondly, this is disruptive. Disruptive to events and TV. With over 75,000 people checking out the event, that was certainly way more than could have ever joined in real life.

I could see how this would reduce a person’s live blogging efforts. Especially if the posts consist of nothing more than “here’s what’s happening right now” or “this product just launched.” However, blogging still offers the ability to provide context to the news you’re taking in live, which is something people find valuable. Compare the ratings of your average 24-hour news channel to CSPAN to see the value of context, even if it’s context about the same story over and over.

Any guesses on what will be the next big event to hit Ustream.tv?