A few months back I was talking with a former television producer who had recently transitioned to a bi-weekly magazine that was preparing to launch an online version that integrated high-quality video content.
She was a bit wary when I brought up the opportunities latent in some of the video sharing sites and it was her contention that in order to maintain control over the overall visual and audio integrity of the video they had to keep the videos hosted locally.
My counterpoint was that the sheer volume of users in the video sharing sites created an opportunity that was simply too good to pass up. Even if the brand didn’t want to distribute their full-length videos on the video sharing sites they should still look at the opportunities to connect with potential audiences via shorter video samples that contained links (in the descriptive text) to the full-length hosted versions.
She remained unconvinced and we continued our conversation talking about other things. After our discussion however, I did some searching for their video content and it was virtually non-existent.
The shame of it all was that the quality of the video was extremely high (she was a professional television producer before after all). So I wanted to offer some best practices on optimizing video content for online:
Rule #1: Optimize the page that hosts the video
Unlike television, the video doesn’t exist in isolation when it is online. It is embedded in a Web page and there are a range of opportunities and related best practices associated with this presence:
- First, make sure the page framing the video is optimized for search. If the video is about a cat and a dog that are friends then make sure the title tag and titling in the page refer to the content you want to optimize for.
- Make sure there are social bookmark and sharing buttons (Digg, StumbleUpon, e-mail a friend, etc.) present. I have yet to see research substantiating this as a best practice (I’ve heard anecdotally that most social bookmark aficionados use toolbar icons instead of on-page icons) but all it takes is one good Digg to help boost your video even further so it doesn’t hurt to include ’em.
- Provide a widget that will allow publishers to easily copy your code and paste it into their own Web site or blog and republish your content from their channel. The bottom line is that you want your video to have a broad reach. By providing the embed widget you can make it easier to achieve broad online distribution through downstream channels and also mitigate the threat of someone appropriating your content in other ways.
- Ensure the page contains interactive functions that allow users to rate and comment on the video. In addition to eliciting more user interaction this will also help create more opportunities down the road for placing video content and also create more opportunities for users to interact with other video content on your site (i.e. based on rating).
- Create RSS feeds or e-mail alerts for your videos so people can easily subscribe to get updates when you add new ones.
Rule #2: Optimize your site to put your videos front-and-center
- Put your video front-and-center – Video increases time on site and also likelihood to take some form of action. If you have high-quality video content that is your lottery ticket. I would want your best video to be the first thing that someone sees when first loading your page. I would want them to play the video and become so enamored with the story they just experienced that they either want to watch more videos or learn more about what is on the site.
- Make sure that you get your video indexed in Google, Yahoo!, etc video search engines. Getting video crawled isn’t a big deal – just takes a bit of effort.
Rule #3: Increase distribution of your video content
- As much as it pains traditional broadcast producers to see their beautiful video productions distorted and washed out on YouTube, ignoring the video sharing sites is a huge mistake. You don’t have to put your entire video production on the sites but at the very least put a teaser of each video on the site and link that teaser page back to the full, beautiful version of your video hosted locally.
- Consider tapping a content aggregator – There are companies out there (i.e. Voxant) that would love to aggregate and license your video content. Forming relationships with these companies would create some peripheral revenue and also create more demand for your video content.
- Put out video news releases – PRWeb allows you to embed a video hosted on a video sharing site directly into the body of a news release. I worked with TLC when they were gearing up to launch a ‘webisode’ called Makeover Train. We put out a video news release to launch the webisode and managed to use the PRWeb distribution network to promote the video embedded in the release.
Just to wrap things up a bit, video has been around for ages and even online video has been around since the advent of the World Wide Web (give or take a few years) . With ever-increasing bandwidth, improved compression technologies, and rapidly increasing domestication of video production and distribution methods, it has been exploding on the Web over the past several years.
The explosion of video online is an opportunity for traditional broadcasters – the guys who know how to make top-tier content – to capitalize on the quality of their content but it will also require some pretty fundamental changes in the way that they need to think about the role of video.
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