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Your Website Isn’t Ready For Video

October 25, 2010

I was going to open with “is your website ready for video?”, but I’d prefer that you stomp your feet with indignantly protest and engage me in this virtual argument. Of course I get to make my case without you interrupting, unless you want to comment … “Go on punk, make my day” (classic Clint Eastwood).

The not-so hypothetical website
I’m going to give the average corporate, government or other website a head start. Let’s say, for the purpose of running this argument, that firstly you have a website (maybe a bunch of them), and that they are pretty good. You know your strategy, the content is ‘on message’, and you have oodles of visitor engagement and quality traffic. The search outcomes are ahead of the pack – the SEO, SEM and even SMO (don’t worry if you’re acronym illiterate, it won’t spoil the fun) are all first class. Your site statistics show good numbers on your KPIs and you are actually making money, or triggering business, or building brand or changing the world – whatever it is that’s important to you young people these days.

You probably have a brilliant CMS or similar back-end web-publishing tool, or an army of designers and developers on the end of a string. All pretty rosy and way ahead of the pack (let’s play the pretense a little longer). Sorry, but your website still isn’t ready for video and the related wave of rich-media that is starting to flood online channels now that bandwidth is improving and video content is increasingly easy to produce. In your industry, video content may even be expected by consumers – if not, it will be soon enough.

You can jump in here now with “alright you self-righteous blogger, why isn’t my website ready for video” (insert profanity to taste)?

The key reasons websites fall short with video
Yes, you can make video, publish it on your site and even have people consume it, but what is the visitor experience like (you know, of course, that one dissatisfied visitor has a stronger impact than two satisfied ones). Here are five reasons your website is not ready for video …

Format – There isn’t a single standard or ubiquitous format for video. Adobe’s Flash format is arguably the closest but some corporate firewalls prevent access and it doesn’t run on many devices, specifically the iPhone and iPad. Quicktime is great for iPhone and Macs but it isn’t strong within PC Browsers and Windows Media has the opposite problem on Macs and many mobile devices. What comes directly from your camera, DVD or legacy file may be something else altogether. It is unlikely, without manual encoding, that your website, web CMS or other platform is prepared to encode to multiple formats and manage the complex delivery of a single asset in multiple formats suitable to consumers across multiple platforms, browsers and devices.

Quality – Format was a problem, but add to that bandwidth constraints and we introduce video bit-rate. It’s nice to deliver the best quality that you can, but high quality video chews up the bandwidth with cost and delivery implications. Even with higher bandwidth, high definition video may be ‘too fat to squeeze down the pipe’, at least in real time and it disproportionally strains the resources of your web server. The compromise is lower quality in the form of lower bit-rate and less data. If you want to deliver multiple options for consumers with variable connections, that is more encoding or clever variable-rate delivery – something your website is unlikely to address simply.

Delivery – Have you survived format and quality? Perhaps you have a brilliant encoding guru and are willing to put up with the server load. Lets hope you don’t get the double bottleneck – single person dependency and server meltdown – but I’m jumping ahead. The problem with delivery is if your server is in Sydney and your consumer is in Europe, you have to squeeze that ‘fat file’ through the plumbing of the Internet. The experience, in close geographic proximity to your web server might be acceptable, let’s hope your audience are all nearby. Some latency might be acceptable for the light data load of a traditional web page, but who wants their video stream to stop and re-buffer every couple of seconds. Unless you are willing to place servers in all the key locations that you are likely to have audience (edge-of-the-web, your own little CDN network), you have another issue you didn’t have with your still images and text-based online presence …

Scale – Still hanging in there? You’re doing far too well but “I’ll get you yet my pretties, and your little dog too” (you’re not in Kansas anymore!). Format sorted? Tick! Quality and bit-rate sorted? Tick! Optimized servers in various locations? Tick! “Lions and tigers and bears, oh my”, but your not quite to the Emerald City. When everyone wants a piece of you, will you cope with the load? Your video is at its most valuable when its in high demand. Far more acute than with standard web pages, a server can only cope with so many simultaneous consumption events (connections), and just when everyone wants your press release, your viral ad, your live event or your first-to-market moment, how many of the peak audience will fall away. Unless you have redundancy and excess capacity up the wazoo and the set-up to scale in real time, your glorious moment won’t be so glorious. Have you had delivery failures for text and images in the past? Of course this will be a much more likely and acute problem for your video content.

Purpose – Still want to argue the point? Is that a CDN in your pocket? You must be Google, Amazon, Telstra or a specialist video house. One last hurdle for you! What are you using the video for? If its branding, does it integrate well with Social Media? If its training, do you have forms and assessment? If its live events, do you have moderated discussion and slide synchronization? If its content of value, how well is it tied into a monetization strategy and environment? If its high traffic, do you have video analytics and video advertising sorted? Generally speaking getting video out is only part of a broader strategy and your webCMS, publishing platform or garden variety website won’t normally facilitate these outcomes.

Sounds too hard! Is web video really that important?
You already think it is, or you know that ultimately it will be. If you are driving digital strategy or related outcomes for your organization, you ignore video, social media and mobile at your peril or don’t expect to stay with your organization for the long haul. Go on, stomp indignantly again! Its all a fad! (Read my last post on FADS).

So if you got here with a five-from-five scorecard, you are either an existing client of a specialist provider like Viocorp or you have some other encoding, video asset management, and high-scalability, high-redundancy CDN network delivery siting in place. If not, you might want to speak to us about how a Viocorp solution might help. Fun though, wasn’t it? Your comments about online video delivery appreciated.

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