Private Label Video Services: Picking an Online Video Partner

To quote Suzie Reider the SVP of CNET’s Gamespot, “You could hire five engineers and have a video upload service in a year,” or you could save yourself a year of work and just partner with one of the many video-sharing services that have popped up in the last 12 months.

The question is how do you decide whom to pick? Especially, when there are so many players in the space and they all more or less seem the same.

I won’t list specific companies as I’ve done work with video companies in the space and I don’t want my personal finances affecting my recommendations. However, here is what I would look for when choosing a partner.

  1. Product/Technology: Is it easy to use, implement and scalable?
  2. Services: What additional services do they offer, e.g screening of videos for objectionable content or even editing for quality?
  3. Content: What content do they offer, e.g. movie clips, sports highlights, etc.
  4. Business Model: Is it ad supported? Do they provide the advertising?

Given the wide variety of companies and different variations, no one company will be right for every publisher. In fact, I’d argue that you should expect to do deals with multiple vendors depending upon what content and functionality you want.

The goal of this article is to give you a high-level guide to help you think about how to proceed as you move forward. It is not designed to be the end-all, be-all guide to every little piece of the video puzzle.

The reality is every service has different areas where they excel and fail. And given the rapid rate of change, what’s fiction today may be fact tomorrow.

For more details and in-depth reviews on some of the players in the space, check out the following articles:

Product & Technology

While each service have fairly similar features, there are some key differences between the services. The following are just a few things to look for when reviewing the technical aspects the product.

Ease of implementation

If you can’t implement it, then nothing else matters. For larger papers that have significant IT and design resources, this shouldn’t be a big deal. For smaller organizations, it can make the difference between execution and just another good idea.

Seamless user experience

Users shouldn’t be able to tell that they’re interacting with another service. That means the service should offer single sign on capabilities and the ability to customize templates to match your own – or better yet even embed the video player directly into your pages.

Ease of use

Feature functionality doesn’t mean squat if it’s difficult to use. Ease of use for both the viewers and uploader is critical. It doesn’t matter if your developer thinks it cool, what matters is if his parents or grandparents can use it.

No Downloads

IT administrators in many companies prevent users from installing new applications – and the reality is most people don’t want to have to download and install an application just to watch a 30 second video. As a result, you shouldn’t require additional downloads to see your videos.

The exceptions to the rule are if you are using a service that provides:

  1. High definition capabilities for longer videos, what are now being referred to as “lean-back” content, as in relax and watch them like you would your TV.
  2. The ability to compress video locally on the “uploader’s” machine so that it reduces the upload time for users.

In either case people will be more likely to take the time – but always make sure to offer a download-free version.

While technically Flash requires a download, the reality is over 98% of users already have it on their systems, so it’s rare that anyone will require a download.

Cross platform

It used to be if it worked in Internet Explorer, that was good enough but with the advent of Firefox, the resurgence of Macs and the emergence of cell phones and other platforms, it’s critical to pick someone who already offers cross platform capability or will be offering it soon.

Video size

Some services offer over 100 megabytes of uploads and other less than 10. Given the decrease in both bandwidth and storage costs, expect to see the limits on upload size increase.

Tagging & Organizing Content

This is an area that is truly lacking in the vast majority of services I’ve seen so far and is a key to creating to creating easily accessible, organized community content.

However at least one company offers the ability to create customizable categories and subcategories, which is the key to organizing the content in logical easy-to-find groupings based on people’s local communities, e.g. families, neighborhoods, cities, churches, schools, type of event, and community organizations, etc.

For example, just think about a high school sporting event, what information do you need to collect in order to find that information five years from now? How would someone either browse to the video or search for it? By location of event, players’ names, date, high school, type of event, etc.?

If you have all the information, then it’s possible to either group the content together for easy browsing or by searching.

While creating the initial taxonomy will require hard work, inevitably be imperfect and require significant modifications, it’s critical to creating a usable architecture when you have thousands of videos.

If you’ve already tackled this subject, let me know what you’ve done and any lessons learned – as it will be the subject of a future article.

Review and Editing

Anyone can upload anything on YouTube, but quality is a key differentiator for “newspapers.” As a result, the system will need good editing tools that enable you to:

1. Rapidly screen the content for appropriateness. Is it porn or a Picasso? You don’t want to have to sit through the whole video to find out – and several vendors have built tools that enable you to quickly view snapshots of the video.

2. Find the good parts and eliminate the crud. As any editor knows (and most writers’ hate) the best way to improve content is to eliminate most of it. This is especially true of home videos that often consist of dead time before and after the actual event. Just think of baseball, 2 hours of boredom broken by seconds of action.

3. Merge or “mashup” multiple videos. Imagine you have two videos showing the winning catch from the Friday-night football game. It would nice to be able to stitch them together to create a highlight video.

Sharing/Social Networking

Enabling users to easily share videos with each other is a key to viral growth. It’s a basic function of almost every video sharing service.

Ranking

Making sure the best of the content bubbles to the top is the key to driving topline revenue growth. Most services offer the ability for readers to rate the videos and provide functionality to view the most popular, highest rated, etc.

Services

Getting additional headcount to do anything these days is a challenge for most newspapers, so finding a vendor that will offer services to assist you with both the initial implementation, e.g. what works best, and the ongoing maintenance may be critical for most papers success.

Currently, several vendors offer outsourced screening of content to catch copyright and objectionable content issues. However, many newspapers may ultimately want a service that will provide the editing and actual posting of the video as well.

Imagine, rather than having to add editing staff to review and edit videos from the Friday night football game, you just pay a little extra to your video service to do it for you.

If someone offered outsourced video editing services, would you use them? And would it increase your probability and/or speed of adoption? Email me and give me your feedback.

Content

While everyone is Gaga about user-generated content, many of the most popular videos on YouTube are professionally created. If you look at what the big boys, i.e. Washington Post and NewYork Times, have introduced first it’s professional content.

If you’re looking to get online video up-and-running quickly but aren’t quite ready to jump into the deep end with user-generated content or have your staff run around with video cameras, look for providers with plug and play content that doesn’t require any additional editorial resources or risk.

The first source is the AP video for a quick no-cost source of video. The second are movie trailers. They’re free and can be plunked into your movie review section.

I’m curious, if someone offered a video service with a selection of movie trailers that you could easily plug into your site, would you adopt?

If you think of the section of your site as being a series of channels, you can quickly imagine what other types of videos that would make sense, e.g. videos about cars for your automotive section, real estate videos in the homes section, sports highlights in sports, etc….

The New York Times has already done this http://video.on.nytimes.com/

Again, are you currently looking for syndicated content you can easily plug into your site? Do you know of companies offering these services? And what’s your experience been with them? Let me know.

Business Model

The majority of private-label services are offering revenue share with their partners – but with slightly different models.

The basic models are:

  1. The video company provides the advertising and gives you a share of the revenue.
  2. You provide the advertising and give a share of the revenue to the company.
  3. You pay a fixed CPM and then sell the advertising yourself.

I hope this helps. It was very tempting to write complete articles on each section – but let me know what you’d like me to go into greater depth – and I’ll try to cover it in my next piece.


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