Web video is becoming an important feature for all websites. In fact, studies show that video will exceed 91% of global consumer traffic by 2014. Once you decide to include video on your website, you have to determine which company is best suited to host your video content. To help make your decision process a little easier, here are 10 things you should consider before purchasing a hosting contract and uploading your videos to a third party vendor. <em>—Marcia Wade Talbert</em>
<li><strong>Flesh out your use case scenario.</strong> You will need to choose an online video platform (OVP) based on your needs. “There are 84 OVPs in the Vidcompare database and they are all of varying degrees,” says Kristopher Drey, founder of <a href="http://www.vidcompare.com/" target="_blank"><strong>VidCompare.com</strong></a>, a site that evaluates the features of different OVPs. Understanding how you will use video on your site will help you get through those OVPs and find the right one for you. Ask yourself how you want to use video and what purpose will it serve.</li>
<strong>Find a video player that is customizable.</strong> “You want that video player to look like your website, and carry your logo,” says Drey. “You want it to match who you are as an entity.” That's extremely important because video is very viral. You can share a clip via email, post it to your Facebook page, send a link via twitter, or embed it on your blog. "When that video is shared you want your brand to be perpetuated in that video player every single time it is shared," adds Drey.
<strong>Make sure it has an uncomplicated user interface.</strong> You also want a provider that has a clean and easy to control content management system. “A lot of providers offer a 30-day free trial and allow you to kick the tires,” says Drey, who started VidCompare in September 2009 to help businesses understand the differences between the host offerings on different platforms. “I encourage people to do that because… you will be spending a lot of time in that CMS [Content Management System]. You want it to feel comfortable to you.” You don’t want to be confused about where your video goes when you upload it, or how to interpret the stats. For a clean user interface that's easy to understand try Vzaar and Wistia.
<strong>Include syndication tools. </strong>Syndication allows you to get found. You want users to get access to your videos in as many ways as possible; not only on your website, but especially within search engines. There are tools that will push your custom video out to other websites, and give users the ability to set up an RSS or Media RSS feed (an RSS feed is a subscription to news, video, blogs, etc. published online) based on your media files. "Typically, syndication tools are not extra, so make sure the provider does not charge an incremental fee for it," says Drey. If they do, that's not the right provider for you.
<strong>Get the ability to view videos across multiple platforms.</strong> It is incredibly important that people are able to view your video on different screens. Maybe you want people to watch the video on the train every morning on the way to the office using their iPhone, iPad, or any other smart phone. Talk to the provider about their ability to convert your video into multiple formats. “A lot of providers will be able to encode your original video file into different formats for you and spit out one video for the web, another formatted specifically for the iPhone, and another one for HTML5,” says Drey. “HTML5 is becoming more ubiquitous and it is browser agnotstic, [meaning] you can look at an HTML5 video on an Android phone, an iPhone or a computer in any browser.” Again, the ability to convert to mobile versions should be included in your package.
<strong>Find players that can go viral.</strong> OVP’s are best for businesses who want to send as much traffic to their own site as possible. Portals like YouTube won’t send you traffic, but they can sometimes help you spread your “brand” in ways that you couldn’t imagine were possible. For example, following the sexual assault of his sister, Antoine Dodson appeared on a local news program. His television rant became infamously known as “The Intruder Song” and elicited over 44 million views and countless genre remakes, including one by North Carolina A&T’s marching band. The song reportedly generated enough money on iTunes to buy Dodson’s family a home in a safer neighborhood and send Dodson back to college. "The Intruder Song" wasn’t a stunt, but some businesses purposely orchestrate humorous videos on YouTube just to draw attention to their brand.
<strong>Opt for detailed analytics.</strong> With a basic package providers will tell you your video has been viewed 25 times and shared five times. “But there are providers that provide incredibly robust data,” says Drey. “They will tell you not only how many times a video was watched, but how many times per viewer…where the videos are being watched geographically…and at what point in time did viewers rewind the video.” Look for videos that will provide you with drop off rates, which will tell you what time most people stop watching a video. "That will tell you if you're boring your audience or that there is something wrong with the video," says Drey. Based on this information you can then choose to make your video shorter, add more of the content that viewers watch the most, add advertising right before a drop off point, or change the content entirely.
<strong>Add interactivity. </strong>“This is very incredible technology,” says Drey. “Companies like Veeple, Ooyala, and a couple of others are doing really exciting things with interactivity.” With interactive videos you can hover over something and get a full description or a phone number, or click on it and download a pdf or send an email. For example, you can watch a Cheerios commercial (above), mouse over the cereal box and see a pop-up providing you information about the brand. If you click on the box, you can go to the brands website to read about why the oats in Cheerios are healthy, play a game, or get coupons.
<strong>Check to make sure you retain ownership.</strong> Do you still own the content after you’ve uploaded it? Although it is standard for you to retain ownership of your video with most companies, “when you speak to your OVP that is a question you should ask point blank,” says Drey. You want to make sure that they are not going to use your original raw files or any of your converted files and mobile versions.
<strong>Ask about a flexible migration policy.</strong> If you aren’t happy with the service of the company you chose will you be able to transfer your video to another video hosting platform? If the company goes out of business what will happen to the videos that you have stored on their server? The last thing you want your customers to see is "Video Not Found." Will you get your videos back? If not, will you get your money back? Ask them what will they do to help you get your files back if you decide to switch vendors at the end of your contract. “Find an OVP that is financially viable,” says Drey. “If they are young and new that doesn’t mean they are not a good company, but you will sleep better if you know they are not going away anytime soon and your content will be protected for years to come.”
<strong>For more information about adding video to your website read:</strong> <li><a href="http://www.blackenterprise.com/small-business/2010/11/02/how-to-determine-if-web-video-is-right-for-your-business/" target="_blank"><strong>How to Determine if Web Video is Right For Your Business</strong></a></li> <li><strong><a href="http://www.blackenterprise.com/small-business/2010/11/19/how-to-optimize-video-for-your-website-%E2%80%93-part-1/" target="_blank">How to Optimize Video for Your Website</a></strong></li> <li><strong><a href="http://www.blackenterprise.com/small-business/entrepreneurs-technology/2009/03/10/how-online-video-can-boost-your-firms-bottom-line/" target="_blank">How Online Video Can Boost Your Firms Bottom Line</a>