This is the first article in a series for operators of businesses who actually want some real practical everyday answers about streaming video and online advertising – what’s the best way to do it, and how does it work in the real world?

First of all, let me disclose that I’m a producer of streaming videos and online advertising. I’ve ybeen making commercials and online tours using streaming video for local businesses in Perth, Western Australia for about the last three years, after coming from a background in film and television. From what I’ve experienced, there’s a steep learning curve and a methodology particular to streaming video, not only in a technical or production sense, but also in terms of business use and marketing.

If you’re like me, you’ve probably done your fair share of googling for information about streaming video and how it works. And there are some genuinely good articles out there.
But many focus on aspects which, though relevant in some respects, don’t directly address the concerns of business operators who just want to know the best way of adding video to their website. A typical selection of articles will focus on the greater trend of streaming video in terms of a global or nationwide user base. You know the ones I’m talking about – “40% of such and such…” and “3 billion users by….” etc. Others will talk about the technological issues: servers, formats, delivery models etc.

This is all well and good, and valued information. But, if you’re the owner for a small to medium sized business, you’ll probably be interested to know how it works on a very local level. That is, how do you get it done, what’s the best way of doing it, and what’s the best way to optimize your video once it’s been produced? Hopefully I’ll be able to provide you with some tips that will hold you in good stead should you wish to go down this interesting track. I’ll break this down into a couple of areas, beginning with the initial decision about how to go down the streaming route.

I’ll gather that you’re already aware of whyou want to use streaming video (or audio) on the internet. So we’ll skip the “why video?” question for the moment and move onto the “how and who?”. I’ll then discuss tips that will give you ideas about how to get the most of the production and deliver a great video, and then how you can get more people to watch it and feed into your website.

WHO should I get to produce my streaming video?

This can be dependent on the level of presentation you want for your video. In general, I’ve never recommended that operators go the DIY route. I know you’d expect a video producer to say this, but there you go. Why? Because most often than not, the final product is a piece of crap whose total value is the merest slice of novelty. There, I said it. Sorry if this causes offence. It’s not just a technical issue. To a certain extent a typical audience will endure a less than professional image or sound quality if your final video is incredibly entertaining and engaging. But that is unbelievably rare, and also the reason why a lot of these guys selling these DIY video streaming packages are kidding themselves and trying to kid you. It’s fine for basic video blogging, but doesn’t cut the mustard when it comes to online advertising.

The production standards are likewise less of a concern in the personal video blogging domain, but generally sub-par production standards reflect badly on a business website, no matter what the content. If you’re in business and you value your business image, you need to stay at a genuinely high standard of presentation. You wouldn’t, instead of using a professionally printed business card, choose instead to scribble your name on the back of piece of chewed up cardboard taken from the back of your breakfast cereal box. But that doesn’t mean you need to spend megadollars on a big time media-producer. If you do decide to go down the DIY route, you’ll have to accept that you will require some basic training and practice in video production. If you plan to have a video that you will update on a monthly or even weekly basis, this may have some merit, and repeat visitors to your site may put up with less than perfect standards in exchange for the positive of regularly updated content. Be warned however, first time visitors will not be impressed with anything less than a high professional standard.

At the opposite end of the spectrum you have your larger video production companies who traditionally produce corporate videos for DVDs and commercials for TV. I also engage in this market as part of my own business. They’re set up for larger corporate clients and their often larger production demands. These production companies typically structure their business in accordance with these demands. They operate with larger crews, have more staff, and the production process has to pass through a number of stages before final completion. An efficient and relatively cost-effective structure if you’re into producing something with a budget of a television commercial. But if you just need to produce a simple but professionally produced video for your website, you’re going to find the final bill pretty hefty – a whole lot more than your entire website. I know because I came from this production world, and I know the costs involved.

That’s why I decided that the only way to service small clients with this particular form of advertising was to set-up a small business structure, with an extremely streamlined production process that was still able to deliver quality customised videos. To give you some idea, you can look at any of the samples on the video showcase page of the Online AURA website. Typically the 2 minute promos done for tourism and real estate clients were shot in a single day with one operator, scripted, voiced and edited (with original music) over the course of a few days, and then added to the client’s website. A turnaround that is basically unheard of for TVCs or any other traditional form. It’s not an easy job, and it’s taken some years to perfect the process, but you can see for yourself the quality that can be produced using this model. So the answer to the question is – try and find a small production company that shows a genuine specificity in producing online video. Oh yes, and make sure they’re actually specialists in video production, not an IT or web design company. Nothing against IT or web design companies, but many of them seem to be offering streaming video production as an addition to their other services, and it’s evident they know almost nothing about the craft. If there’s a single major determinent of quality, it’s basic video craft – from scripting, to lighting, to editing and image grading. The process of finally encoding a high-quality master into a streaming video format (e.g. Windows media, Flash etc.), adding it to your website or into a new webpage is a relatively simple task.

Tips for your video content

Length of your video – This depends what you’re selling, and who you’re selling it to. A common thing you’ll hear out there is that “the shorter the better”, and that online advertising videos should be less than 30 seconds in length. While this may have some merit for the particular model of advertising usually discussed in relation to this (usually “interstitial advertising” spots that are placed before or after genuine content), for the content that we’re talking about, this is incorrect. A general rule of thumb I used for producing streaming videos for real estate tours or tourist operators in Perth was 2 minutes duration. Beyond this, unless your content is either blisteringly good or your audience highly specialised, it wears a bit thin. 90 to 120 seconds seemed to work reasonably well, and gave the video a chance to develop and breathe. Why not make it just like a 30 second TVC? Just because that’s an established norm for television, doesn’t mean it needs to be a norm for online video advertising. If anything, online advertising should break out of those imposed conventions. It doesn’t have to be 30 seconds and doesn’t need to be. If people are on your website, they’re most likely taking an active interest in what you are and what you’re offering, rather than passively consuming a TVC between breaks of Idol.

By yanam49

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