Getting Your Videos Onto The Web
Online videos can be a great way to showcase your organization's mission and work - but you'll need to make sure they reach your intended audience. Michael Hoffman looks at some of the ways you can distribute videos online.
In 2006, Google’s $1.6 billion purchase of YouTube launched an era of online video that shows no signs of weakening. Last November, viewers watched 12.7 billion videos online, according to the research firm comScore -- 34 percent more than a year ago. Video cameras are commonplace, with one in nearly every cell phone. Many Web visitors expect to be able to watch something when they log onto a site. Can your nonprofit meet these expectations?
The lines between the Web and television are blurring. It’s one thing for organizations to use a Web site to tell people what they do, it’s another completely to show them. But making video is only the first step. Even the best video is useless unless the target audience sees it. When considering a host for your organization’s video, it’s important to determine whether a simple hosting service will meet your needs or whether you can benefit from exposure within an online community, as well.
Hosting Video in the Age of YouTube
YouTube has become synonymous with online video. In addition to videos watched on its Web site, the company hosts videos that can be embedded and watched on other sites, such as blogs or home pages. Hosted videos account for roughly 20 percent of YouTube business—and may be the simplest solution for many nonprofits. If all you’re looking to do is post a video to be watched on your organization’s Web site, just upload your video to YouTube and embed it by copying and pasting a few lines of HTML code to your Web page.
YouTube has also moved to attract and highlight nonprofit organizations by developing a dedicated nonprofit channel. Organizations can get additional branding, and their videos are featured in a special area of the site. But until recently YouTube offered only mediocre quality video hosting, and limited functionality. Recent improvements include high-quality viewing and widescreen format, and new features enable limited editing, but YouTube is just one of many similar sharing sites on the market.
Less than 40 percent of videos watched online are YouTube videos. The other 60 percent are seen on any of the other platforms -- such as Revver, Viddler, Vimeo, BlipTV, Metacafe, AOL or Daily Motion -- of which there are more all the time.
Another type of option is a white label solution that doesn’t link back to the sharing site or suggest other videos for viewers to watch. The most well-known of these providers is Brightcove. This “professional” solution can also provide robust content management platforms and detailed analytics that typically are not available on the sharing sites. But fees can start as high as $2,000 per month, making white label solutions prohibitively expensive for many nonprofits.
Reaching an Online Community
YouTube -- like many of its competitors -- plays a dual role. In addition to free video hosting, it’s also a community of video viewers, a social network where people browse video and comment on what they see. The site “suggests” videos to viewers based on what they’ve already watched. These suggestions, along with the size of the community, mean YouTube videos have the potential to be seen by an enormous audience.
But don’t confuse the size of YouTube’s audience with the size of the audience that will see any particular video. Many videos have just a handful of viewers. Posting a video there isn’t enough to guarantee an audience. You have to treat the YouTube community as you would any of the other social networking models, like Facebook or MySpace, and work to develop connections and relationships that will make your video more attractive to your target audience.
Once your organization has made a video, and decided to share it via an online community, it’s time to create a strategy to help ensure the best exposure. You can choose one of the popular sharing sites mentioned already, or you can upload to multiple hosts to take advantage of the different online communities they reach.
Should you distribute through a single site, or many? There are two points of view. Some people believe multiple uploads expose your video to more viewers, and can build support among the different communities favored by each site. Services like TubeMogul facilitate this approach—upload the video once, and they automatically distribute it to dozens of other sites for you. TubeMogul is a free service that charges for premium features, such as large amounts of video and advanced analytics about video views across the different sites.
But others believe it makes sense to concentrate on just one community. By not “diluting” views across multiple sites, videos have a better chance of garnering enough views to go into rotation in “most-viewed” or “most-commented” areas of the site where more people will be exposed to it. Large numbers of viewers can also create PR and fundraising bragging rights for organizations.
The truth is, most nonprofit videos never reach the threshold required for these additional rotations. For nonprofits with large constituencies, most video views are generated within the organization’s own community through email messages linking to the video.
Online video is in the same stage of life as the Web was in the mid-1990s, when most organizations were beginning to recognize the role a Web presence could play but few had dedicated Web teams or budget lines. Today, even the smallest organizations invest in the Web. Similarly, many organizations have realized the importance of online video, but have yet to develop processes to maximize use of this up-and coming-tool.
There are hundreds of free software tools and low-cost technologies to assist organizations in creating and distributing Web video. Or, organizations willing to invest can adopt a white label solution to let them manage their video content without compromising on their branding. Whichever option your nonprofit organization chooses, a little planning and strategy can help tell your story effectively, to a willing and waiting audience, and yield tremendous returns.
Michael Hoffman is CEO of See3, a communications firm specializing in video, Web development and online outreach for nonprofits, foundations and social causes. Micheal is also the founder of DoGooderTV a site that allows nonprofit organizations to present new videos and existing media assets to new audiences. Watch him in the "Guide to Online Video" at www.see3.net/guide.
Thanks to The NonProfit Times for their generous financial support of this article.