Did you know that Microsoft has their own YouTube? No, I don't mean Bing Videos. I mean Academy Mobile. Never heard of it? Me neither, until I read this piece yesterday at Ragan.com. Academy Mobile is just like YouTube--users can upload videos, rate videos, comment on videos, and watch videos--but this site is only for Microsoft employees.
That's right, it's a company-only YouTube clone, essentially. And maybe that sounds a little excessive to you. But when you're Microsoft... and you employ over 90,000 people... you can actually make use of such a thing.
How Microsoft Uses Online Video To Increase Productivity
Launched in 2007, the project was spearheaded by Paolo Tosolini. Tosolini is quoted extensively in the Ragan article, and was Academy Mobile's chief architect. Here's a video he made in 2007 talking about the project and its goals:
It's interesting to note that, back when the video was recorded in 2007, it sounds like Microsoft was flirting with the idea of taking Academy Mobile public as a direct competitor to YouTube. However, it appears they've ditched that plan, at least for now. The site is now much more focused on connecting Microsoft employees around the globe.
The company created a Podcast-In-A-Box program, where employees can check out gear for creating professional web videos. It comes with a Flip HD camera, a Zoom H2, and Camtasia screencasting and editing software (ironically enough, this is the exact package I've been using myself for the last few months). Employees check out the pack, shoot and edit their video, and then return it for someone else to use. Or they can keep it--provided they produce three podcasts or videos each month. Microsoft spent $80,000 just on the equipment for Podcast-In-A-Box.
The employees are able to follow certain filmmakers and rate videos on a five-star rating system--just like YouTube. One of the highest-rated video creators, Mike Gannotti, has 15,000 followers (nearly 20% of the entire company). Here's a demo reel of some of his Academy Mobile videos:
Employees are drawn to create videos and podcasts for the same reason regular citizens are drawn to sign up for a YouTube channel--they want followers, and they enjoy sharing what they're working on. The videos entertain, educate, and even inspire fellow workers.
What Other Companies Can Learn From Academy Mobile
Video isn't a gimmick. I can't tell you how much I hope you know that already. It's a communication tool--one that conveys meaning and emotion better than text or still images or audio alone. Companies like IBM and Microsoft may lead the charge in adopting online video as an essential tool within the workplace, but that's only because of their size. Soon enough, we'll all be using video in our day-to-day work lives.
That doesn't mean that every small business in the U.S. will have their own custom-branded YouTube clone. They won't need to--YouTube lets you keep videos hidden from the public if you wish, and the fact that it's free will be appealing as well, I'm sure. But there's simply too much educational power for businesses to hold out too much longer. 15 years ago, many companies didn't think they'd ever need a website or use email for business, but they eventually did. And video's on the same trajectory. The days of online video being a medium used primarily for entertainment are over.