This is Part Five of our ongoing series of Online Video Marketing Basics, and it's long overdue. This series is intended for the novices among us, businesses and individuals who have only recently decided to take the plunge into online video. And for that decision, I applaud you. But you probably still have a lot of questions about the various decisions in front of you. It is my hope that this series can help inform and guide you through the many various choices an online video creator makes in putting their work online.
Previously, we've covered the following areas of online video marketing:
- Making the Case: Why You Should Get Involved With Online Video
- Choosing A Video Style
- The Choice Between Self-Producing and Hiring A Professional
- Choosing The Right Equipment For Your Video
Today's topic? Choosing the Right Distribution Method. Now, some of you were disappointed that I did not recommend specific cameras and equipment in our last installment. And while I can understand the reader's desire to find such information, it is ultimately a disservice to make explicit recommendations like that to such a varied audience. No one camera is the best for every single video creator. It's incumbent upon the video creator—even if he or she is a relative novice—to do some research and choose the equipment that best suits their videos' needs.
And it's the same with Distribution. What works for one reader on YouTube might not work for another. There are a multitude of online video destinations, and a built-in audience that comes with each. But which is the right platform for your video? I can no more easily state that than I can read your mind and tell you what your video is about.
What I can do, however, is cover some of the major video portals, and outline the pros and cons of each, which should help you determine which is the best for your efforts. This is not intended to be an exhaustive list of all options, but it is comprehensive… and very long.
*Disclaimer: With limited space, I am only able to cover the major players. If you are a fan or employee of a video portal I have missed in my rundown, it should not be taken as an insult. I simply only have so much space. My hope is to provide a solid cross-section of the various options available to video creators
So, without further ado, let's lay out some of the most common distribution outlets for your online video:
We'll start with the granddaddy of them all, YouTube. No online video portal has more videos or more viewers than YouTube. It is the most popular destination for both video creators and viewers.
- It's free to use for anyone. Free is good.
- It's also a Google-owned service, which suggests you can expect a certain level of quality and features.
- It's the most popular video site, meaning there are more potential viewers there than any other single destination.
- It's dead simple to use—even your grandmother could upload a video to YouTube.
- Channels allow creators to build a fan-base
- There is some evidence to believe that YouTube videos have a higher chance of showing up in Google search results, perhaps by virtue of YouTube's auto-captioning and the close relationship between the two companies.
- Monetization: You can allow ads to be placed on your video, or place links yourself to drive traffic to other websites or shopping carts.
- YouTube Insight gives uploaders great statistics on their videos, helping inform future efforts.
- Huge variety of video formats accepted.
- Competition. As the largest portal for video online, there is a very real danger your video could get lost in the noise of the millions of other videos uploaded the same week.
- Similarly, because so many people and businesses use YouTube, you might struggle for differentiation—can the portal you choose to use help make your video blend in or stand out?
- YouTube has also developed a bit of a reputation for blue-collar content and users—which is something many businesses I've worked with want to avoid associating with.
- Also, as with most portal sites, you run the danger of some of your viewers watching on YouTube.com instead of your own website, decreasing the likelihood that they'll convert.
- There is also a 15-minute time limit for all users except partners, which could severely limit your potential if your idea needs more time.
- Comments are notoriously off-color and crass.
Summary: Simply put, YouTube is the largest and most successful video destination site on the web. For this reason alone, many video creators choose YouTube as their distribution method of choice. But it's not always the best match for every video. However, many videos are cross-posted to YouTube by creators in addition to another portal, to further ensure a wide audience. With few exceptions, I generally recommend all my clients upload their videos to YouTube as either a primary or secondary distribution channel.
Vimeo might best be described using their own words. From their home page: "Vimeo is a respectful community of creative people who are passionate about sharing the videos they make. We provide the best tools and highest quality video in the universe.” I tend to think of Vimeo as a place for art—you won't find a lot of cute puppy videos there. Instead, you'll find a lot of short films, stop-motion, visual arts pieces, and the like.
- Vimeo strives to keep out the hooligans and the masses. Their community guidelines specify that harassment, personal attacks, and general insulting behavior will not be tolerated. And they mean it. Your account will be removed if they feel you are overstepping the bounds of civil disagreement.
- Focused content is the key. There is a huge list of video content that is not allowed, including video game footage, music videos, television clips, and more. Some might say that they've sifted through the crap to present you with a very specific kind of video entertainment experience.
- Niche-focused community helps drive views to videos of a particular topic or style. For instance, users are encouraged to find other users that share their interests and develop relationships organically. While this can take time, the huge long-term benefit is a built-in audience for future video clips.
- Videos of almost any format can be uploaded. And the upload process is pretty simple.
- Basic accounts are free, and allow up to 500MB of storage.
- The community is very lively and strong, and there appears to be a genuine desire to assist and encourage each other.
- Under a Vimeo Plus account, users can make some customizations to the video player.
- There are some great statistics available, with a fairly nice layout and UI.
- No commercial content is allowed. Only videos created by you, the user, with a non-commercial bent will be allowed.
- The general narrow content restrictions (no music videos, no movie clips, no marketing material, etc.) might preclude you from using Vimeo right out of the gate. Also, even if your first video matches their guidelines, future videos may not, and it could be a mistake to fragment your videos across multiple platforms.
- Smaller overall audience size than, say, YouTube, which might make it tougher for your video to find an audience quickly.
- Anything but a Basic account will cost you money. And you're likely to use up the 500MB allowed by the Basic account pretty quickly. If you upgrade to Vimeo Plus, however, your monthly limit increases to 5GB.
Metacafe gets about 40 million unique visitors a month. That's a lot, but it pales in comparison to the likes of YouTube. Part of the reason for that is the narrower focus. Metacafe wants to be your home for "short-form original entertainment content.” They don't want full-length television episodes, movies, news stories, or personal video bloggers. They seem to place emphasis on the "short" part of short-form-video, mentioning on their About page that the average Metacafe video is 90 seconds long.
- Auditions. There is a community of volunteers that works to give a look at all the new videos uploaded every day.
- There is no restriction on the kinds of users that can sign up. Unlike Brightcove, who seeks to serve brands specifically, Metacafe welcomes individuals and Hollywood studios with open arms—provided the content meets their guidelines.
- The highest rated videos can earn cash for the creators under the Producer Rewards program.
- They try to stay hands-off, letting the community of users drive pretty much everything that happens on the site.
- Zero-tolerance policy for defamatory, racist, sexist, or homophobic material or discussion. (That list reads like a description of the average YouTube comment).
- Cloning is barred, which is nice for the viewer.
- Sexually explicit material is not allowed, which is a bummer for Mark.
- Content limitations in topic and genre.
- Content is also limited to under 10 minutes in length.
- Audience size. In some ways, Metacafe is a bit of an alternative to YouTube, where there appears to be a higher level of respect and discourse. However, it comes at a price—a significantly smaller prospective audience.
- Seems to be a heavy focus on video game content—just look at the last several posts on the company's blog—which I suppose could be a "pro" for some of you, but is more likely to count as a negative for the bulk of our readers, most of whom are not creating video-game content.
Summary: Metacafe is a place for original entertainment videos, typically in quick little bites. If this describes the kind of online video you make, then you should give them a look. However, if you want the flexibility of adding longer videos or videos of any variety you please, then this is not the home for your content.
Quick Hits On A Few More Platforms
- Like YouTube, Daily Motion has few limitations on the kinds of content you can upload.
- Customizable player.
- Family Filter for protecting the kids from scary content.
- Remembers the video history of a viewer for easy reference—which is probably more of a "pro" for viewers than content uploaders.
- Lack of content focus leads to noise—a problem YouTube even shares.
- A bit limited on file formats accepted (only AVI, MP4, & MOV).
- Admission into their Official User program is subjective rather than merit-based—you fill out an application and wait for them to approve you.
- Hyper-specific niche—the site is focused on original web content, calling itself the "next generation television network.” This suggests that the Blip.tv audience is ready for this kind of content, and is seeking it out.
- Their distribution service: Blip.tv will take your video and, at your request, distribute it to places like YouTube, AOL Video, MySpace, Flickr, and more.
- You need a paid Pro Account to truly take advantage of the service's best features.
- Hyper-specific niche—if you aren't making a web show, then you need to look elsewhere.
- Renowned for outstanding customer service.
- 100% free… if you're using it for personal reasons. If you're a business… and your use of Viddler will be commercial, then you have to upgrade to a Business Services Account, which does cost money.
- Wide-open to content topics, genres, video lengths, etc.
- Tons of video formats accepted for upload.
- Lots of great developer tools, including a customizable player.
- Cost for commercial use.
- 500MB upload limit, though number of videos is not limited.
- Built-in ad platform only works with paid accounts.
- Much smaller reach than giants like YouTube.
- Exposure. There are millions of devoted Yahoo users, leading to a huge built-in audience of Yahoo disciples.
- Wide-open focus for content—virtually anything (non-offensive) goes.
- Brands and individuals welcomed with open arms.
- Integration with Flickr, which Yahoo owns, and which has a huge built-in audience of its own.
- As with YouTube, you face stiffer competition from other videos on a portal as heavily trafficked as Yahoo Video.
- Similarly, if your video has a specific niche, it might have a tougher time standing out than it would at one of the smaller, more topically-focused platforms.
- Videos are limited to 150MB, which is quite low compared to the other platforms, and to 15 minutes in length (so no feature-length videos).
Video Distribution Conclusion
Video platforms are all unique, and there is something to praise and something to criticize in each of them. Many video creators will utilize multiple platforms for their work—kind of like posting an item to both your Facebook page and your Twitter account—hoping to maximize the reach of their videos. Since many video viewers are extremely loyal to their platform of choice, this cross-pollenation strategy is often the best way to ensure your video finds an audience.
If you are a content creator trying to decide on the best platform for your efforts, I would strongly encourage you to spend some time browsing the videos each has to offer and immersing yourself in the community as a viewer. In just a few minutes you'll get a pretty clear picture of the kinds of content that rises to the top, which will help you determine if your content is a match.
Oh yea, and it might be helpful if you decide to syndicate your videos to multiple sites, to review our list of tools to upload videos to multiple sites.
Because it is the most popular video platform for individuals and businesses alike, our next installment will focus on YouTube. Be on the lookout for Part Six of our Online Video Marketing Basics series: Uploading Your Video to YouTube.