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Other People’s Platforms

June 17, 2016 Leave a comment

mashable

Mashable posted an article about an attempt by the Australian government to hold a live political debate via Facebook. Sadly for anyone interested in watching the debate, the quality of the livestream was terrible, largely due it seems to the low overall quality of connectivity in Australia (the article lists them as 48th in terms of global internet speeds).

There are some lessons to be learned from this exercise for the enterprise user. First, it’s important to consider the likely end user experience, and be extremely aware of the outside factors that can influence it. They cannot be controlled, but they must be accounted for. If you’re going to deliver a live event, are you prepared for the possibility that end users might have a terrible experience? What steps can you take, perhaps with your CDN provider, to provide extra capacity to ease the loads? Are you set up to field complaints properly, both by phone and social & email outlets?

Second, are you prepared to put yourself at the mercy of someone else’s infrastructure? Not everyone can or should build or buy livestreaming capacity, especially if it’s not something you intend to do very often. But are you prepared to risk a major (or even minor) live event on Facebook’s or YouTube’s live delivery options? These are wonderful platforms to be on, and your audiences are certainly there to be reached, but there are risks involved in depending on these tools as your sole delivery mechanism. You have to trust that in the midst of everything else these platforms are doing, your event will receive the attention it deserves.

Finally, think about the level of support you want to have when something goes bad. As the Mashable article indicates, even a Buzzfeed chat with President Obama went sour and they had to shift away to a YouTube feed. If a major media source and the President of the United States couldn’t get their problems sorted by the provider, how much better service will your organization get? Companies like Ustream and Livestream do this as a sole function (and I’m not shilling for either) for large-scale events; they can provide one-off services if these are only needed occasionally; and as part of an arrangement with them it’s reasonable to expect a high level of service in the event of a failure.

By all means leverage every tool at your disposal, and go where the audiences are. But be sure to understand the potential for problems is high, and in the end you get what you pay for.

Image courtesy of Mashable from the article Australia’s first online leadership debate marred by buffering complaints

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Periscope: Concerns for the Enterprise

November 12, 2015 Leave a comment

Periscope-Logo

I sat down with some old friends yesterday to chat about all kinds of things in the streaming universe, and at one point we got into a discussion about Periscope, the livestreaming tool available through Twitter. It got me thinking about the revolutionary nature of these new tools and how they might impact the Enterprise.

Make no mistake here – allowing users to livestream with nothing more than a phone they’re carrying anyway is a major game changer. It’s by no means a replacement for a proper setup for anything serious, but the ability to deliver live content even at the relatively low-level of a phone is still an amazing opportunity for users of every kind. The question is, how does this new tool get adopted in large organizations, and what might be some of the concerns facing business owners and IT teams?

There’s no question Periscope, Meerkat and the few other options out there will find quick adoption among smaller companies, and small groups within larger organizations. Enterprise-level adoption, however, almost always demands a deep look into the impact of a new tool and the overall value to the organization. The first concern I think most companies will have is security – can the tool be brought in without increasing the risk of hackers using it to break into systems? With these apps, I believe it’s too early to tell how this might impact other systems which tells me it’ll be some time before widespread adoption.

The second concern is the development of a strategy and a set of use cases to help the organization fit livestreaming apps into their overall business. Why do you want on-the-fly live events? What are they meant to accomplish? Who do you want delivering these events? For large organizations, both internal and external communications can be tightly controlled, and the entire purpose of these apps is to spread the opportunities around to as many people as you can. Adding them to the company’s arsenal requires an ability to surrender control which can be a hard sell to company leadership. It also means developing policies & procedures for using the tools, and that can delay deployment while the necessary documents are created.

A third issue is impact of the technology on existing IT systems & resources. Is some sort of central administration needed? Who will provide user support? With budgets and personnel already stretched farther than advisable, smart IT leadership will ask these questions before committing to including these tools.

It’s hard to wait on interesting and powerful technology, but most large enterprise organizations take their time about adoption until it can be worked into their overall business strategies. Interestingly, the Mayo Clinic is one organization that has begun to experiment with Periscope. I find it notable because health care is one of the most highly regulated industries and providers can be very wary of how they share. I will say that I know some people at Mayo and they’ve been very forward-looking in their adoption of new communication tools, and it’s good to see them taking advantage of Periscope.

Overall I expect these tools will join other social outlets used by large organizations, but probably in a very controlled and limited way. It doesn’t mean employees aren’t already leveraging them, but I’d be surprised to see any major adoption in the near future.

Yahoo Livestreams the NFL

October 27, 2015 Leave a comment

NFL on Yahoo

So the NFL and Yahoo teamed up to stream last Sunday’s Bills-Jaguars game from London. As usual Dan Rayburn of Frost & Sullivan and StreamingMedia.com has done the best work of reviewing the entire exercise, including a review of the technical aspects here. I won’t cover all the ground he already did, other than pointing out this tweet:

This has been around for quite a while and the hype factor in so much reporting is just silly.

I do want to examine the business side of the exercise and put some thought into the long-term impact of the idea. Broadly speaking I don’t see a future for regular streams under the current universe of the NFL’s delivery model. There’s simply too much money involved in delivering the games via the traditional TV outlets. Many billions are involved between the League, the broadcasters and the advertisers, and this kind of major shift is at best a long, long way off. ($5 billion alone is the cost to the 4 networks currently signed to deliver the games through 2021).

So there won’t be any major restructuring going on, but over the remaining 5 years of the TV deal I would expect to see more experimenting with online delivery. I suspect the London game was selected as among other things, the arcane blackout rules & complications of NFL broadcasts could be avoided – no local market would be affected in terms of coverage. I do think the NFL was paying a LOT of attention – like anyone else they can see the shifts in the marketplace towards more online delivery. Cord-cutting is overhyped by a long shot, and live sports remains the last firm bastion of cable & satellite delivery – users like me who might otherwise give up on cable are keeping it to be able to watch their teams play.

The difficulty for a lot of fans is the ability to see a non-local team play; if they live in one place but support a team in another location, they’re hard pressed to get to see those games without additional cost via the NFL’s Sunday Ticket package. Live streaming is routinely available there for anyone willing to pay for it; the question becomes – is the NFL prepared to offer streamed games for ‘free’ (e.g. an advertiser-based rather than subscription model) more broadly? Again, there’s a lot of money involved and none of the parties to this will alter the arrangement unless better opportunity comes up via streaming.

Live sports in particular demands perfect performance during play or people will go crazy if they miss something important. I consider this past weekend an experiment; a relatively safe way to test the waters on totally online delivery. Yahoo hopefully learned something from it, which should be that live streaming is difficult to do correctly, especially with a lot of people watching a game. The NFL (and the other leagues watching closely) wanted to see how the event went for future thinking about contracts and game delivery. Fans wanted things for free online (ignoring data charges), and got a taste of a possible future. It won’t matter now, but check back in 5 years and we’ll have a better sense of how streaming impacts live sports delivery.

Categories: Distribution Tags: ,

Streaming Media East Wrap-up

May 19, 2014 Leave a comment

StreamingMediaEast_LGI took the time to head over to Streaming Media East last week for the first time in a few years. I used to go regularly with a previous employer but circumstances hadn’t permitted over the last few shows. I thought it was time to get back over there to see what was latest & greatest in the world of online video.

The short summary is that I learned an awful lot, and it’s still kind of the wild west out there. While a lot is going on in terms of distribution options and content development, there just isn’t a single way of achieving success with a program. My preferred space of the enterprise was not as well represented as I’d like which is probably a combination of few proposals and not a ton of interest from the rest of the audience. The vendor floor was also much thinner than I expected based on previous experience – participants I remember seeing for years weren’t there and the space seemed emptier than I recall.

Key takeaways? Cloud cloud cloud; when some organizations are talking about large live events, they mean over 750,000 concurrent users; the technical infrastructure for ad serving is incredibly complicated. In the end I learned a lot, saw some old friends and made some new connections along the way – which is all anyone could really ask of of a conference. I only managed to get there for Tuesday, so I can’t say this is a full overview, but here’s my detailed wrapup:

Tuesday Keynote – Matthew Szatmary, Twitch

Call the keynote my big OMG moment – it’s only occasionally that I hear something that makes me stop and say “wow, I had no idea, but it makes a lot of sense.” Twitch, in addition to being next on Google’s list of acquisitions is among the largest delivery systems for live video anywhere, and all those people are watching other people play video games. One of my kids is a fan of those videos and I thought it was just her – turns out there are a LOT of people who enjoy being spectators to online gaming. Dan Rayburn shares some of the numbers here from Szatmary’s presentation and they’re astounding. Granted there are more people total watching the some of these events when TV is added to the mix, but online there’s no comparison. Frankly, 1 million broadcasters a month is the giant number to me – I haven’t heard of anyone that comes even close. He explained a lot of the behind the scenes needed to get this many broadcasts to work and it’s just one more facet of the streaming universe that has grown so enormously over the last 10-15 years.

Session B101: Big Streaming: Technical Challenges of Large-Scale Live Events

Not my bread and butter here as I’ve never streamed to the kinds of large groups that MLB and WWE do, but it turned out to be a great session on the specific challenges of streaming to large groups of people. The “how large” issue was another “whoa” moment for me – they explained they mean over 750,000 live viewers and above. As the panelists pointed out, there’s a huge gap between many small events and the giant events baseball and wrestling are called on to deliver. It’s not a simple question of scale, but a whole other way of thinking about how you deliver your streams. Some of the keys here are thorough pre-planning, contingency planning and on-the-fly metrics reviews. The latter was an interesting point – you don’t want to overwhelm yourself with reporting or you won’t get what you need in timely fashion; you also don’t want every jot and tittle or you won’t be able to separate the important information from the junk. Social is also a big key – hints about which games are heating up can tip the production teams off about likely increasing demand for those games. One last thought that should be applied in all cases – when your viewers are paying for a premium product, they expect the best experience possible and you just have to deliver excellently.

Session A102: Content Management Strategies for Enterprise Content Platforms

Surprisingly, not my favorite session of the day. It was one of the few targeted specifically at the enterprise user and I think I was expecting a bit more than I got. The presenters were fine, but a lot of it seemed to focus on how they built their programs and not on the content management process itself. I admit I know more that some people on this subject, but to me the meat of this would be in the content decision making process and the internal/external production debate. Every organization goes through those kinds of exercises – what stays in house, what goes out and why? More discussion about the use of user-generated content would have been welcome as well.

Session B103: Choosing a Corporate YouTube System

A pretty good session overall, though it turned into more of a comparison of available systems and specific implementations of those systems than I think I was expecting. I’m interested here in the strategic thinking – do we allow user generated content or not? What restrictions do we put in place? How is it administered? What kind of security is needed? Again, more strategy here would have been welcome, but in retrospect I don’t think that was the intent of the session.

Session A105: Server-Side Ad Insertion: Reducing Video Player Complexity & Improving Reliability

Another wake-up call for me in this session. I know much less about the ad-delivery world than I should, and based on this session there is an enormous amount to learn. The technical aspects of this are quite complicated and I admit freely I was lost at more than one point during the discussion. For a lot of companies on both ends, however, this is life & death. For the content owners, revenue depends heavily on the ads; for the advertisers, the eyeballs are what they care about; and for the ad serving companies, there are a lot of moving pieces to ensure that both forms of content (ad and programming) are delivered smoothly and correctly. I don’t have a lot of interest in the ad delivery side of things, but it was a good session to go to as a reminder of the huge impact advertising has on the streaming ecosystem.

Image courtesy of StreamingMedia.com; used with permission

External Factors Impact User Experience with Video

February 17, 2014 Leave a comment

Twice over the last two days I had the opportunity to leverage streaming content for some entertainment. Both times I faced streaming challenges, and it’s a reminder that no matter how good the content we develop, we’re often subject to external factors that can completely change how the end-user feels about our work.

I started out on Saturday with the DVR recording I made of the USA-Russia olympic hockey game. Thanks to my cable provider’s channel guide mistake, I got an extra 30 minutes of commentary that resulted in the recording cutting out in the middle of overtime. So I switched over to the laptop to load up the replay from nbcolympics.com. Plenty has been written about the business model behind the access to the content – if you haven’t heard, you only get access to the full scope of content if you have an existing cable/satellite provider. This of course shuts out many people who don’t have those services, and I’m not convinced that it’s a successful model to use.

Regardless of those issues, I do have a cable subscription and the results were horrible. I needed to catch up on the end of overtime and the shootout that followed – no more than about 10 minutes of video total. It’s safe to say I spent at least double that time waiting for the content to buffer and begin playing. I’d get a minute or two of playback followed by a long spell of buffering. If I had not been committed to seeing the end of the game I’d have given up within the first couple of minutes.

Sunday night was movie night with the kids (well, one of them – the other two refused to watch). We agreed on a movie and ordered it from Amazon video. And the movie loaded. And loaded and loaded. And still loading. And almost but not quite loaded. We gave it about 5 minutes before shutting down the TV and restarting to get it working. The rest of the playback was mostly OK with only some buffering, so overall the experience was pretty good.

The point of all this is that as a creator and manager of content, your users’ experience is dependent on a lot of things that you often can’t control. The issues I faced over the weekend could have occurred in a half dozen places along the path from provider to me. It could be a router somewhere along the internet, my internet connection or the connection between the device and my home router. But I understand the networking issues better than most users, especially as it applies to online video delivery. More importantly, I had an investment in the pieces I was trying to watch. I lived with the issues I experienced because I really wanted to see the video, and I never would have taken the time I did for something I was looking at casually.

As a content provider, you need to be aware of the possible problems with delivery. A lot of corporate video is, frankly, not must-watch video – will your users stick with it if they are facing streaming quality issues? There isn’t unfortunately a lot that can be done about downstream problems – it’s often a user by user situation and you can’t solve that problem for everyone.

You can, however, take certain steps on your own end – use a streaming service provider that has a robust network with multiple sourcing points and plenty of capacity. Contract with them for better service if you’re delivering a high profile live event. Encode your videos for optimum playback without overdoing the bitrates and video sizes – a smaller video that plays cleanly is better than a larger one that buffers constantly. You really, really have to spot check your content to see how it behaves, especially across multiple devices in multiple network situations. A hardwired connection will behave differently than over the air or wifi, iPhones will behave differently than PC desktops. Above all else, if you can possibly provide contact information alongside the video, you give users the chance to learn more even if the video fails for any reason – instead of definitely losing an opportunity, you’ll have the chance that they’ll reach out to you.

The problems with playback often have nothing to do with your work as the content provider, but the result is that you take the blame for it. They don’t say “oh, that lousy telecom and their service”, they say “this stupid company can’t figure out how to deliver a video?” It may not be fair, but the result is the same – your great content doesn’t appear, and sales and communication opportunities are lost. Do what you can to keep it working, and know when it’s not working so you can get it fixed as soon as possible.

53% of all Traffic is Video! Now What?

November 12, 2013 Leave a comment

There’s some buzz going around, especially on Twitter, that video now makes up over 50% of all traffic on the web. Here’s one story from the Hollywood Reporter:

Video Accounts for 53 Percent of Internet Traffic

Broadly speaking I think this is a Good Thing as video continues to play a larger role in people’s lives and online experiences. But the underlying question for producers remains Now What? What do we as the creators of content, particularly in the enterprise space, do with that information? More importantly, what do we do about it?

It’s wonderful if you’re Netflix or YouTube – you’ve got a large share of a growing market and as long as you continue to make key content acquisitions you’re likely to remain in good shape for the near term. But as I’ve written regarding Cisco’s predictions on the impact of video, more data is not necessarily more important data. From the enterprise perspective, you still need to direct resources and effort towards what drives the organization’s bottom line. You are facing more competition from many more sources, and it can make getting heard a lot harder.

Fortunately, the goals of the enterprise are often a lot narrower than reaching billions of potential viewers. I’ve mentioned before that you want the right viewers – those in a position to make a purchase, offer a donation or any of the other reasons your organization is in business. The additional competition means you will have to work harder to develop a message that resonates with your audience, and keeping that audience central in your production process is more critical than ever.

The “Now What?” question is answered by reviewing every production carefully in light of the greater challenges to attracting viewers. Have I made my point clearly enough? Are the first 10 seconds of the video deeply engaging so I keep viewers attention? Are my calls to action clear and obvious? Am I sharing the video in the places where my key decision makers can be found? Have I enabled social tools around the piece to allow conversations to happen? Is anyone monitoring and interacting with those social spaces?

You should ask these questions in any event, but they become a lot more important as the level of noise increases. We all want to make great video, and this kind of strategic thinking is a big part of it. We can create award-winning pieces, but if our key constituents don’t see them, it’s impossible to see them as successful efforts.

Monetization for Corporate Video

November 5, 2013 Leave a comment

An enormous amount of discussion takes place across the web on the issue of monetization of video. The concern is that producers are putting a lot of effort and at least some money into developing their video content and getting their creative vision down in pixels – now how do you make money off that effort? The answers can vary, but for the most part they focus on the video community – create your story, find a way to sell it or advertising around it so that you can profit.

As important as this topic is, for the enterprise producer the calculus is noticeably different. Generally speaking you’re not looking to sell a series of corporate pieces to Netflix, Amazon or Hulu; you probably are not interested in selling advertising for other products as a pre- or mid-roll to your product demo. In fact, the video itself is unlikely to be a moneymaker on its own, and it’s probably not intended to do so.

At the end of the day, a corporate video is designed to sell the products or services of the company. Your video is intended to lead viewers on to a purchasing decision, but it’s unlikely that the video will be the sole driver of that revenue. More often the video will be a form of lead generation for the organization’s sales team – a video view will translate into a sales contact which hopefully becomes a finalized sale. On the plus side, this takes a lot of pressure off the video producer – there’s no expectation that noticeable revenue will be driven by the video itself. You don’t have to get nervous about getting picked up by a large streaming provider, a YouTube syndicator, or draw large numbers of ad impressions.

On the challenge side, this means it can be harder to point to the video as a revenue generator instead of a cost center. If the sale does not depend on the video, how can you demonstrate to management that the video department is driving revenue? It’s not a simple question to answer, but the two most important steps to manage are calls to action and metrics. By adding direct calls to action within the video, you can ensure that the video provides an immediate opportunity to connect with the company and its experts. If you’re doing a piece involving a subject matter expert (SME) from the organization, be sure there’s easy connectivity to reach that SME directly. Metrics always provide understanding of the success of a video, and they can be useful as an indicator that your message is reaching the key audiences.

One critical step here is to be sure to take advantage of URL techniques that can help tell you where your users are coming from. Tagging and tracking codes within URLs can provide very specific feedback on the source of the click – an email campaign, a particular webpage, and of course from within a video page. If you’re not familiar with the coding on the URL, work with your web development teams to create URLs that will help indicate that a user reached out to your organization after watching one of your video pieces.

In the end video for most organizations is a means to an end, but there are still key steps you can take to make sure your efforts are helping drive revenue.

Categories: Distribution Tags: , ,
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