February 2008 - Be the Channel

While many marketers are familiar with YouTube, they’ve only dipped their toes in the viral marketing waters. Here’s how to create your own online video sharing portal.

By Anthony Sziklai

Many direct response marketers view Internet marketing through the aperture of traditional media. In other words, they see it as just another form of advertising with avails, buys, CPOs and MERs. This way of thinking aligns with what the DRTV media buyers and affiliate marketing agencies are selling. However, it tends to downplay the enormous-even revolutionary-opportunities available to the scrappy Internet marketer.

The Internet is as wide open today as television was when Ed Valenti and Barry Beecher began selling Ginsu Knives in the late ’70s. Many marketers today are aware of the virtues of do-it-yourself online press releases, blogs and social media marketing. However, these marketers-especially those in DRTV-may not realize the benefits of creating their own online video sharing portal. Most people know about YouTube, the company that Google purchased for $1.65 billion. Yet, few people know about the new generation of niche video sharing sites that are going to give YouTube a run for its money. And fewer people still realize how all of this will impact direct response television.

In case you don’t know how YouTube works, here’s a brief primer: YouTube is a video sharing website that allows anyone to upload and share digital videos. All you have to do is go to the sign-up page and create an account. This takes less than a minute. Once you have signed up, you can start uploading videos. Click the yellow “upload” button at the top of site and follow the simple step-by-step instructions.

According to YouTube, the site accepts a wide range of video file formats, such as .WMV, .AVI, .MOV and .MPG, transferred from most digital cameras, camcorders and cell phones. Once your video has been uploaded, other people can start viewing it. In just a few minutes, you can self-publish and syndicate your video to an audience of 55 million unique visitors per month.

YouTube wasn’t the first video sharing site, but it caught on because it was easy to use, and because it standardized on the highly ubiquitous Flash codec, meaning most people could view YouTube videos instantly without having to install the right version of QuickTime or Windows Media Player. By keeping it simple, YouTube managed to pull ahead of the pack and is today the second-most visited social media site (after MySpace), and the eighth-largest audience on the Internet, according to Nielsen/NetRatings. Not bad for a site created by three geeks in a garage.

YouTube is good for direct response marketers in that it provides a free online channel for DRTV spots and edited-down infomercials. (YouTube restricts the length of uploaded videos to 10 minutes.) It enables marketers to tag their videos so that visitors can easily find them using the site’s search feature. It also promotes viral video sharing by enabling users to e-mail videos to their friends, or to post them to an aggregating service, such as Digg or del.icio.us.

There are several DRTV marketers who are already uploading their programs on YouTube. Most admit that they have only dipped their toes in and are oblivious to the use of social media aggregating services or YouTube channels to optimize their content.

Uploading a video

Creating a channel

Browsing channels



Perhaps the most interesting thing about YouTube is that it allows users to create their own video channels within the YouTube community. According to the site, channels are centralized locations where other users can view each other’s public videos, favorites, bulletins, comments, subscribers and video logs.

What these channels really represent is the future of do-it-yourself television. By removing the barrier-of-entry to creating a TV station, YouTube is quietly building the world’s largest non-linear TV network. If you follow the bread crumbs of parent company Google’s recent content deals, you will see the outlines of a master plan that aggregates both user-generated and premium, licensed content to drive more online advertising, specifically video-based brand advertising. To spread the wealth, Google is introducing video monetization tools, such as AdSense Player, that allow independent content creators to make money off of their videos.
DRTV marketers need to jump into this do-it-yourself television revolution with both feet. We are in kind of a “Wild West” period not unlike the mid-’80s when the FCC relaxed regulations on commercial content and triggered an explosion in infomercials. The difference now is that the entrepreneur can create not only his or her own direct response commercial, but also the TV station that it is aired on.

You can start by creating channels on YouTube. I recommend creating a separate channel for each product you sell, including products that are no longer on television. It also is not a bad idea to create channels on other video sharing sites, such as Yahoo Video, which directly competes with YouTube.

After Google purchased YouTube, numerous me-too video sharing portals sprouted up, including regional and specialized niche video sharing sites. The sites that seem to be the most intriguing are the ones that shed light on the future of DRTV. One example is Vator.tv, which allows inventors to pitch products to investors using “elevator pitch” videos (”Vator” is short for elevator). While there are other websites targeting inventors and inventions, Vator.tv has adopted the video sharing metaphor to create a community. For those who are missing the whole point of video sharing, it is about encouraging the audience to participate, to become part of a community that “owns” the content, and is therefore more likely to promote it to their friends. Vator.tv uses video sharing as a way to virally distribute a pitch to the widest possible investor audience.

In the future, inventor-oriented video sharing portals will likely emerge that allow inventors to turn their pitches into DRTV spots by using online editing tools and dragging-and-dropping offer, call-to-action and shopping cart widgets into their videos. They will be able to connect with manufacturers, DRTV marketers, call centers, payment processors, fulfillment houses and other vendors that provide plug-and-play interfaces into their services. If you think this is far-fetched, check out video sharing site Jumpcut.com (owned by Yahoo), which provides an online video editor for not only adding effects and audio to videos, but also mashing up and remixing other people’s videos. These kinds of do-it-yourself online tools are the future. They offer up interesting possibilities, including dragging-and-dropping other inventors’ product videos or club membership videos into a DRTV spot as third-party upsells, or editing in user-contributed testimonials the same day they are posted to the site.

If creating an inventor-oriented video sharing site sounds like too much of a stretch, you might consider creating a site around your chosen DRTV product category. For example, if you sell kitchen products, you could create a video sharing site that allows users to post recipes using your product. There are a few cooking-oriented video sharing sites worth looking at, including Cookshow.com and Tastyfood.tv. These niche sites resemble mini YouTubes and even allow users to create their own channels. If you sell kitchen products, you should not only consider creating channels on these sites, but also building your own.

Creating your own video sharing portal does require programming skills, however, it is not as difficult or as expensive as you might imagine. To begin with, there are several “YouTube clone” scripts that you can buy, including ClipShare (clip-share.com), Alstrasoft (alstrasoft.com/video share.htm), EntertainmentScripts.com (entertainmentscripts.com/ social_features.php), MyOwnVideo Site (myownvideosite. com) and PHPMotion (phpmotion.com). You might be surprised by how feature-rich these scripts are. Many of the lesser-known, niche video sharing sites are powered by them.

That said, some of the scripts have complicated pricing models based on number of views and videos. Make sure you know what you are getting into before you buy. Scripts, in general, also can be susceptible to hacking. You should do some research on the script you are interested in to make sure that it doesn’t have known vulnerabilities. If you don’t want to go the script route and prefer to build the site from scratch, check out the Adobe website (in case you didn’t know, they bought Macromedia and now own Flash). They have an especially helpful article titled “Creating a Video Sharing Web Application Using Flex 2 and Flash Media Server 2.” It can be found using the following URL: adobe.com/ devnet/flashmediaserver/articles/ video_sharing_web _app.

When creating your video sharing site, why not give it a fun name that will invite others to submit their videos? Use something like AmazingRecipes.tv. Many people believe that short, punchy domain names are more memorable, and therefore not as reliant on the search engines for success. Give the site a clean, uncluttered Web 2.0 look, and spend a little more to have a graphic artist create professional-looking graphics.

If you are worried at all about copyright issues, it is a good idea to use a Creative Commons license, which will require video contributors to abide by certain attribution conditions. You can start researching Creative Commons and get a “Some Rights Reserved” deed by going to creativecommons.org/about/licenses.

One of the most pragmatic reasons to create your own video sharing site is the boost it will give your DRTV spot or infomercial on the search engines. The strategy of creating a neutral-looking site to promote one’s own content is not new. There are several search engine optimizers who have created social bookmarking and content syndication sites that appear to be unaffiliated sites, but in fact, only exist to promote their content. Use this strategy to create a niche video portal that is respected by the search engines and treated as an “authority site” for your product category. Start by purchasing a good domain name, preferably one that contains a strategic keyword in the URL (e.g., cooking or recipe). Then make sure the site’s metatags, headers, video categories and content are properly optimized with the keywords you are targeting.

Once you have optimized your site, you need to start thinking about your video content. When uploading a video to any of the video sharing portals (including your own), make sure the title, description and tags fields contain the right keywords. Titles are especially important, as they are given a lot of weight by the search engines.

You should seed your video sharing site with as many of your own videos as you can, but make sure the titles are not overly self-promotional so that you don’t turn off potential contributors. You want other people to upload videos, because the more videos your site has the more traction it will get on the search engines. If you are having a problem seeding your site, consider tapping YouTube for video content. Google provides YouTube Data API feeds that allow you to request a list of videos that match specific criteria. Check out code.google.com/apis/youtube/overview for more information.

Creating your own video sharing portal will enable you to promote your products while also developing your own online TV station and audience. Video sharing’s open, do-it-yourself format will give your audience a greater sense of ownership and loyalty, prompting them to revisit the site, bookmark it and virally distribute video links to their friends. Today’s multichannel DRTV marketer needs to get past the notion that “media” is something that you buy from someone else.

A few visionary DRTV firms already get it. Vertical Branding’s president, Alan Gerson, for example, is one of the true believers. Gerson says, “Online video portals represent a potentially unparalleled source of information and feedback from customers that can elevate, inform and improve the effectiveness of product development and marketing efforts. Use of online video posting is an extremely cost-effective media channel, and a way to reach the ‘light’ TV viewer with full motion video messages.”

If you’re still not convinced that building your own portal is the right move, consider dabbling in video portal advertising. YouTube offers different video advertising options to reach its 55 million unique visitors a month, including video ads placed on its web pages and in-video ads placed within premium YouTube partners’ video content. This kind of advertising is going to get big, especially after Google’s AdWords Player starts taking off. It’s difficult to determine how its CPM pricing will perform for your particular product. However, this exercise will open your eyes to what has happened to online video since Google has gotten into the game.

Expect more surprises in online video for 2008. One has to imagine that there are other video upstarts that want to give Google a run for its money. Could video search engines like Blinkx and Truveo (owned by AOL) emerge from behind the scenes and become the next YouTube? Or could social video bookmarking sites like Dabble with its “human-powered video search” be the category killer? And don’t forget about multimedia search engine, EveryZing, which provides users with speech-to-text technology for searching inside audio and video files.

Google may already recognize these potentially disruptive threats because they are borrowing a page from Microsoft’s playbook: hardware/software bundling. In a recent press release, Panasonic and YouTube announced plans to bring big screen high def TV viewers quick and easy access to millions of originally created videos from YouTube directly from Panasonic’s new VIERA® PZ850 line of Plasma Internet-connected HDTVs. If video sharing is now starting to drive how television sets are made, you know something is afoot. If you are a DRTV marketer, the writing on the wall says, “Jump in now!”

Anthony Sziklai is president of Moulton Logistics Management in Van Nuys, Calif. He can be reached at (818) 997-1800, or via e-mail at [email protected].


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