Monday, June 29, 2009

Online Video Beyond YouTube - Part One

This series will explore how online video has changed our world. This first installment will take a look at just how far online video has come. I can remember a time in the not too distant past where posting video on the Internet was rare indeed. Since then, we’ve seen incredible advancements in compression technologies and dramatic increases in bandwidth available to us all. Today, online video is an everyday deal.

How YouTube has changed the landscape

Yikes! Users now upload 20 hours of video per minute to YouTube. That’s 33 minutes of video every second, or 28,800 hours every day. Comscore has reported that YouTube has reached 100 million viewers. And that’s 14.8 billion videos being watched in January of 2009 alone.

Anyone with a camera, Flip Video, or webcam can be a star on YouTube. The holy grail is to “go viral.” It’s that one video in a thousand that captures the imagination of millions of viewers. Take a look at this hilarious video that scored nearly three quarters of a million views:

Or take a look at this up-and-coming NBA star:

However, a real turning point for YouTube has been its adoption by corporate America. One of the early adopters of viral video as a corporate marketing strategy is BMW. They created an intriguing series of dramas by top directors to promote BMW as a “hip” ride. This one called “Hostage” was directed by John Woo:

Companies are now creating YouTube channels to formally bring laser focus to their online video efforts. A great example of this is Coldwell Banker’s sophisticated On Location YouTube channel.

What exactly is a YouTube video?

A YouTube video can be anything from a silly webcam production by a high school freshman, to a crazy home video, to a start-up business presentation, to a full-blown, high-quality corporate video. Simply put, people are communicating with people. The beauty of it all is it takes the “gatekey” away from the mainstream media and puts it into the hands of you and me. How cool.

The downside? Well, there’s a lot of junk on YouTube. Thankfully, they do their best to strip out the really obscene and outright pornographic. But there’s no filter for stupidity. The wild, wild west of the Internet invites contributions of all stripes. It’s our responsibility to monitor what we want our families and ourselves to view. Not big brother’s.

We’re a nation of free individuals. We’re free to make choices (even bad ones). And that’s where it should reside. No need for government interaction or some goofy form of institutional censorship. This is my point of view and I feel strongly about it. I definitely invite opposing views on this. Feel free to comment (hopefully, in a civil manner).

Lowering the bar: A bad thing

YouTube has inadvertently done something else for the proliferation of online video. They’ve lowered the bar as far as what is acceptable in terms of video production value. So what, you say?

For more than a decade, my business has produced hundreds of videos for major corporate clients. We had relatively large budgets for producing them. It wasn’t uncommon to have six figures to produce a 15 or 20 minute video. Those days are no more. Everyone wants it faster, better, longer and cheaper. It takes a production company with smarts and ingenuity to meet the needs of their clients.

Lowering the bar: A good thing

Anybody can take their camcorder, point it at something and make a video that ends up on YouTube. We’re used to seeing lower quality video with bad audio and really poor editing on the net. I guess we’ve been desensitized. Or you could look at it differently. If the content communicates, the production quality is “good enough.” Think about it. We’ve universally accepted the inferior audio quality of mp3 audio clips. Apple has built an empire around it.

And frankly, I’d rather have 2,000 of my favorite songs on my iPod than the “audiophile” quality of only 14 tracks on my very un-portable vinyl discs. It’s plenty “good enough.”

Stay tuned

In subsequent posts, we’ll explore a wide range of topics on the subject of online video. I invite you to keep an eye on this blog in the next few weeks. Enjoy!

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