American Marketer


When streaming mobile video, write once and run everywhere

May 22, 2012

Chris Faust is founder/CEO of Fastlane Communications


By Chris Faust

Now that we have crossed the tipping point with consuming content on mobile devices, more businesses and consumers are streaming video via mobile phones and tablets for entertainment, news updates and social interaction.

As a result, marketers are seizing the fact that video delivered to mobile phones and tablets is fast becoming one of the most compelling tools for marketing, advertising and public relations.

Marketing teams have pretty much figured out how to create persuasive and entertaining video content. But when it comes to the technical aspects of managing, publishing and streaming video to mobile devices, there are several issues to consider to ensure effective delivery.

As a mobile user yourself, you may be aware that due to a lack of uniformity in operating systems from device to device, videos can sometimes fail to stream.

It is a cautionary tale for marketers, as poor streaming performance can have an immediate, negative effect on consumer perception of your brand, as well as on ad revenues.

Online video viewership, particularly via mobile devices, has exploded in the last two years, and research shows that it’s more effective than standard display advertising in prompting consumers to interact and engage.

If your firm is considering using streaming video to showcase your products and services, there are two rules of thumb: (1) Create quality content, and (2) make sure you have got the appropriate technology in place to ensure your content is delivered effectively to your target audience.

Riding the video wave
If you are not fully convinced that video is knocking aside other forms of communication for the consumer’s time, consider that YouTube recently made public that it now streams 4 billion online videos daily – a 25 percent increase in the past eight months alone.

In fact, 71.6 percent of U.S. Web users overall watch online video content in a typical week, and 39 percent of all viewers spend between one and five hours per week with online video, according to a recent Burst Media survey.

The survey also shows that viewers are more likely to interact and engage after viewing an online video, compared with standard display media.

Of those surveyed, 24.1 percent of men ages 35-54 said they have taken an action after viewing video, as have 22.1 percent of women ages 35-54. For men ages 55 and over, the number is 26.3 percent.

While this data is for video internet use, in general – not just mobile – that is a powerful conversion rate, especially when you consider the millions who are consuming video every day.

Tell me something I don’t know
If your firm has taken the plunge into video marketing, you are in good company.

Video ad spending is up this year: Almost half of U.S. marketers surveyed by ValueClick planned to boost video ad spending in 2012.

When producing video content, pay attention to the obvious – keep it entertaining, keep it informative and keep it pithy – but even more importantly, tell your consumer something he or she does not already know.

Most consumers are overwhelmed with media stimuli. Win them over by communicating information they can use to make the right buying decision.

Do not underestimate the power of social media to promote your videos.

Strategic promotion on outlets such as YouTube, Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest will spread the word about your video and make sure your target market finds out about it.

To help your videos go viral, you can incorporate media RSS capabilities during the publishing process.

Media RSS facilitates syndication of rich media files such as video and audio clips to people and organizations who are interested in your business.

For marketers, the great thing about streaming video is the control it gives you – to brand, manage and publish your content, either live or on demand.

Whatever technology you use should work seamlessly to help you organize, manage and embed your content on your Web site.

Several companies such as Onstream Media, Brightcove and Ooyla offer low-cost, secure video streaming outsourcing for even the smallest organizations, so in most cases cost should not be an issue.

Understand the technology
For mobile users, there is nothing more exasperating than trying to view a video and failing because your device is not equipped to view streaming media in certain formats.

There are a few considerations to ensure your content is delivered efficiently – to different types of smartphones as well as to tablets, in open networks or behind firewalls.

Once a company uploads its content to its video streaming provider, the data must then be transcoded, which preps data for delivery in different mobile formats, according to Eric Jacobs, senior vice president of Onstream Media, which provides a service called Streaming Publisher.

“The goal is for the streamed data to automatically detect which device a person is using so the information can be delivered in an appropriate format,” Mr. Jacobs said. “After the video is transcoded, it’s delivered via a CDN, or content delivery network. Our CDN, Akamai, for example, has a global network of servers that seek out the quickest route for the data to travel.”

When measuring the delivery of your streaming video, it is all about viewer satisfaction.

Ask your technology provider for metrics on startup times (how long video takes to start after hitting “Play”), the number of bitrates (to measure stream quality) and rebuffer ratio (the amount of time spent rebuffering, a particularly annoying process whereby your video stalls during delivery), Mr. Jacobs suggests.

Mobile users do not always have the same access to bandwidth when moving from place to place, but they expect quality to remain consistent.

Thus, when considering delivery providers, you will want to ask about “adaptive bit rate streaming,” which means that your video will automatically adapt to a user’s bandwidth while viewing – and adjust the bit rate accordingly.

Lastly, if you have a particularly high volume of streaming video to transmit, make sure the technology you choose comes ready to integrate with your systems and workflow. Content should be easy to manage and manipulate, with no file type, size, quantity or bandwidth restrictions.

The technology end of streaming video is all about cost-efficiency and the cloud – costs are generally determined on a usage basis. That means a small-town corner store can tap into the same streaming technology as Fortune 500 companies.

Streaming for maximum effect
Video is a powerful tool that is equally effective for business to business as it is for business to consumer.

One B2B technology provider, Attivio, saw a more than 200 percent increase in its unique monthly visitors once it started putting videos on its Web site.

Visitors stayed on its site longer, and over 18 months the company achieved 157 percent increase in search engine traffic and a 63 percent jump in page views.

The applications of streaming video are limitless – to showcase products and services, provide customer training and support, and to promote your company as a thought leader in your industry. Many companies are even monetizing their videos with pay-per-view.

When producing video content, in many cases low budget works, as well as mega-budgets sometimes even better. Combined with social media, video can connect with people in ways completely different from the printed word.

Chris Faust is founder/CEO of Fastlane Communications, a New York-based communications, design and+ technology services firm. Reach him at