Saturday, June 5, 2010

Where's the Video?

Back when dirt was young and I was a department store management trainee, a seasoned newspaper editor turned ad manager showed me how people read a page of advertising. Our eyes follow a reverse "S" path, from upper left to lower right. Knowing that shapes the layout you create. Years later the owner of a retail design firm described the opportunity to catch a pedestrian's attention at the store front as the "blink factor". The retailer has the time it takes to blink to make a passer by stop and look. Knowing that makes you think hard about your window display. If we think about visitors to a website as pedestrians passing a storefront we're on the right track. The early web was an opportunity to post a brochure that could be edited frequently without going back to the print shop. Our expectations were low because its very existence was magic enough. I recall my first web experiences with what was called the FreeNet. It was text-only with placeholders identifying a picture that you had to download before you could view it. I recall being able to view some postage stamp video and not others because I didn't have the right "codec". It was a while before I knew what that meant. So the web of today could fairly be considered a horse of an entirely different colour.

In the five years since YouTube came along online video has become a huge phenomenon. Quality has vastly improved with broadband access and software development. It is forecast that within five years 90% or so of all bandwidth will be accounted for by online video. Yet despite where online video is and where it will be (including on your television set) the majority of business websites still aren't using it. There was a time when any video project cost thousands of dollars and perhaps that perception remains. But with offers of video production and hosting for introductory prices like $399 a year the fact that it remains a hard sell is mind boggling. When we introduced transparent video to Toronto fashion discounter Tom's Place, Tom and his staff were congratulated time and again on their great new website. The interesting thing about that is that not a single element on the site had changed. Adding video created the perception that it was new.

Recently I've begun to see data on how hugely improved are search results when video is among the choices. It has to be properly presented to the search bots, but when it is it moves hits up the results ladder so dramatically, according to hard data, that you'd read the number twice to believe it. If the web is important to your business, it's time to put a toe in the water. A one-minute profile for a few hundred dollars gives your visitor something to blink about, and that's the edge you're looking for.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

More Google TV news

I've been talking Internet on TV for a while now and the more I look the more I like. Google TV, the open web on TV is best described at the moment by the folks at Google, and naturally they have a video presentation for the purpose. More recent than their announcement is one from YouTube, describing their "Lean Back" initiative to bring TV quality to the flat panel in your family room. They already have a sample site populated with video optimized for the big TV screen. You don't need to have done the deed to view the material, but of course you don't get a real idea of how it will look on TV when viewing it on your computer monitor. It does deliver a sense of how real this change is and requires little imagination to port it to your plasma or LCD unit. If you're considering bringing video content to a business site, don't wait. Experience now with visitor reaction in the "lean forward" reality of computer video viewing will pay dividends as viewers begin to expect longer form content, more in tune with the entertainment and educational material we're all accustomed to viewing on television. Your site will be on TV. Whether it should be or not depends on the decisions you make in the next year.