By Mark Sherbin published June 16, 2013

Video Content Channels: Which Should You Use?

CMI video on Vimeo

Have a sneaking suspicion that you’re missing out on a world of video opportunity? You may be right. Limiting your brand to YouTube without combing through the other available options may curb your video content marketing potential.

A quickly evolving marketplace means frequent stops to reevaluate your online video strategy. To get some perspective on video distribution channels, I spoke with some video experts, including Eric Leslie, President of OnScene Productions and the man behind the lens at events like Content Marketing World.

Eric helped me assemble a comparison of the biggest and brightest video distribution networks on the market. We compiled questions to help guide your distribution plan from these comparisons. We also discussed the future of online video for content marketers.

Where do today’s video platforms excel? Where do they fall short?

Which platforms make the most sense for your business? Here are the top contenders:

  • Unsurprisingly, the market leader is YouTube, with more than 1 billion unique visitors and 4 billion hours of video watched monthly.
  • In 2012, more than 675 million people tuned in to Vimeo, another popular option for content marketers. The platform currently has 14 million members.
  • Brightcove has outlasted much of the competition, boasting 6,300 customers in 60 countries. Its video player loads 3.2 billion times a month.

Let’s take a look through the similarities and differences of these top platforms, and see where Eric feels each one excels — and where each one drops the ball — from a video content perspective.

CMI’s video channel on YouTube

Quality
Investing in high quality video content could be a waste if your video platform doesn’t support it. If you embed a video on your website, for example, will it run in HD mode, or only in SD?

YouTube falls short in video quality, dropping to lower resolutions when bandwidth isn’t available. The best options for a consistent, high-quality stream are Vimeo and Brightcove.

Eric says: “Vimeo plays in 720p HD, maintaining integrity and quality for every view. Brightcove does adjust quality based on bandwidth — but it never drops into SD, which means the viewer never gets a grainy picture.”

Searchability
Searchability is essential if the goal of your video content is to draw in leads.

Chances are you’ve been sucked into the black hole that is YouTube. That’s because its video curation skills are second to none. YouTube also dominates results when it comes to organic search through Google and other engines.

Eric says: ”YouTube’s Google tie gives it top ranking in searchability. It’s optimized and gives you tools to narrow down your target audience even further. An organic audience spending hours on the site increases the chances that a potential viewer will stumble on your video.”

Embedding
Embedding is an important feature to look at if hosting a video directly on your website is a priority over inbound marketing.

The quality of your video impacts the quality of your website. Therefore, maintaining a high-quality stream is a priority for embedded video. That counts out YouTube’s schizophrenic SD-HD vibe.

YouTube also suggests related content that might not be specific to your brand — increasing the likelihood that your visitor will bounce.

Eric says: ”For a high-quality video embed, Vimeo is the way to go, especially if you aren’t dealing with a large quantity of videos.”

Customizability & control
Building your own content network? You’ll need a platform with strong customization and control options if video is to be a dominant piece of your content marketing.

Brightcove is the top contender for large quantities of video. It gives you the ability to add your own pre- or post-roll ads and personalize your video player skin, among other customization features.

Eric says: “Vimeo is restrictive, and YouTube gives you no control over pre-roll. Brightcove is your best bet if control is a priority.”

Investment
There’s no harm in using a free platform like YouTube, right? Still, you’ll have to shell out a few bucks if you need the functionality of Vimeo or Brightcove. (NOTE: Vimeo does have a free option, but it’s limited.)

Think Vimeo or Brightcove make the most sense for your brand? Loosen that vice grip on your video budget. Go for quality.

Eric says: ”YouTube is a service — but Vimeo and Brightcove are solutions. If you need the functionality, make the investment.”

Analytics
The rush to big data excellence means having strong analytics capture for video, too. Pretty much every network we’ve mentioned thus far has a platform for tracking your analytics.

Limelight Networks is a notable video platform for analytics collection, especially for content marketers. It weaves into the ongoing narrative, helping you understand how video plays into the working parts of your content marketing efforts.

Eric says: Understanding the impact of video goes deeper than it ever has before. You must be able to track video’s impact on your bottom line.”

Niche functionality
YouTube, Vimeo, and Brightcove are all blanket platforms, covering the spectrum of industries and purposes. Evaluating video networks with a more specific purpose can help you target your content.

Take Xavy, for example. The quickly expanding video network focuses exclusively on videos of industry leaders speaking at top conferences, helping leaders get exposure on one end and keeping professionals up to date on industry trends on the other.

Eric says: ”There’s nothing more powerful for video than finding a niche delivery system. Networks like Xavy give you a sure-fire way to engage your audience directly.”

CMI videos on Brightcove

What goals define the platform that fits your content marketing?

Each video channel has its strengths and weaknesses. Your choice depends on what you value most in a video platform, and what your specific video content needs are.

Take a good, hard look at your content plan before you evaluate channels. Here are a few questions to help you determine your priorities and make better decisions when choosing the best video content platform:

  • Are you shelling out cash for high quality production or using your computer camera?
  • How large is your library of videos?
  • Will the larger file sizes and resolution requirements for HD video overwhelm your server and storage capabilities?
  • Are you primarily using videos for inbound marketing or converting leads?
  • Are you managing your own video network? Do you need access to pre- and post-roll footage?
  • Is brand control a priority? Are you worried about videos being paired with unsafe content?

Already have a solid grasp on your current video strategy? Well, then let’s take a brief look at what’s on the horizon for video content:

What does the future of online video look like?

Video can be one of the most compelling forms of content marketing — if you do it right. Cisco predicts online video users to reach 1.5 billion by 2016. There’s no doubt it’s a powerful channel for connecting brands with their audience members.

According to Steve Rotter, Brightcove‘s VP of Marketing, the rapid growth of online video has done much to snuff out smaller video platforms.

“I think the market has matured to a point where only the strong have survived. Like most emerging technology segments, the smaller players just can’t keep up, so they have a few options. You can get bought like (Limelight-acquired cloud player) Delve, go out of business, or try to dig deep into a small industry niche, like video training.”

Existing video platforms that are deeply entrenched in the market have a head start on technology, too. According to Eric Leslie, “A major challenge facing video content producers is that video is still evolving. Bandwidth is increasing, and resolution is getting crisper. The technology could look pretty different in a year.”

Among the developments Eric says to watch for is high-efficiency video coding (HEVC), also known as H.265. “Pretty soon, a 10-minute video could take 10 seconds to load.”

The next wave of high-resolution video is on the horizon, as well, in the form of 4K. Video producers are already shooting with 4K cameras, and television manufacturers have begun to roll out new models that are equipped to handle this level of quality. “It’s only a matter of time before 4K really starts to hit the web,” he says.

We’ll see new platforms and new approaches, according to Eric, but providers like YouTube, Vimeo, and Brightcove aren’t going anywhere for a while.

Join the conversation

Which video platforms does your brand use? Share them with us in the comments.

For more help on selecting the best technologies for your content marketing efforts, read CMI’s eGuide, How to Choose Content Marketing Technology.

Author: Mark Sherbin

Mark Sherbin is a freelance writer specializing in technology and content marketing. He shares occasionally insightful information at Copywriting Is Dead, where he promotes authentic communication between organizations and their audiences. Contact him at msherbin@gmail.com.

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  • C.J. MinsterCheng

    Why doesn’t this article mention Ustream or Livestream? Why doesn’t it mention which platform works best with video podcasting?

    • http://beonscene.com Eric Leslie

      Great suggestions C.J.! We didn’t talk much about live streaming, but Ustream is an awesome tool for live event broadcast. I’ve seen some remarkable HD quality multi-cam streams on that channel.

  • http://morgancantrell.blogspot.com Morgan

    For those focused on turning their content marketing efforts into opportunity and revenue for their sales teams, data integration with CRM & marketing automation systems should also be a key consideration.

    • Mark Sherbin

      Right on, Morgan. Feeding data into the backend should always be a huge consideration.

  • shelah

    Or why is One Screen not mentioned?

    YouTube does allow the channel owner to add their own pre-roll and now even an overlay.

    If you don’t drop down the video quality to match the band-width, you frustrate the viewer with the excessive spooling. Sure you may have HD, but your customers will have to wait for it and we all know they wont, besides SEO trumps video quality in content marketing.

  • joshua_mox

    We have been really happy with Wistia.com. They have a pretty robust feature set and as far as the paid options go, they are very competitive. Customizable skin, whitelable, easy SEO optimization (a must for any platform imho, and one of the biggest negatives when going with youtube), adaptive streaming, pre and post roll, twitter and FB embeds, etc.

    Moz.com uses them for their whiteboard Fridays.

    Full Disclosure: I am pay for a membership to both Moz and Wistia but have no other affiliation with them apart from being really happy with the service they provide.

    • Mark Sherbin

      Thanks for the insights, Joshua. I’m familiar with Wistia but I’ll be sure to do a deeper dive now based on your recommendation.

  • Ken Fichtler

    I’d like to recommend Me!Box Media (www.meboxmedia.com). I’ve been blown away by the simplicity and effectiveness of the product. It takes me less than 10 minutes to create an interactive video that actually delivers outstanding results (which I can measure and show my board of directors using the built in analytics). Awesome product overall because it makes my life easier in a way that no other marketing product has yet.

  • Joe Basques

    I too would highly recommend Me!Box. We’ve used it not only for our own business but also for several of our clients with excellent results. Regardless of which platform you choose to use, your video is only useful if it incites user engagement. Me!Box allows you to tell a whole story in minutes that engages the audience and makes taking action easy for the user.