Creating and monetizing online video: tips for small publishers

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There’s no shortage of reporters, producers and marketers ready to recite the most recent statistics that speak to the explosive growth of online video. But knowing the opportunity exists isn’t enough – it’s what you do to take advantage of it that counts.

Making online video a successful venture typically involves four equally important parts: creative, production, monetization and marketing. 

Creative

The creative part is the most fun, because we get to fantasize about the unique and exciting shows we want to create. But before you go to deep into the recesses of your imagination, planning all the funky angles you’ll use to shoot your dramatic storyline, think carefully about the kind of content that typically works on the Web.

Episodic content that involves a story arc, plotline and characters generally has a very hard time building a Web audience.  Yes, there are always a few examples of online shows that build a loyal following. But by and large, these types of shows are more difficult and expensive to produce and struggle to find viewers willing to invest their time or emotional energy into following a new story or getting to know new characters. 

Instead, focus on creating content that online viewers want to watch the most: short (no longer than three minutes) videos that can be watched independently from each other, even if they maintain an episodic format.  Cooking shows, exercise shows, comedy routines, how-to videos, Hollywood gossip – these are just a few examples of some of the better received content that viewers seek out online.

Production

The good news is that Web video production doesn’t have to be expensive. The cost of bringing an idea to life has fallen dramatically over the past decade.  Cameras and other video equipment have fallen in price and improved in quality. In fact, you can even do decent video production with one of the newer iPhones.  Web audiences are more forgiving, so you won’t need to break the bank to exceed their expectations. 

The most complex part of production is getting the right talent and the right sets.  But done right, at relatively short run times (remember, you’ll want to keep each segment below three minutes), you should be able to shoot a large number of unique segments in a single day. 

On a more technical side, how you manage your files will also play a role in how well they’re received and how wide their reach is.  If you plan on hosting your own videos (by installing a Flow Player or using a JW Player plug-in on your WordPress site, for example), and managing your own playlists, you’ll want to create at least three different files for each video: a Flash file, an MP4 (for Chrome and Safari browsers), and a WebM file (for Firefox).  Ideally, you’d also create an OGG file – a format that’s slowly fading away, but currently still the format with the most widespread support. All of these but the Flash file will work on tablet devices. 

Of course, if you’re simply uploading your videos to the larger video networks, like YouTube, you only have to create one file and they’ll do the rest for you, although you may need to specify that you want your videos accessible through mobile devices as well.  You’ll also want to make your file sizes as small as possible, without losing quality (from an editing standpoint, this can be a tough balance), and keep all videos to a 16:9 aspect ratio – there’s really no reason to shoot in 4:3 any longer.

Monetization

Once produced, you’ll need to monetize.  You may not be able to command premium rates for on-site videos until you’ve built an audience.  Instead, consider posting your videos on open networks, like YouTube, that may show ads against your content and share revenue with you.  Or see if you can syndicate them to other, closed networks that can get your videos in front of as many viewers as possible.  You may not make a lot from any one source in particular, but the checks can add up. 

As you start to build a following, you can look for better, more profitable means of monetizing your content by funneling traffic onto your own site. There, you can look for support through pre-roll advertising from a video ad exchange (Brightroll, Tremor – even Google AdSense can provide pre-rolls). Another option is to sell sponsorships.

Marketing

To build enough traffic and views to make online video production profitable, you’ll need to do considerable work on your end to market your product.  In other words, don’t rely on the video networks to do the marketing work for you, and don’t expect that YouTube’s massive audience will find your videos on their own.  A potentially huge audience also means an insane amount of competition – over 48 hours of new content are loaded onto YouTube every minute of every day. 

So it’s up to you to break through the clutter and market your videos to viewers.  Enter Web video festivals – winning awards is a great way to drum up publicity. Promote your video content through press releases and all of your social media accounts.

By executing successfully on these four key elements, you’ll be well on your way to building a successful online video venture.


Jay Miletsky is founder and CEO of MyPod Studios, an online video network featuring pre-screened, pre-qualified video content. 

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