[Updated 2007-10-29: Added about Viddler under the ”Going forward” section below]

It feels good to share, but videos should be carefully shared by conversations-, communications-, and PR- professionals. You may have seen and understood the possibilities, but most of us seems not to have considered the drawbacks. In particular when it comes to ”free” services like YouTube (compare Bubblare or FejmTV in Sweden). Please note, my focus here is on solutions that are supporting the sharing, i.e. forwarding, viral spread, and/or social networking of/with your videos. Not video file distribution or basic video streaming. If you want the skip my backgrounder, jump right down to THINK.

I am greatly inspired by the fantastic social media PR duo Neville Hobson and Shel Holtz, as well as their listeners. Twice a week they host and produce the podcast For Immediate Release (FiR), which provides me with tons of ideas, material for reflections, and sometimes the trigger to move from idea to action. In this case sharing my thoughts on video sharing.

About a week ago, in FiR 282 (50m30s into the show) their listener Bill Donaldson asks the PR community about viral vidoes. Specifically about why an ad agency would not put all their commercials on YouTube and every other video site? Neville and Shel immediate answers – why not? They suggest that commercials and every other corporate video should also go to video sharing sites. If nothing else, just to get the video out to everyone, including those who never visits the corporate web site itself. As always, and that is a big point, they invite everyone to comment their thougts.

Yesterday in FiR 284 (46:15) Kris Gallagher with the DePaul University in Chicago reports that they are thinking about ”uploading their TV spots (aimed at prospective students) to YouTube”. She asks: is there a downside? Afterwards the FiR hosts fill in that they got a reply from someone (name lost) after last weeks episode. The commenter points to the intellectual property rights that are involved. Neville and Shel admits that they forgot the rights issue, e.g. music rights bought for TV air time might not be extended to distribution over the web, including YouTube. Besides that, they have not heard anyone suggest a true downside. This is my fault. Time to correct. So here is my 1 krona worth on the issue.


Yes Kris, we should be careful as we proceed. Before addressing the downsides I would like to start by listing some of the salient upsides when we use video sharing services (like YouTube or Bubblare):

  • Playability. Many (not all) video file formats can be played directly by the browser, sometimes through an application associated with the file type. Most video sharing services have standardized the use of a browser plug-in that plays streaming flash video (flv format). Techies may argue that this is not always ideal, but for users this solution is very convenient. Perhaps more important, I believe, is all those cool looking video players. Aesthetics is important!
  • Bandwith. If you have large video files, or tons of smaller ones, and a wide audience – video tend to eat bandwith. Both in terms of gigabytes per month and capacity to simultaneously stream video to many users. Not all servers can handle this. Video sharing services are bult for that. Hence, you do not have to worry about how many viewers you have.
  • Sharability. By definition a video sharing service lets it users share the video with others. This functionality range from simple ”e-mail a friend a link to this video” to ”embed this code on your own blog/web page”. Note, with few exceptions the video file is not shared (i.e. downloadable), rather it is the possibility to play it elsewhere. Customized video channels/streams where one collects videos from multiple uploaders is another form of sharing.  Increasingly a growing number of widgets, plug-ins, etc. are designed to make it extremely easy for anyone to embed videos into their web presence(s). For example, with virtually a single click I embedded the YouTube video in my ”First ever ad in a presentation” post using the ”Embedded Video With Link” Word Press plug-in. The current version (3.4) handles 20 video source services, including YouTube, Brightcove, Revver, and MySpace.
  • Community. Optionally you can allow other people (and artificials) to comment your videos, link to related content, rate, recommend, etc. Social networking services increasingly offer video uploads that is more (e.g. MySpace) or less (e.g. Facebook) shareable.
  • Brand. Last, but not least, I think YouTube currently has a superior brand value. (At least in the Western world, things are different e.g. in  China as PandPassport and danwei reports). For many it is still ”cool” to have stuff on YouTube, that is the uploaders brand appropriate YouTubes’. But also brand value in terms of awareness and knowledge. A huge population understands how YouTube services them. Do you know how Brightcove or Blip.tv differs? (Answer: see Wikipedias comparison of video services).


OK. this is all good. But how about downsides? These depend on your situatiion, and how the video sharing service(s) you might use is (business) modelled. I think it all can be summarized into Out of your control. A few examples should suffice to illustrate.

  • Annoying messages added. Nothing is for free, ads might be added before, after, or in your video. This development is an economic must for ”free” service providers, and have slowly started already. If your video is a commercial for, lets say a brand of soap, it is not unlikely that the video sharing service of your choice adds a pre-roll featuring another brand of soap. Or something else that more or less devaluate your material.
  • Obscuring stuff in the way. In video spots aired on TV, the station logo is NOT displayed during commercials. Hence commercials made for TV utilize the full screen. Video sharing services tend to superimpose logos and icons over your video as it is played. The standard seems to be a semi transparent service logo in the bottom right corner. Bud luck if your ”Call nnnn now! for more info” suddenly becomes unreadable.
  • Times are changing. A significant number of videos are intended to be shown at a specific period in time. A University may for example produce a spot featuring a new study program or a special offer. Whereas in some cases the video includes something like ”offer is valid thru…”, it is not always so. Therefore, if you park a video at a sharing service, viewers might much later bite on something that you no longer have to offer. Sometimes with legal/economic consequences.
  • Gone without replacement. True, you can remove a video. But in most cases the result is nothing. That is, people who have linked to, or embedded your video in their web page, will just get a black frame or an error message. To my best knowledge no service offer a ”replace this video” to its uploader.
  • Getting the wrong neighbours. You cannot have missed that almost all video sharing services present other ”related” videos next to the one you are watching. In the case of YouTube, videos (currently) end with a still frame promoting two other videos. I guess that most (not all) religious institutions are less happy with what for some reason tend to show up next to the videos I watch on YouTube.
  • Beware the rights. As a reminder, even though you might have paid for the production of video material, that does not always mean you have the rights to share the video on the Web. I am not an expert here. But for example, traditional music streaming rights are based on the idea (not reality) that the stream is available for a limited time. It is pretty straight forward to buy the rights to stream music for 90 days, but a no no to publish an mp3 file with the same music for 90 days (because during that time people might download it). Furthermore, video sharing services generally demand from its uploaders the right to do whatever the service provider wants with the uploaded content. Hence, they may in theory sell the video, re-mix it, or whatever. In effect, you may want to remove the video from the service, but the sharing service may have put it elsewhere and there is nothing you can do about it.
  • You are just one of the ants. The number of video uploaders are huuuuge. Who cares about you and your particular needs? What if you make a hit with a wonderful video and people flock to it. Then suddenly, something goes wrong and the video stream disappears. There is no hot line service to call for help. Filing an error report is cumbersome and it may take a couple of days before you get a response.


Hey, it is good times for experimentation. More and more CEO:s, advisors, consumers, citizens, well most of us, tend to loosen up and allow mistakes to be done. Therefore, get your videos out there on one or more video sharing sites. Hopefully I have highligted some useful things to consider as we move forward. And do not forget that you have the option to develop proprietary video sharing services for your needs. Either by leveraging paid for services like those from Streaming solutions or by utilizing a  sharing service like those offered by Brightcove (internationally) or Streamio (in Sweden).

After the initial writing of this post I ran into Viddler.com, in my view one of the coolest video sharing services because it allows time-based commenting and offers an extremely functional flash player. See for yourself how I have implemented their service on my video page from the Ballmer/INNOVATE-gig.

Please help us further by adding your thoughts, insights, and ideas as comments here, or at FiR. In the near future I will summon our collective efforts as a Guide page in weconverse, or perhaps as a wiki somewhere else.