Online video is getting smarter.
At least that the conclusion one could draw after walking the floor of the Streaming Media East trade show this week in New York.
In a much needed evolution of the online video sector, vendors of the technology solutions are beginning to recognize that building value for business users requires more than applying network muscle that shuttles video bits from Point A to Point B.
More than at any of the other Streaming Media conferences that I have attended during the past decade, executives this week seemed to earnestly and universally embrace the idea that intelligent software applications are vitally necessary in making online video — and particularly outbound online video marketing — more effective and useful.
For this past week, a new emphasis on outbound business video helped identify a fresh industry watchword: “analytics.” From well-known giants like AT&T to emerging high-profile technology developers like Ooyala, many exhibitors on the Streaming Media floor were showing off new or soon-to-be-released software applications that can tell administrators perhaps more than they ever wanted to know about where and how their online video content is being watched.
The new flood of analytics discussion caps a year that has seen a slow, steady growth in vendor discussion on the issue. Accordent Technologies, for instance, made this type a measurement a cornerstone of their revamped media management platform introduced last year. Likewise, providers of hosted video platforms, like Brightcove, Kaltura and Sorenson Media, have begun talking more extensively about their own measurement and analytics capabilities.
And just earlier this month, Limelight Networks closed its $110 million acquisition of online ad technology provider EyeWonder. Among the multiple benefits of the EyeWonder acquisition will be the ability for Limelight – over the long-term – to apply analytic tools that EyeWonder now uses in the ad world to a broader swath of the video traffic carried over its network. In short, Limelight will not only move video from place to place, it will provide greater information than ever before on how individuals are interacting with that video.
This type of information may seem to be overkill to a business audience that today is interested primarily in simply knowing how many people watch their online video programming. But it represents a key new path to building value in the business video online sector.
In some cases, analytic tools demonstrated at the show and set to be released during the next several months, make it possible to identify viewing patterns on a highly granular geographic basis. Tools from some vendors, for instance, make it possible to identify viewing trends down to the neighborhood level.
Imagine the possibilities for using this technology, for instance, in the biggest marketing efforts we see on a regular basis: political campaigns. Candidates could encourage voters to watch their presentations online and then study when viewers navigated away from their speeches. By identifying campaign themes that prompt individuals in certain neighborhoods or regions to tune out, candidates could refine the messages and make sure they resonate with the key voting districts they are targeting.
Now, move beyond the world of politics to think about how information collected from online video viewing patterns can re-shape the ways companies promote and position their efforts to sell cars, computers and other high-ticket items. Better analytics can help them determine which selling points resonate with prospects in selected regions
When marketers learn how to cull more and more information from online viewership patterns of the corporate content they produce, you can bet that the amount of video produced for outside audiences will explode. That will help marketers derive event more information from online viewership patterns, perpetuating a cycle of ever-expanding online video adoption by business users.
Additionally, the analytic trends that bubbled to the surface in this week’s Streaming Media East show merely scratch the surface of the problems that software development can solve and how that development can create increased value in the evolving business video sector.
Rather than focusing on pushing bits around the network, today’s leading edge technology vendors are shifting their emphasis to making online video bits more meaningful.
By applying these software methodologies to outbound business online video communications, vendors are following in the path of companies like Accordent, Qumu, Sonic Foundry, VBrick and others that have worked to develop enhanced applications for use behind the corporate firewall. Similarly, both Ignite and Kontiki have greatly expanded the scope of software applications integrated into their platforms during the past year.
Now, vendors with a focus on outbound online business video are getting serious about developing software than can make video bits more valuable than ever before. Simply put, the race to add value to outbound video bits just becomes a new battlefront in the competitive software development arena.
The companies that can create the software applications that make it easiest to consume, manage and measure online video for day-to-day business communications (whether internal or external) will emerge as market winners. Those satisfied to simply shuttle dumb video bits around the network will probably get what they deserve.
Let the video software wars begin.
Steve Vonder Haar is Research Director of Interactive Media Strategies, a research firm tracking the use of online video in business communications. He can be reached at Svonder@InteractiveMediaStrategies.com