Hey Rizzn-ites,

I’ve really been doing some thinking on what it takes to publicize a video venture properly. We talk a lot about the monetization aspects of video on the internet, but what we forget, or at least I do as a veteran, is that more integral than coming up with monetization is how to most efficiently market, publicize, and get those sweet sweet video views that will make that CPM based advertising possible.

As I look around at the myriad of video offerings and ventures out there, no one really focuses on that aspect of things, although a handful of content producers seem to have an inkling of how it works.

What?!
I have an advantage in the business of content production that most others don’t seem to have – not many people know who I am.

Let me explain.

I’m not Leo Laporte, I’m not a Robert Scoble. Heck, I’m not even a Sean Kennedy. I don’t have a huge built in fan-base that goes back a decade. I can’t really even count on my friends and family to view my material simply because most of my friends and family aren’t politically involved nerds, which is what the bulk of what my content revolves around.

Therefore, I’ve been forced to come up with inventive and even hacked together ways to drum up an audience in everything I’ve done in media production ever since I started at age 15 or so. What has this taught me in broad terms? You can’t rely on a single medium for building an audience. It absolutely must be a broad effort across a variety of mediums.

We’re focusing on video content, but let’s look to the audio podcast I produce and host for a minute as an example.

As we talked about yesterday with Lee Gibbons, the me-too gotta try it days of podcasting are over. Back when podcasting started, I hosted a show called the Mark and Darrell show. The driving philosophy behind the entertainment value of the show was somewhere between Seinfeld and Andy Kaufman (a show essentially about nothing, that as long as we found it funny ourselves, we didn’t care if it made anyone else laugh). If that doesn’t make you wonder why anyone would listen to the show, I should mention that the most popular segment of the show was something called “Competitive Paint Drying.”

My point being, not necessarily my best work. We streamed the show on RantRadio at the time, to about 20-70 listeners on the stream a week (some times spiking into the low hundreds). When podcasting came into existence, it wound up almost immediately attracting around 700 downloads an episode (running five episodes a week) without even having been listed in iTunes.

These days are gone.

If you start an even well produced podcast but do little to promote it other than put out the podcast and post the show notes, you’ll be on a long uphill battle to attain listener-ship.

Get to the Point, Mark
How does this apply to properly promoting a video? Well, in the effort to create a highly listened to podcast in this age of rising levels of white noise in the New Media, I’ve done a number of things to raise the profile of the RizWords podcast (ignoring the basics of content production like quality, format, consistency… I’m going to assume you’re an advanced producer):

  • Autoplaying the podcast on the blog: This flew in the face of well established rules of aesthetics, and I’m sure a lot of you reading this now are fairly annoyed by the fact that you have to hunt for the pause button every time you pull up one of my blog posts. I’ve been running very detailed analytics on the blog for years, and the bounce rate has only shifted unfavorably by 2% since I’ve started doing this. Those that don’t bounce, however, tend to stick around for an extra couple minutes on average. So what’s my tradeoff for all the extra listens? Weeding out a few finicky visitors, and Tom Merritt telling me I should change it to not autoplay on an episode of Buzz Out Loud.
  • Posting my player widget everywhere: and I mean EVERYWHERE! It’s on my MySpace profile, it’s on my Facebook profile. It’s on my blog. It’s on the show notes. It’s on my friend’s blogs. It’s everywhere. WebbAlert does this as well. The trick is just finding a way to incentivize this widely for broad groups to do the same.
  • Blogging and Link-Blogging to raise profile: The type of podcast we are is one that conveys information. It’s not enough to be a good voice with quality content. You’ve got to provide tools. Look at what the A-List bloggers do. They don’t just throw up the latest widgets-du-jour on their blog (at least most of them don’t). They throw up job listing widgets, ways to get to popular content, link blogs, aggregators, things that their niche audience are going to find entertaining or utilitarian. If you can invade as many aspects of your audiences entertainment or information gathering regimen as possible, you’ll be a whole lot more sticky.

I’m still not getting the connection to video, Mark…
Pay attention, this is where I bring it around town.

How can you put out a video? How many ways are there to distribute it? Like about a thousand, right? You can embed it (with about 200 different ways of monetizing it players, or popular social platforms, or what have you). You can embed as flash. You can embed as .MOV. You can embed as a result of a live broadcast you did with UStream, Kyte or Stickam or something. You can embed using the Facebook video embed tool. Or you could just podcast it. You can tailor your podcast for AppleTV. Or TiVo. Or Comcast PVRs. Or video iPods. Or a Zune.

Point being, there’s a lot of ways.

Which way is best? What’s the best distribution method for an independent video producer to reach the broadest audience?

The answer is that there isn’t a best medium. The rise of video online has created so many damn outlets to release to, releasing to one and hoping that one goes viral or gets a lot of subscribers is naive.

The first thing I tell all online video clients is that you really need to pay for my marketing services, or be prepared to devote a large portion of your time to an unexpected part of the content development cycle: PR and Marketing. I’m going to give away the farm here and tell you what that entails, and if you read all the way to the conclusion, I’ll tell you why I’m saying all this publicly.

  • Which embedded video site do you need to publish to? All of them! This is a massive undertaking. There are around 17 kajillion video clip sites like YouTube out there right now. Aside from monetization issues, and which service is going to provide you the best bang for your CPM buck, there are essentially two different classes of services. Uploading exclusively to one or the other comes with its own issues.

    If you upload to a small site, you’re playing in a fishbowl. Presumably if you’re an advanced producer, your content is

    going to be king of the small pond, but at the end of the day, it’s still a small pond.

    On the other hand, if you upload to a YouTube, Metacafe or other such site, regardless of your content quality, if you don’t have a dedicated team of monkeys waiting to comment on and watch your video constantly until it hits one of the top lists, you’re going to be lost in the ocean of white noise until your lucky break.

    The answer? Upload to all of them. This also is a form of copy protection. A common process for less than scrupulous marketers is to take your content from one site, slap their URL on it, and upload it to all the rest of the sites. Translation? You’re losing visitors and repeat viewers.

  • What about the podcasting thing? If I’m uploading as an embedded video, what do I need the podcast for? Absolutely, you need a podcast. Not “could use” a podcast. Need it. Why? Well, aside from the plethora of reasons why podcasts are a preferred delivery method that you can find anywhere else, lets look at some numbers.

    You’ve heard of AskANinja. Looking at the YouTube numbers for a second, viewership numbers range from 200,000 views up to 3.5 million views. Those numbers vary widely, and its quite easy to say what else does Mr. Ninja need but YouTube? How would you like 115,820 (numbers pulled today from PodFeet’s ranking page) more guaranteed views for every episode. Views you can measure down to the zip code, monetize, and provide demographics for? What are those numbers alone worth at industry standard CPMs? Between $6,900 and $27,797, depending on numbers of ads, CPM rate, customer responsiveness, and show length (and that’s gravy money on top of whatever your ad arrangements are with your embedded video providers).

    Think you can produce a video podcast on that budget?

  • Okay, Mr. Genius, what else do I need to do? There are a number of other distribution channels available to the independent podcaster. Its a relatively simple process to submit content to TiVo and Comcast PVR set-top boxes, last time I checked (the information I found for it was on the PodcastAlley forums several months ago – and since then I’ve seen several well known podcasts make it into the DVRs). If you’ve got quality content, and a solid ad agent, its a whole new world of monetizable ad inventory for you.

    This means making sure you have podcast feeds that are compatible with the multitude of different video receptacles out there. Without researching all of them, I can think of about five or six different formats off the top of my head

  • This sounds like a lot of work. It is. No one said it was going to be easy to be a successful internet star.
  • So what else do I have to do? It’s going to help to have a blog. Let’s dial it back a bit towards reality, because we’re not all ninjas. A crucial piece to the puzzle in terms of creating, maintaining, and developing your presence is a blog, a twitter, and a couple social networking accounts. Want a perfect example of this? Look to Leo Laporte, Robert Scoble, Ken Rutkowski and the CNet crew (I’m thinking specifically of the Buzz Out Loud crew; Tom Merritt and Molly Wood).

    One of the advantages of all the recent Web 2.0 apps, as well as the strength of independent podcasting, is the feeling that you’ve got at least a shot of engaging in real dialog (some podcasters are more reachable than others) with the content producers.

    Twitter provides a way to engage in ad hoc chat conversations with your fans and peers. Facebook provides a platform to distribute exclusive or complementary content as well as create a sort of VIP community for your core audience. MySpace is a great platform (due to it’s trailer park approach to web design) to add folks to your listening audience (it was, after all, built by spammers).

    The nexus for all things, though, has to be your blog. Your blog, if utilized properly, is going to be one of the main driving forces for creating your viewership, especially in your show’s infancy. Each blog post serves as a press release, a connection to your audience and an a monetizable property in an of itself.

This covers the bases of what I think is a fairly well rounded support structure for pushing forward the popularity and viability of your video ventures (at least the general concepts of it).

Why am I talking about this? Well, I’m not trying to say I’m the smartest kid in the room or anything, but I see a whole lot of spectacular productions from a lot of really great online personalities, not to mention about five video-centric startups getting funded every twenty minutes, and very few if any seem to truly grasp the power and scope of what can truly make a successful video venture. None of the startups really seem geared in a multi-pronged way towards promoting quality content up through the ranks.

I mean, I love YouTube as much as the next guy, but I tired of watching folks getting kicked in the junk back when it was called America’s Funniest Home Videos in the mid-90s, and the latest star(let?) to come out of YouTube’s big skill is wig and makeup application, and screaming a has-been pop star’s name repeatedly. Not exactly quality content, in my opinion.

I have seen a lot of good stuff with potential podfade because they couldn’t make grab a sizable audience. A lot of that has to do with the fledgling status of video monetization, true, but a lot of it has to do with there not being mechanisms in place for quality content to rise above the noise floor.

I guess what I’m saying is I’d like to apply my abilities to more quality content producers. I’d like to see a niche of companies rise out of the newest crop of startups that try to incubate these talents in the aforementioned ways. I’d like to see industrious, quality content producers apply some of these principals themselves.

Because, dangit, if I have to watch that stupid cross-dressing Britney fan become the spokesperson for independent content creators, I swear, I’m gonna explode!

/rizzn

Thoughts? Questions? Wanna hire me? Wanna fund this idea? E-Mail me. Or better yet, e-mail this to your favorite unknown content producer.

We covered a lot of this topic at the beginning of Episode 138 of RizWords. Subscribe to listen.

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