In the first two articles on streaming media, I discussed audio, the most mature streaming technology, and streaming pictures, which marries photos and graphics with an audio presentation. I’d now like to tell you about streaming video, the hottest and most exciting media development on the web today!
Just as television progressed from the black and white, sometimes snowy, broadcasts of the 1940’s and 50’s to the elaborate home theatre systems of today, streaming video is making the transition from tiny, blurry pictures to 1/4 screen color presentations with near CD quality sound. And with surprisingly good quality over the 28.8 connections that most web visitors experience today! I credit this breakthrough to RealNetworks, the creators of RealVideo, which is currently the most popular streaming video format in use. (Others about which you might have heard or read are Vivo and Microsoft NetShow.) At the end of the first quarter of 1999, RealNetworks reported that over 45 million of their FREE players had been downloaded; this number is growing by 15,000 per day!
An online streaming video presentation is another marketing tool that is now affordable and extremely effective. Streaming video adds far more than just a personal touch to your web site; it actually sets you miles apart from your competition. As with streaming audio or pictures, a video presentation guarantees that at least 86% of your visitors will stay to listen or to watch. Statistics have shown that over 90% of white collar workers have a PC on their desks, but only 9% have access to television in the workplace. That means that you can reach more white-collar office workers during normal office hours than all of the network and cable stations combined.
Streaming video enables you to combine the best attributes of web-based media with the compelling nature of broadcast media. On-line advertisers are realizing significantly higher click-through rates with the adoption of streaming media technology. Recent studies have found that streaming media advertising substantially increases brand recall, brand awareness, and positive brand perception. This really gives you the opportunity to deliver a powerful message about your products or services – much like having your own, personal “infomercial. ” Unlike a television infomercial, however, yours is available for one fixed price and it runs 365/24/7… thanks to the Internet.
Your streaming video presentation can be submitted on VHS tape, CD, and DVD; most encoding companies will be able to use those formats. (If your presentation is in another format, such as 8mm, check with them before sending the media.) The quality of the finished product will be dependent upon how it’s encoded for transmission. Standard practice is to encode video to stream over the Internet at 28.8 connections. In order to stream smoothly at this slow speed, an extremely high level of compression is required for both the audio and video tracks. This compression causes small portions of the data to be “eliminated.” (That’s why some of the video presentations you now see are not as clear as you would like them to be. With the advent of higher bandwidth, however, this situation will vastly improve in the future.) When completed, your encoding company will provide you with web ready files to place on your site, or you may choose to have your encoding company host your presentation.
There are many businesses that can use streaming video to their advantage. Companies that sell training materials are the most obvious. Because streaming media can be played upon demand, employees and/or customers can view materials when they have time to concentrate on the content. This is a valuable selling tool, especially if your customer has employees in remote locations. Your encoding company can also set up your materials to be password protected; this is especially attractive to corporations who would like to use the Internet for internal communications.
Streaming video is also an excellent choice for product demonstrations, especially when the product’s features are difficult to explain using only text or still pictures. Caterers and restaurants can give potential customers tours of their facilities or show clips of some of their “special events” such as weddings. Hotels can show corporate accounts their meeting rooms, accommodations, and leisure-time facilities. Country clubs can take new members to the golf course or have them take lessons from the golf pro. Health clubs can show-off their gym facilities and the amenities in the locker rooms. Realtors can take interested buyers, especially those in cities far away, on a tour of the town in which a property is located. Universities could showcase their laboratories, their libraries, or their dormitory facilities. The list could go on and on…
I hope that in these three articles I’ve whetted your interest in utilizing streaming media to enhance your web site. Just remember the following:
- Find a company that is reputable and understands what you are trying to accomplish at your web site.
- Be certain that the samples of their own work meet your criteria for professionalism. (Warning: if a video pauses during playback, this is not the fault of the producer or of the video stream. It could be net congestion or a heavy amount of traffic on the site!)
- Do not judge on price alone! Turnaround time, hosting capabilities, and technical knowledge have associated costs that are often overlooked.
Streaming media is affordable, enjoyable, and is only going to grow in importance to those of us doing business on the web. Enhance your web site, your business, and the profits at your bottom line with streaming media…it’s a sound business decision.
Author: Gina Hutchings
Copyright Lunar Media Inc
Chicago Web Design