Lights, Camera, Action: Is Vodcasting Ready For Primetime in the Enterprise?

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The use of RSS is on the rise for both professional and personal purposes. Its subscribe-and-push paradigm has been embraced as an effective way for disseminating textual information and is increasingly being adopted for the delivery of audio content, frequently referred to as podcasts.

But what about video? While the use of video in corporate environments for webcasting earnings calls and the like is taking off and vodcasting—or video distributed via RSS—has gained some traction in the entertainment space through enablers like iTunes, vodcasting in the enterprise has yet to realize widespread adoption.

“We’re now beginning to see true uptake of podcasting to support learning initiatives, but other than some work we’ve done to pilot and trial it, I have yet to see any significant deployment of real vodcasting,” says John Higgins, senior director of strategy and innovation for Accenture Learning, which provides outsourced training solutions for major corporations, currently serving more than 1.5 million learners.

Read on to be introduced to a fuller definition of what vodcasting is, how and why it’s being implemented in the enterprise, and what barriers currently hold it back from more widespread use.

Production Values
Without falling too far down the rabbit hole of tech terminology, a vodcast is a podcast but with video. It employs the same model as all things RSS, in which users subscribe to feeds, producers produce content, and when new content goes live, subscribers are notified or sent the content itself via RSS.

The delivery of vodcasts often differs from podcasts, though. When you subscribe to a podcast, the moment a new podcast becomes available it’s pushed out and can be downloaded automatically, for example by an Apple iTunes client.

While vodcasting in iTunes follows the same model, often the actual video file of a vodcast is not automatically downloaded. Instead, the vodcaster pushes out a textual description of the newest video along with a link to it. In order to access the file, users must first click on the link and then they can either download or stream the video, depending on how the vodcaster hosts the content.

This added step can introduce a layer of complexity that limits a vodcast’s audience, though employing an RSS reader with advanced media capabilities can mitigate and even eliminate these concerns.

An example of just such a reader is Attensa for Outlook, an RSS reader that integrates into Microsoft Outlook and lowers these vodcast consumption barriers in a couple of ways. “We actually embed a media player in the River of News, so the viewer can watch and listen to that video inside of Outlook without having to open up any external media player,” says Scott Niesen, Attensa’s director of marketing. The “River of News” is what Attensa calls its reader’s customizable feed display.

Attensa for Outlook also takes this process one step further. “Attensa for Outlook can be configured so that a downloadable video automatically goes into a clearly labeled playlist in either iTunes or Windows Media Player,” Niesen continues. Accomplishing this does require a little tweaking to the reader’s menu options, and it also relies on the correct use of RSS enclosure tags on the publishing side in order for the reader to accurately recognize that a feed has a file available to download and what type of file it is. These capabilities apply to both audio and video content. NewsGator’s FeedStation is a podcatcher with similar automatic download capabilities.

Creating a vodcast from a video doesn’t have to be difficult. In fact, two leading enterprise blogging platforms—Moveable Type and WordPress—feature plug-ins that make it as easy to post video as uploading any kind of file to a blog. Then, assuming the blog is feed-enabled, you’ve released a vodcast.

Some have even taken to using open, public platforms like YouTube to distribute vodcasts on the fly, although this methodology obviously has some limitations when it comes to distributing sensitive, private information.

Multipurpose Multimedia
While still in its earliest days of adoption, vodcasting has already begun to prove its utility in the enterprise. It is arguably the most visible as a tool for external communications and marketing. “We have thirty-six enterprise clients or advertisers and we’ve seen a huge shift from website-centric marketing to media-based marketing,” says John Furrier, CEO of PodTech.net, a site and suite of services that enables the production and distribution of vodcasts through PodTech.net to external audiences.

Much of the content found on PodTech.net takes the form of a company spokesperson talking about the latest product. “Podcasts and vodcasts are much cheaper than, and often serve as a replacement for, lead-generation techniques like webinars, which require a lot of investment and then only twenty people show up,” Furrier continues.

PodTech.net is not strictly an RSS video site as a big part of its value proposition is providing a destination website that draws eyes without RSS as well as an embeddable Flash player that can be added to other sites. The company provides a platform with an established audience for vodcasting, which can be extremely helpful for building public awareness around a particular video or announcement.

Niesen says that the evolution of podcasting adoption started by “being picked up by marketing departments and used initially as a way to communicate externally with customers to explain a product or technology.” He continues, “From this externally focused marketing tool it then starts moving inward into a company as a way to enhance internal communications. The same transition thing happened with vodcasting.”

Though real-world implementations of vodcasting to an internal enterprise audience are still few, there are a handful of examples of how vodcasting is (and can be) used within an enterprise.

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