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

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In Practice
For one, vodcasting holds the same ability as all things RSS, to disseminate information quickly to a distributed workforce. An example might be to send out a message from the CEO to inspire his or her troops. As a vodcast, it could be delivered to an entire company in an instant, without fear that it’ll get lost amidst the steady barrage of email.

An area where vodcasting has the potential to shine is as an enabling technology for training. Niesen shares insight into an Attensa customer who works with pharmaceutical companies to create training materials for their sales force as an example of the power of vodcasting. He says, “Historically it had all been done through email with attachments and nice-looking sales training PDFs, which were being ignored.” He goes on to say, “In their competitive environment they realized they were not maximizing their sales potential because the sales teams weren’t armed with the latest information.

“So they had a big meeting where they brought in their whole sales force,” Niesen continues. “As part of that meeting, they gave everybody a video iPod. Now on a regular basis, the agency creates a vodcast that has the latest product, sales, and marketing strategy information. They’ve created a secure blog where all this content is enabled.” Now, instead of having to sit at a computer or print out a bunch of pages to read, salespeople can simply watch these videos wherever and whenever it’s most convenient.

RSS-delivered video boasts the potential benefits of immediacy, timeliness, and flexibility in the delivery of content. “We see a world where we have just-in-time learning rather than just-in-case learning,” says Higgins. “For example, what if I’m a service technician and I’m being dispatched on a service call. Now, we know from experience and from analyzing our service tickets that each time the service field force goes out, for whatever reason, procedure step five is often skipped. What if at the time I dispatch that service ticket I also push out a chunk of video content to a device like a smartphone that says, ‘Here’s your service ticket. By the way, pay particular attention to step five and here’s a two-minute video highlighting that step.’

“All the technology to support what I’ve described is here today,” Higgins continues. “What we have yet to see is people processing and adopting the technology, but it is coming.”

Another area to keep an eye on in terms of the coming adoption of vodcasting is in the repurposing of video content originally created for other distribution mechanisms. For example, pushing the video captured from a live streaming webcast out through an RSS feed. While this hasn’t been happening much yet to date, it appears inevitable as corporate users continue to pick up on the lessons learned by the entertainment industry about the paradigm of “produce once, distribute multiple times” that the internet enables.

Cost Effectiveness
While we’ve established what vodcasting is and how it can be useful, the $64,000 question is: Why aren’t companies and corporations adopting it more readily?

For starters, to offer a vodcast one must first produce the video, which can present a major barrier to entry, especially when compared to producing audio for a podcast. “They’re just different levels of complexity,” says Niesen. “It’s much easier to create an audio recording, turn it into an MP3 file, and post that to a blog than it is to create a video.”

Although some of this may have more to do with perception than reality. “When you start talking to senior-level managers in a corporation, as soon as you say the word ‘video’ they have a tendency to catch their breath and start thinking that this is going to cost six figures,” says John Hartman, co-founder of Feedia, a consulting company that helps companies plot out their social media strategy.

In truth, though, the rapidly declining cost of video production tools is flipping the idea that creating video is expensive on its head. “You can go to a traditional ad agency and they’ll charge you the same rates as a traditional TV commercial, but then there are firms like ours that have tiered services,” says Hartman. “At our lowest end, we describe it as guerrilla video, where we don’t have to rent a location or a sound stage, we don’t hire actors, and we don’t set up lights. We just come in with a nice camera and shoot.” 

“What we’re beginning to see in enterprise learning is the ‘good enough’ concept,” says Higgins. “For example, say we want to record a very technical manufacturing process. We could just go to Best Buy, purchase a $500 handheld video camera, then with a little scripting and thought, we could film a process.” With no sound man, booms, tripods, and other equipment, he says, “It’ll be a little gritty. But because of the quality of the video we’re able to capture on that handheld camera, it is good enough.”

Taking it a step further, Niesen says, “By just having a video camera on your computer and some recording tools, it’s pretty easy to create a simple talking-head video for getting information out quickly.” For example, instead of sending out text about a new product to a sales team, a product manager can record himself discussing the new product and create an effective vodcast.

In fact, in these guerrilla or good- enough videos, overproducing can actually hinder the efficacy of the final product. “A lot of podcasts and vodcasts out there that are scripted just do not go over well,” says Hartman. “In this new model, the whole scripted idea may not be as good of a strategy as taking a much more natural approach, what Feedia refers to as the ‘Philosophy of Conversation,’ where you’re talking to your audience in a different way. We’re not saying don’t put together an outline of the messaging you want to get across but it needs to be much more natural and conversational.”

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