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

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Hosts that Deliver
Beyond producing the video, the other major limiting factor in the adoption of vodcasting in the enterprise is delivering those often-large files across a corporate network. “Video files can be huge. We just did a one-hour webinar through Adobe Connect and the file is almost a hundred megabytes,” says Niesen. “If that file is being distributed through your network to tens of thousands of users, there are some bandwidth issues.”

Again, vodcasting runs into perceived problems that don’t necessarily align with reality. “If you’re a CIO and someone has this vision that you’re going to record and build video-based lectures that need to be stored on servers, I’d think server farms and server capacity,” says Higgins. Which would equate to a lot of dollar signs.

“Some of these concerns are starting to be mitigated by the advances being made in network technology,” Higgins continues. “As our network engineers get better at moving video across the network, and as the video producers get better at compressing that stored video, we will begin to see those barriers fall. What’s unclear to us is what the estimated time horizon is for that.”

Interestingly, RSS-delivered video holds tremendous potential for offloading much of the strain put on corporate networks during working hours. While watching a vodcast today most often involves downloading or streaming video the moment you want to watch, usually during the workday, an RSS push-subscription system could enable video to be uploaded and pushed out to subscribers at night. Then when an employee gets to work in the morning, the video’s already on their desktop ready to be viewed. So instead of everyone trying to pull video during the day when networks are already being strained by other traffic, the distribution of this video happens when the network is less taxed.

The subscription-based nature of vodcasting also enables a better understanding of how many people will be requesting a particular video. “The advantage of pushing the file is you know exactly the size of the audience,” says Higgins. As opposed to putting video out there for people to come and download or stream, which can be an open-ended proposition.

When deciding how to host a vodcast you must take into consideration the size of this audience and how uncertain it is. Simply uploading a file to a WordPress blog with the appropriate plug-in and hosting it internally can work great for reaching small audiences. However, if you’re trying to deliver video to thousands or if you want your video to take off through viral distribution, trying to host the server yourself can be an unwise decision. “Don’t try to put in the infrastructure yourself to be able to handle this because the majority of the time you’re not going to get massive traffic. If you ever do create a piece of video everyone wants to see, you want to be prepared for it as you don’t want your servers to go down,” says Hartman.

Having servers go down because of too much traffic is especially frustrating as it negates the success you realized in drawing an audience in the first place. So it’s recommended that in these instances where there’s a potential for drawing an unknown large audience that it’s worth employing the services of a content-delivery network like Akamai or Limelight Networks, which specialize in the delivery of multimedia content to large audiences.

Beyond Barriers, a Bright Future
Also a significant influencer of this larger debate about the adoption of vodcasting is the current state of RSS adoption in the enterprise. “We have to bear in mind that enterprise RSS as a concept is only a couple of years old, and only in the last twelve months has it taken off in any sort of significant way,” says Todd Berowitz, director of marketing at NewsGator. “Right now, a lot of our efforts are on the kinds of questions like, how do we get more content into RSS from applications like Lotus Notes and Excel, how do we make that content available in more places, and how do we make the experience easier for end users and administrators.”

Another factor at play here is how much worth enterprise users place in video content. “The one thing that runs across all of our customers is, how do you effectively and efficiently deliver high value content?” Berowitz continues. “For a lot of people, video wouldn’t be seen as high value compared to a report from a CRM system or a new sales training document that needs to get into the field.”

So in many ways, what’s holding vodcasting back from enterprise adoption isn’t technology but the enterprise itself. This isn’t necessarily because corporations have anything against vodcasting, but rather because it sits astride two other major trends in the enterprise that are just getting underway: video and RSS.

As companies become more aware of and familiar with these two technologies, an increase in the adoption of vodcasting will undoubtedly follow shortly thereafter. “As more companies start doing more with enterprise RSS and more content becomes available on video, you’ll see those two factors coalescing and driving a lot more use of vodcasting,” says Berowitz.

“I think we’re seeing vodcasting start to take off in the entertainment arena. Some day soon there’s going to be a really bright CEO somewhere that says, ‘If I can watch the clip from Sunday’s game, why couldn’t I put my new product announcement on that same platform?’” says Higgins. “Then it’s just about finding the right compelling business need. As they say, ‘Necessity is the mother of invention.’”

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