A Guide to Online Video: How to Find the Right Online Video Platform

May 14, 2012

May 2012 Issue

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Upload and Ingest

Virtually all online video platforms (OVPs) offer browser-based single or multiple file upload. More advanced features include the ability to compress before uploading, which is great when upload bandwidth is limited. Other convenience features include uploading from a drop folder, FTP-driven upload, and the ability to write to the OVP's application programming interface for automated upload from your content management system. You may also need a service that accepts mobile uploads.

Video Management

Standard features here include simple file management, such as deletion or metadata editing, and the ability to manually group files into a playlist. Beyond this, if you have multiple groups uploading to the same account, each group needs the abilities to manage its own content separately and to establish rights for the various users.

Manual playlists are nice, but dynamic playlists based upon popularity, content classes, or tags are often more useful. Some OVPs now offer basic editing capabilities.

Video Player

Most OVPs let you choose and customize a player template for size, included playback controls, and colors; they also let you select how and where playlists are displayed. More advanced OVPs let you completely reskin the player, adjust size, and add spaces for branding, advertising, and closed captions. For computer playback, you'll want a unified, customizable player for Flash and HTML5, while for mobile playback, you'll want templates that include interface controls and gesture support optimized for mobile viewing.

The well-heeled player of 2012 needs links to social media sites, and ratings and comments are wonderful interactive tools for building stickiness and community.


By now, most OVPs support single stream playback to Flash and iOS devices. Adaptive streaming for all supported platforms (Flash, iOS, Android) should be on the short-term road map if not currently available. For Flash, RTMP-based Dynamic Streaming is acceptable for smaller sites, though larger sites should offer HTTP-based Dynamic Streaming as well.

To implement the multiple device support discussed in the Video Player section, the OVP must be able to query the remote viewer to determine playback capabilities and then direct the viewer to the proper set of streams. If you plan apps for common mobile platforms, ask if the OVP has app toolkits for your target platforms. Beyond iOS and Android, you should be able to identify and reach most other current mobile devices via HTML5.

If security is an issue, ask about encryption and access control or limiting viewing to certain IP address ranges or geographical restrictions. If your video will be viewed on multiple platforms, security measures must span all platforms.

To help get the word out, the OVP should offer modules for video search engine optimization as well as integrating playback with Facebook and Twitter. It should also offer a streamlined function for syndicating your videos to YouTube and other UGC sites.

Finally, many larger OVPs also support live streaming. Ideally, live support should include all the advertising- and security-related features of on-demand content as well as features such as DVR playback, chat, and real-time social integration.

Monetization Strategies

If you're planning to monetize your video, make sure that your candidate OVPs support pay-per-view and subscription viewing and offer full support for all advertising networks on all relevant target platforms. The OVP should support a full range of ad types, while the player should support all relevant display ad sizes. Several OVPs also offer clickable advertisements during the video, which can significantly increase click-through rates in product-related videos.


Virtually all OVPs have distribution contracts with one or more CDNs, though many larger OVPs allow you to select your own. Enterprise publishers with significant distribution within the firewall should check if the OVP has a strategy for enterprise delivery, such as delivering internal content via the corporate LAN, perhaps even using peer-to-peer delivery to cut internal network congestion.

Other Considerations

Most OVPs are offered as a software as a service, though some are also available for installation behind the firewall or in a third-party cloud. If on-premise operation is critical to your application, ask about this early in the process. If you need to own the code, ask about this as well; there are some open source providers that provide access to source code for safekeeping or customization.

Last but certainly not least, reporting and analytics are critical to successful video publishing. At this point, most OVPs offer standard reports such as content drop-off, views by video, and the like, but you should scan through the standard reports to make sure that they're sufficient for your needs. Also ask if there's a programming interface to create your own reports and plug-ins to communicate with other third-party analytics programs. 

For more information on OVPs, visit OnlineVideo.net and StreamingMedia.com.

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The brave folks at the Pew Research Center's Internet & America Life Project interviewed 799 teens to get a better understanding of how the kids interact with online video. From April 19- July 14, 2011 the teens were asked about their online behavior, and Pew put the results together in a report published on its website.