Streaming video becoming driver for Web site traffic

Using technology to get your company's message out in a cost effective manner is an important role for the CIO. As this article explains, streaming video is now gaining acceptance as a cheap way to disseminate information without hogging bandwidth.

The case for adding streaming video to your company Web site is a powerful one. Today, over 50 million Americans use a broadband connection and, as a result, demand a complete Web experience. Specifically, Web site visitors want multimedia. If your company Web site doesn't offer multimedia, users will probably surf elsewhere.

Building a business case for streaming video
It shouldn't be difficult to build a business case for adding multimedia such as streaming video to your company site. A number of major companies, including Cisco Systems, General Motors, and Bausch & Lomb, have found success.

The reasoning is simple, according to Jon Klein, CEO of New York City-based The FeedRoom and former Executive Vice President of CBS News. Klein said that 50 years of television have proven that people prefer watching information rather than reading it. And they retain more of the message when it's presented in a powerful, evocative way. Klein pointed to studies from the National Association of Broadcasters, DoubleClick, and others that confirm that streaming video and flash animation generate double the clickthrough rates of banner ads. Dynamic Logic analyzed an Ameritrade campaign that ran streaming video of TV spots across several business-related Web sites and the results were record shattering. Intent to buy increased by 37 percent, brand awareness increased by 46 percent, and message association increased by 68 percent.

If you're worried that turning your company's Web site into a multimedia destination will overwhelm your system and wreak havoc on your budget, don't. For the cost of an average employee's annual salary and benefits, you can outsource the development and hosting of the site. Plus, as Klein pointed out, "Bandwidth costs alone have dropped so much that it's often cheaper to post a piece of video online than it is to duplicate it and FedEx it to viewers."

There have been a number of other breakthroughs in streaming technology in the past 12 months that have significantly lowered costs for processing, encoding, and storing video. Klein cited the quality of the video itself, "There's no longer an issue of sticking a grainy, postage stamp-size blur on your site and actually hurting your company's branding message. In fact, streaming video quality today is comparable to watching a VHS tape on your computer."

Telephone technology eliminates packet loss
Content delivery networks that send video across the Internet have also improved their ability to successfully deliver a stream of video without interruption. They use the same packet technology that telephone companies use to transmit voice, breaking up a video stream into individual packets of information and then reassembling them at the endpoint. Nowadays, according to Klein, "packet loss" or video dropout during transmission has been virtually eliminated. "Streaming video is becoming more and more like watching television," asserted Klein. "You don't think about the technology. You just click on the image. The image plays from start to finish. It never chokes or disappears or crashes your system."

Equally important, streaming video yields more data about how the video was viewed than conventionally disseminated videotape. "With streaming applications," said Klein, "companies can track precisely who watched which pieces of video on a Web site (and) which messages resonated with the audience and which were duds. It's a more precise way of targeting a company's message."

Some success stories
Streaming video is a trend that keeps growing because broadband penetration itself is growing at the rate of about 100,000 new users a week, said Klein. Today companies are leveraging streaming video on public Internet sites, private intranets, and even extranet environments. They're using them for everything from employee communications to public, investor, and analyst relations, from business-to-business marketing to customer service. Take a look at Table A to see where different streaming video applications fit into your business.
Table A
Applications Uses of streaming video Benefits
External corporate communications
• Executive announcements
• Earnings announcements
• Public and media relations

• Take control of message content, rather than letting the media add its own spin
• Amortize the cost of taping product demos and news announcements

Marketing (B2B and B2C) 
• Deepen target market's relationship with brand
• Introduce new products
• Broadcast or promote an event live and on demand
• Provide value-added learning, information, and entertainment

• Provide detailed information about products
• Expand the reach of messages
• Increase sales opportunities
• Reduce the cost of cold calling and prequalifying prospects

Customer service 
• Engage customers with broadcast quality product demos
• Provide a video repository of answers to frequently asked questions
• Deliver easy-to-follow, how-to videos that can be viewed on demand

• Meet customer needs more quickly; allow them to serve themselves
• Reduce the cost of training by reducing associated travel costs and redundant sessions
• Increase productivity by streamlining efforts of existing workers

Internal corporate communications 
• Deliver personalized company announcements
• Erase the boundaries of time and geography by using the Web to communicate with satellite offices and dispersed sales force
• Introduce new policies and procedures with more impact than conference call and e-mails
• Archive news coverage of your company

• Boost employee morale and excitement about the company
• Increase the return on video investments
• Increase the number of employees who tune into the Web site for company news
• Save cost of employee communications and ensure timeliness of message

What makes streaming video so appealing is that unlike Webcasting, streaming video offers on-demand viewing. Users can log onto a site and view a video clip whenever it's convenient instead of being locked into a fixed, event-driven timetable.

Web sites can be set up with multiple channels, each with dozens of video clips from which to choose. Klein offered some examples of the variety of uses for streaming video from The FeedRooms own client roster, which includes over 150 news, entertainment, and corporate sites that deliver more than 20 million streams of video per month to millions of viewers worldwide.

Cisco boosts site traffic 650 percent
In adding streaming video to its Web site, Cisco Systems has turned its News@Cisco destination into a compelling source of information about the company. More than a dozen channels offer video clips on product launches, executive speeches, and other corporate events. Initially oriented toward journalists and analysts, Cisco found employees watching in greater and greater numbers. Eventually this sparked Cisco CEO John Chambers to request his own channels to communicate with employees and investors. Since its debut, traffic to the media relations site has grown exponentially. Viewership has increased 650 percent and the cost-per-person reached has dropped a corresponding amount.

Bausch & Lomb keeps employees up to date
The contact lens giant aims its streaming video at employees on the company intranet. Bausch & Lomb posts all the latest TV commercials they're airing as well as American Medical Review videos. "It's a great way to help employees stay current on industry issues as well as see what the company is up to," said Klein. Bausch & Lomb also uses video as a training tool.

General Motors rolls out product news to dealer network
General Motors runs streaming video in its daily newscast on the auto manufacturers GMTV Web site. GM offers dealers with access to broadband dozens and dozens of video clips about General Motors, the automotive industry, and individual product lines. The added value of informative video has made the site a popular destination for the dealer network.

Intel brings tradeshow excitement to online audience
"With fewer people traveling to big conferences and tradeshows, companies with a big presence at those events want to reach the people who didn't manage to attend," explained Klein. The FeedRoom created a special Web site for chip manufacturer Intel Corporation to roll out its new Centrino wireless chip to developers, vendors, and potential customers who weren't able to make it to the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) convention in Las Vegas. Instead of relying solely on foot traffic, Intel created videos of the demonstrations and presentations it was doing in its booth and then posted those clips to the Web site. Using an e-mail campaign with video links to market the special Centrino news site to its potential audience, Intel expanded its message reach far beyond the limited attendance at the NAB convention. "When you compute the cost per visit of actually being physically at the show," said Klein, "streaming video is a huge win." In addition to offering a high impact video in a format that would resonate with the viewer, Intel was able to track the people who visited the Web site and contact them for follow-up sales calls.

United States Air Force reaches online audience with recruiting campaign
Though the U.S. Air Force has been streaming its TV and radio shows and special products on its public Web site (click TV on the Home page) for quite some time, improvements in broadband technology have helped it reach new audiences for its content. "Bigger pipe, better gateways, and more flow mean more customers have access to AFLINK [Air Force Link]," stated Rolando Gomez, Chief of Multimedia Production for Air Force News. He reported that average streaming downloads per month have jumped from about 180,000 to almost 700,000 in the past year. More importantly, the Air Force can track who is downloading the content: civilians or military personnel. "We know folks will click on a story and watch it if they are truly interested, such as when we run recruiting specials," explained Gomez. "This is a demographic advantage versus airing a commercial through traditional routes and hoping you hit the right audience."

Use streaming video to prequalify customers
"Streaming videos have been a fantastic sales tool for remotely prequalifying our customers," shared Klein. The FeedRoom invites prospects to log onto its Web site and experience the impact of streaming video for themselves. If they like what they see, a company sales rep sets up an appointment to meet and walk them through the process of how The FeedRoom can provide the same service for their operation.

Besides replacing the expense of cold calling to prequalify clients, streaming video can galvanize your sales operations, said Klein. Calling up a piece of video over the Web, a sales rep can illustrate the power and appeal of the product he or she is trying to sell, far better than a static product fact sheet. "Streaming a one minute piece of video costs about one cent," calculated Klein. "So, the cost outlay is trivial compared to the impact it can have on sales."

Valuable results for such an inexpensive project
Cable channels judge their size on the number of subscribers they can potentially reach. With broadband now reaching 50 million individual people—not just households—that's a significant audience a corporation can tap into. For the cost of one employee's yearly salary and benefits, your company can have its own TV network on the Web, a network that costs you a few pennies a visitor. "A corporation that is aggressive in its online video strategy can essentially operate a cable channel completely devoted to that company, its message, its brand, its people, and its products," said Klein.


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