Blogging

Exploring Blog Content Alternatives: Video

If you’re interested in adding some visual content to your blog, such as a music video channel, Mark, aka Thetafferboy83, a member at Digital Point Forums, has posted a very detailed, informative thread about making money with a video blog. It’s most definitely one of the best how-to posts I’ve come across, period. Maki at Dosh Dosh offers a bit of summary of Mark’s post, along with a bit of commentary. Both are must-read articles, if you’re planning to get into video blogs.

Sourcing Videos

Video is hot, and it can be a great way to induce editorial backlinks, if you put in some thought as to the presentation, or how you organize the videos. Apparently, you don’t even have to come up with original videos. You can just source great ones:

  1. YouTube.
  2. Google Videos.
  3. DailyMotion.
  4. Dovetail.
  5. VideoJug.
  6. HowTo.tv.

and many, many more sites. That’s hardly a complete list, what with all the new video sites popping up, but it’s a starting point for you. Warning: there are NSFW (Not Safe for Work) videos on some of these sites, so source content with some discrimination, or post a notice on your site.

Promoting Your Video Blog

As current editor at Tubetorial (started by Chris Pearson and Brian Clark), I’ve seen how such sites can draw traffic. However, I’m not sure if I agree that everyone can reach the 25% ad CTR (clickthrough rate) that Mark says you can easily get. To do that, I think that you’ll need to promote your site on social sites, to get enough traffic:

  1. StumbleUpon.
  2. Reddit.
  3. Digg.
  4. Del.icio.us.
  5. Netscape.
  6. etc., as appropriate.

Do it yourself or get a friend. [Although note that Digg is banning users that vote on stories without apparently spending enough time. And Reddit keeps dropping my account after a couple of weeks, if I haven’t used it.]

Standing Out

Still, while you may not reach 25% ad CTR, if you’re clever, innovative, and/or unique, you will likely do well. You’ll do even better if you post original content – that’s my feeling. Or at least be innovative in how you present videos from YouTube, etc. Theme them, maybe in the form of a directory.

Depending what player(s) you are using, there may be something innovative about them (such the aggregating player SplashCast, which allows you to present numerous videos in a single player, as part of a show, with multiple shows per channel, if you like. It’s still free, though there are signs a pro package may be rolled out soon, for a small yearly fee. You can see an example of multi-show SplashCasts at NewMediaJones (NMJ) and a larger version of the same content at my personal blog. (Others can subscribe to your shows, if you allow it.)

What I’ve done at NMJ is create music video playlists, then use SplashCast to grab each video from YouTube and build a real playlist. I also publish the playlist at NMJ, so you can browse and determine whether to listen. If you need some help to quickly find related songs/ artists, there’s always Pandora – but for the present, only if you’re in the US. I’m not, so I use the very cool MusicMesh web app. Try it, and you’ll know what I mean. It helps me build a text playlist fairly quickly, and I can then use SplashCast to build the actual music video “show”. [If there’s enough demand for it, I could create a Tubetorial for how to use MusicMesh, SplashCast, and YouTube as a followup to creating your own MTV music video channel. Be your own Net VJ.]

Finding Videocasting Tools

Aside from the applications and tools mentioned above, I use a few others for creating original screencast content, where I record actions I take while using a particular piece of software. If you’re good at using some software and can explain to others how to use it, screencasting is the perfect vehicle. Record your software in use, then record voice narration over it. Many of the tutorials at Tubetorial are created this way.

For simple videos with no panning, zooming, or other special effects required, try the free CamStudio, which is similar to TechSmith’s Camtasia ($299), but not as full-featured. I use both. Camstudio is quick, and I can upload to YouTube and SplashCast in AVI format. Camstudio gives loads of video format options and special effects, but takes a bit more work. However, take note that SplashCast has become so popular in the past few weeks that I’ve have a very, very hard time getting my files to load. For some reason I’ve yet to discover, I’ve never been able to upload Camtasia-generated files to SplashCast, and I think the support staff is either pissed at me or overwhelmed or both, as they don’t answer my emails anymore. I’m also now unable to load CamStudio AVI files at certain times of day. I’m on cable Internet, whose access speed is affected by the number of currently active users in the neighborhood. So I’ve been forced to use Camtasia to generate Flash files and have to self-host them.

Assessing Bandwidth Costs

Of course, self-hosting video files can bankrupt you. Say that you build up a video blog with self-hosted video files. For simplicity of example, say that each is exactly 10Mb. (AVI and WMV equivalents can be much larger, and CamStudio isn’t always efficient in the AVIs it generates.) If you have 100 visitors per day and each only views one video, that’s 10 Mb/video x 100 visitors/ day x 1 view/vis = 1Gb/day, or about 30 Gb/month. Most cheap hosting plans probably cover that amount. But what happens if you get a sudden surge of visitors? Someone Diggs one of your videos, or the site, and you get 1,000 people in a single day. That’s 100 GB in only one day – well over your limit, and asking to have your account suspended.

Well, there are hosts that’ll give you unlimited bandwidth for a reasonable price. Though I’ve yet to find any. The closest I’ve come is Site5 (non-affiliate link), who have a special US$5/month shared hosting plan that gives you 5TB/month of bandwidth. Yes, only $5. I bought a plan on the weekend, and plan to get a couple more, as well as one of their multi-site hosting plans. There are a couple of catches/ caveats about Site5 that I should point out:

  1. Their promo text is a bit confusing. The US$5/m plan is actually $50/m or so, unless you pay for 24 months up front. In this case, it’s $5/m, or $120. This is far, far better than the $3.95 – $14.95/m that I pay for three different types of GoDaddy accounts (or anywhere else I’ve tried.) That is, if you don’t mind paying for two years. There’s also an $8/m version, if you want to pay for fewer months upfront.
  2. They don’t accept PayPal for payment, only a select group of credit cards.
  3. You can only put one domain on a single account, unless you get one of their multi-site hosting plans or use domain pointers. (Both are beyond the scope of this dicussion.) So where I can create one customer account at, say, GoDaddy, and register loads of domains and/or hosting accounts, for convenience of access from a single control panel, I have to sign up over and over at Site5.

For me, these are minor issues. If it’s not for you, there are many other option video hosting options, including TechSmith’s Screencast.com, for Camtasia video file hosting. There’s a free trial, but the fact is, if your video blog gets popular, and you’re self-hosting, you need a plan like Site5 or something even better – such as unlimited bandwidth. (Screencast can be costly if you go over your limit, but they won’t cancel your account, I don’t think.) If you find an unlimited plan, please tell everyone here, by dropping a comment. Have fun creating your video blog.

Author: Raj Dash

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