Thank God for Online Video

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The reaction of governments around the world to lock down society in an attempt to contain the Covid virus has fast-tracked the pervasive reach of the internet, and more especially video in all its forms.

The annus horribilis of 2020 has increased integration of online and mobile technology into the fabric of our lived experience.

And thank god; its presence in homes and businesses for the majority of UK citizens has meant a lifeline out of isolation and the ability to keep social, educational and trading activity going.

As I’ve long been advocating, as the advances in online video have gathered pace in the past decade, video of all media, along with all audio, is the preeminent communications medium of our time.

15-years ago there was no blogging let alone vlogging or skyping or zooming; face-to-face networking in a real-world location was still the only option for meeting and exchanging information. I can’t quite believe that in 2005 I was presenting at conferences and championing the roll-out of broadband as a delivery mechanism for video. At the time, an unknown platform called YouTube had just uploaded its first clip and broadband (the technology before fibre) was emerging to begin the evolution of the web.

Today, especially in our current situation, the internet infrastructure is a rapidly evolving requirement for developed economies. This has been acknowledged by the government. In November, Chancellor Sunak announced a £5bn UK Gigabit Broadband Programme to ensure that every home could access 1Gbps connections across a minimum of 85% of the country by 2025.

What has become apparent during the 2020 crisis is that video is the star-performer on the super information highway. Especially video with a purpose. The great revelation to many is that online video is not simply TikTok throwaway, but a flexible, functional, grown-up medium with multiple powers of engagement.

Additionally, given the innovations in speed and size of distribution networks, streaming technologies have developed in the slipstream to service video communications. As a result, we are beginning to see the merging of pre-recorded video content and live interaction, allowing the acceleration of non-broadcast, low budget entrants into the visual communications environment.

Businesses are now filming, presenting and streaming their own recorded and live content. With a little investment in a basic 4K camera, good audio equipment, maybe some lighting and a monthly account with a viewing platform, an SME can set up video streaming demonstrations for relatively small costs.

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To give an example of where this has pivoted a business and opened a new revenue stream, my local yoga studio has not only managed to get its online classes up and running quickly, but also found a way of monetising the back catalogue.

Established in 2016, the studio was doing well before the pandemic, building its brand and attracting new users with great workshops and an excellent online booking system. When the lockdown came, and barely pausing for breath, it immediately turned to YouTube and set up streamed classes.

It now offers online and in-studio classes in the same booking; whilst the in-studio classes are limited in size (as they always have been), the online offer is potentially limitless.

In addition, to squeeze more juice from the live event, it records the classes to store-and-sell as a series for those wanting a library on-demand. This means more revenue for the same event from a business that could have folded without video technology.

Whilst the monetization of video or film content is old hat for those immersed in the cut-and-thrust of big online entertainment networks, it is an absolute novelty for consumer-facing SMEs.

When it comes to B2B communications, video is making the break-through there too. With sales reps confined to barracks, video product demonstrations, especially those of a more technical nature, are proving that a blended approach to selling can work as effectively as the face-to-face, on-the-road, booking-in-to-see the client or potential purchaser.

We’ve just finished some high-tech presenter-led product and training demos that will be used globally, replacing a lot of travelling and expense. This is good for the wallet whilst helping to reduce the carbon footprint.

Equally, video has been the glue that has kept internal communications alive. Zooming, like skyping, has entered most languages as an instantly recognisable form of face-to-face communication and networking. Training video has become an accepted way to induct and teach employees. Stakeholder video has kept those in offices across the world engaged with projects they underwrite.

With video now part of the online lexicon, the next struggle for businesses, corporations, organisations and agencies, is to understand, if they haven’t already, how to lever its potential to change communications internally and externally. This requires strategy and investment.

As a relatively new medium in terms of affordability for most commercial enterprise, until now video has been lingering on the fringes of business, falling between marketing and training budgets, where too often it’s been left to those least experienced to produce content of a dubious standard and effectiveness.

If the dislocating pandemic experience has taught us anything about communication, it is that online video is no longer an outlier medium or simply part of marketing content. It is a functional, experiential tool that connects global audiences, and indeed our own employees and stakeholders, to what we do as businesses and organisations.

By Nicky Robertson, MD Mendip Media

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