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Promoters of all kinds take a shot at online video


Media companies and people with camcorders and spare time — the drivers of popular online sites including and YouTube— are starting to face tough new competition for the attention of Web users who like to watch videos.

Businesses, colleges and institutions are leaping into online video production as the audience for clips soars and production and distribution costs plummet.

"It's a gigantic business," says Jeremy Allaire, CEO of Brightcove, an Internet video services firm. "Every single month it's just grown and grown, to the point where a majority of our customers now are not media companies. They are people using the Web to market, communicate, educate and inform."

His customers include the AFL-CIO, Anti-Defamation League, Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, Archive of American Law Enforcement and The Asia Foundation. The phenomenon should continue to grow now that Brightcove and rivals, including PermissionTV, Ooyala and Maven Networks, "are targeting (non-media) companies," says Forrester Research senior analyst Bobby Tulsiani.

Forrester expects that 187 billion videos will be streamed over the Internet in 2009, up 24% from last year. The growth of speedy Internet connections and improvements in video technology are major catalysts. "You forget how bad streaming video was a year and a half ago: the buffering and graininess," Tulsiani says

YouTube helped by making the Flash Video format close to an industry standard.

"A couple of years ago you had to choose between Apple's QuickTime, RealPlayer and Windows Media Player. It made people think too much," says John Engberg, who manages global media and Web development for kitchen and bath firm Kohler. "Now almost 98% of the world has access to Flash."

Meanwhile, high-definition cameras and editing software became more affordable. Production costs have dropped by half, and the quality has grown dramatically, says Ian Blaine, CEO of thePlatform, an online video facilitator owned by Comcast.

That's appealing to companies that want to engage with customers for longer than the length of a TV ad.

"Every marketer at every company is trying to crack this nut," says Vail Ski Resorts chief marketing officer Derek Koenig, who used to work at the Discovery Channel. Videos showcase Vail's ski runs and offer how-to advice for novices. 

Colleges also find that potential applicants often prefer video to print catalogs. Since the online "distribution is close to free," says Rhode Island School of Design's Becky Bermont, the college was able to cut its admission budget by 20% last year. Videos from the art school profile students, faculty and their work.



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