Is online video a reality for small businesses? Here's one CEO who's not so sure

Jim O'Neil

On a pretty regular basis, I get notes from business people asking about how to get a seat at the online video table. Usually, it's from a small company that has a few video assets it wants to get onto the web, doesn't have a lot of money to spend, but is really geeked about pulling up a chair.

They recognize the potential for online video, they just don't really know how to get started.

This, I understand, and it really hits close to home. My wife is the vice president of sales and marketing at a sizeable regional symphony. She has a great product and wants to start playing in the online video space. She has ideas about how to get content. She wants to use Flip video cameras to get quick reactions from concert goers and grab some video from the symphony's outdoor pops concerts; she's also lined up a couple of videographers who'll donate time for interviews with the music director, musicians, some shorts on their education program and maybe even some video from performances.

And that's as far as she can get. What next?

OK, I think even I have enough acumen to take the orchestra and my wife through the next steps of finding a good video platform that fits both the symphony's needs and its inevitably--and chronically--tight budget.

But I received a more complicated scenario via email earlier last week from the CEO of a pretty sizeable business that has a bit of a video presence online already, but he really wants to ramp it up.

He wrote:

"I have spent considerable time on the Ooyala website, the Brightcove website and other video platform companies' websites. I have reviewed the technology solution descriptions. I am very impressed with the many capabilities and offerings--however, to be honest, I am overwhelmed--I don't know where to begin."

I don't think it's that unusual to feel that way. The online video industry--to the folks inside it--is straightforward and easy to use. After all, you just create your content, edit it, upload it, drop and drag it, customize your player, pop it onto your website and watch the analytics. Viola! Instant cash cow.

OK, maybe not so much.

But, face it, how much thought do we really give to the folks we're trying to reach? I know, many of them already are conversant in the techno-speak, they understand the process because, in one form or another, they already are part of it (think media companies and the like).

But for online video to go to the next level, to trickle down to broad adoption by smaller businesses--you know, the ones that create the bulk of the jobs in this country--we need to think more like them. And, we need to realize just how resource strapped they generally are: an owner--who's in sales, also is the HR person, the IT person, and, in some cases, the landscaper.

How do you reach that segment, the one that will cause you more headaches and demand more of your customer service? Or, do you want to? Is it worth your time? Is the only company you really want to go to the wall for the one that counts as a homerun?

Do you big OVP's (OK, that's a little bit of an oxymoron at the moment, but you know what I mean) have an interface for the really geeked, but somewhat confused business that has a couple of hundred high quality videos he wants to get online? And monetize?

Or, is that a job for some of you smaller guys? Got a hold-my-hand person on staff? Or is that unrealistic?

Here are a few of the other questions I got from the above company (and, I think if you knew who it was you might be surprised; it's pretty sizeable):

  • "What is the best way (or is there more than one) to redefine my business using one of the online video platforms?  
  • "How can I grow my business on-line?  
  • "How can I extend my market beyond my traditional buyer base of corporate training and HR departments?  
  • "Should I consider an advertising supported model, or a pay-per-view or a subscription based model?
  • "How do I determine the optimal price point for my programs when delivered on-line?
  • "I'm hopeful that you can refer me to one or more consulting and/or strategy people that can help me answer my questions before I try and decide on which online video platform partner to choose."

So, what do you think? Anybody out there with the answers? Let me know and I'll put you in touch.--Jim