One of the features that our members most often want is to host videos on their site. As it happens, we've learned a little about how to do that over the years.
I've previously written about all the lessons we learned, many of them through failure, from 5 years of selling subscriptions.
This week I'm going to do the same for hosting videos.
Lesson #1: Don't Host Videos Yourself
This is the option that our members always seem to look at first. However, we rarely advise doing this.
There are advantages to hosting videos yourself:
However, there are also multiple disadvantages to hosting your own videos:
For these reasons, we don't host any of our own videos.
Lesson #2: YouTube and Vimeo Are Mainly For Promotion
Both YouTube and Vimeo are great options for hosting videos:
The downside is that neither YouTube nor the free version of Vimeo works particularly well if you're running a professional-quality site.
For these reasons, we tend to only put videos on YouTube and Vimeo if we intend to use them for promotion.
The one exception to this is Vimeo Pro, which launched last year. At $199 per year, with no bandwidth limits and no restrictions on commercial use, it's a great entry-level option.
Lesson #3: Pay As Much As You Can Afford
We've gone through four levels of video hosting. Each time we've upgraded slightly, buying more features, more space and better service.
First, on a previous site, we self-hosted our videos. That's why we know so many of the disadvantages of self-hosting!
Second, when we launched OSTraining, we used http://screencast.com. They charged only $10 per month, but we only had around 100 videos at launch. Screencast provides only a simple player with few customization options. However, if we were launching today, we'd probably go with Vimeo Pro instead, which is a slightly more expensive option with a lot more features.
Third, when we needed a more professional look and more space, we moved to http://vpfactory.com for three times the price of Screencast. That allowed us to create a custom OSTraining video player. VPFactory also converted our videos so that they were mobile-ready.
Finally, about 18 months ago, we updated again to http://brightcove.com. Brightcove is around ten times the price of Screencast, but they are one of the biggest boys in video. Most big newspapers and media sites work with them in one way or another.
It's worth noting that many video hosts don't allow you to export files, so be sure to keep a good library of your original video files on a hard drive. If you do that, it won't be hard to move as your needs grow.
Why did we need to keep updating? Because of Lesson #4.
Lesson #4: It's All Fun and Games Until Users Don't Have a High Speed Connection
As soon as your audience expands, you'll start to run into people with very slow or expensive connections. This means that many of your videos aren't available to most people.
We had people complaining of connection problems on both Screencast and VFactory. African countries, I could understand. South American and South-east Asian countries too. But we also started to get a lot of video playback problems from Australians. Apparently they have some of the worst and most expensive internet in the world. Even some parts of the United States and Europe had very slow connections.
It was only when we joined Brightcove that the problem was solved. So, what does Brightcove do differently?
Because Brightcove is able to serve different files to different viewers based on their needs we very rarely get any complaints about playback issues.
Here's a screenshot of Brightcove's uploader:
Brightcove is not the only company in this space. Ooyala is a popular competitor. However, as your site and your audience grows, you're going to need to take care of more viewers in more places on more devices. You will need to start looking towards one of the video companies that are capable of dealing with these problems.
Let's turn this over to you guys. Hosting video online is a tricky and constantly changing challenge. What advice do you have for people wanting to show videos on their site?
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