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Fliqz CEO Benjamin Wayne on the Allure of Online Video

By Jason Z. Cohen E-Commerce Times ECT News Network
Aug 25, 2008 4:00 AM PT

In 2005, as Web content was beginning to grow more dynamic and audiences more sophisticated, Benjamin Wayne hatched the idea of offering video delivery services to companies for their Web sites. The result was Fliqz, which counts among its clients Monster.com, PBWiki and Friendster.

Fliqz CEO Benjamin Wayne on the Allure of Online Video

The E-Commerce Times spoke with Wayne about how video can help drive traffic to your site, keep visitors there longer and enhance the overall user experience. Here's what he had to say:

E-Commerce Times: First off, can you tell us how Fliqz came to be and how it got to where it is today?

Benjamin Wayne: Sure ... Fliqz has been around since about 2005, and the company got its start in terms of looking at what was happening in the emerging media landscape. Clearly, digital photography and the proliferation of photos across the Web were prequel for online video. In 2005, as we looked at the landscape, we saw clearly that over the next five years, most Web sites, for competitive reasons, would adopt video. In order for that to be successful for them, there had to be a solution that was easy to implement, cost-effective and really could support brands online. And Fliqz got its start in terms of serving that market.

ECT: As more Americans adopt broadband Internet delivery, video has grown into an essential element of the online experience. What is it that video adds to the user experience?

BW: At a fundamental level, one of the problems is that we hate to read. So we've been trained by television and movies to consume things through a video format. Online, that hasn't really been possible, so we've been relegated to text and photos, but now that video has really become ubiquitous online, it's really opened the doors for consumers to consume content in that way, and you see that trickling into how Web sites deliver it in that a user who comes to the home page of a Web site, if there is a video on that home page available, as much as 80 percent of those visitors who arrive will click on that video before they take any other action.

ECT: Something that has been a challenge to site owners is figuring out how to make money with video on the Internet. What has been the main factor hindering the various revenue models that have been attached to online video?

BW: As you know, video is relatively expensive, and it's been the hope for a while now that online advertising, and specifically video advertising, would be the solution to that problem. The challenge has been that No. 1, there hasn't been a lot of online video ad inventory, and in order to attract an advertiser to advertise on top of video, you typically have to have at least a million video streams a month, which is a pretty tough number. Very few of our customers actually get to that level of volume. And on top of that, it's a format that the end users aren't particularly thrilled about. The example we tend to use is: If you're watching your favorite "Seinfeld" episode, and an ad for Head and Shoulders pops up, the chance that you're actually going to click away from Jerry and go to the Head and Shoulders Web site is probably pretty limited. So in-stream video advertising just hasn't proven to be the panacea we all thought it would be.

That having been said, there are other ways to make video effective from a monetization perspective, and the ones that we typically look at the most often are No.1, what does it do to create more traffic to the Web site, so many people think of video in terms of how do they engage audiences once they come to the site, but syndicating video into search engines or allowing viral distribution of video can account for as much as 30 percent of your Web traffic, and can bring users from areas like blogs or personal Web sites that you never had access to before, to your site. And then on the site itself, we actually look at things like how do you generate more page views so you can use more traditional forms of advertising like banner advertising to be revenue drivers to offset the cost of video and how do you integrate video in to your Web experience so that you're encouraging people to see more pages and see more advertisements.

And lastly, we really focus with companies on how can you use video as a compelling call to action to sell the product or service where your Web-based business is. So rather than just doing video for the sake of having video, we really like to have people think about is, what is the desired action that they're trying to drive out of their audience and how can they use video as a tool to do that?

ECT: Beyond the desktop and laptop, more people are able to watch video on their mobile devices. What unique challenges and opportunities does mobile video present?

BW: I think mobile is interesting, both in the ability for people to create video and for the ability for people to view video. One of the challenges in the adoption of photography was that nobody carried their cameras around with them, but mobile pones really have changed that in the sense that most people who own a mobile phone now have a digital camera right in their pocket. As we see more and more phones being video-compatible, many people actually have a video recording device that's with them at all times, so the ability for people to capture video is growing exponentially. The flip side of that, of course, is the consumption of video on the mobile device.

The challenge there, of course, is that the screen size is very limited, and so it's really not positioned for long-form kind of content in terms of video, but as we talk about more how do we express ourselves in terms of video clips or how do we communicate information in video news clips or video sports clips, the mobile device is emerging as an interesting platform for that.

ECT: What are some of the most common mistakes businesses make with regard to video on their Web sites?

BW: One of the biggest problems that people have is that they do video for the sake of video, and typically that means that they take a section of their site, they create a video gallery and then post all of their videos there in one place, which means that the good news is when people go to their site, they're going to the video section of the site. But by not integrating it with other forms of content on the site, they're really not leveraging the power of the site itself.

They haven't brought extra effectiveness to their site as a whole, they've simply taken their traffic and migrated into the video section of their site. Another thing that video sites neglect to do is to syndicate their content into video search engines. Everyone wants to show up in the search results, and the good news is that most search engines today will display thumbnails in the traditional search results if videos are found there. There also are not a lot of videos that exist in the search indexes today, so it's a good opportunity for sites to get recognized.

The problem is the crawlers which search engines use to index Web sites can't read the flash tags that are used for embedding video, so the only way that you show up in a search result on a search engine is if you syndicate your content into that search engine using what's called a "media RSS feed," and that's something that most video providers now can help sites in terms of doing.

ECT: What does the future hold for online video, in your view?

BW: The future of online video really is a ubiquitous future. In other words, video on all platforms both as a capture opportunity as well as a display opportunity and a move away from longer-form video content that we've been accustomed to in the forms of things like television shows and movies and a move toward video in the shorter form content, mainly in the form of clips, which will be driven much more toward self-expression, short clips of information and short clips of news information.

ECT: If you were asked to give advice to somebody -- I'm starting a Web site and I want to do video -- what is the top thing that you would tell them to do?

BW: I'd say a couple different things. The first is, don't do it yourself. Video is complicated, and it's expensive, and there are lots of solutions that range from free to minimally priced that will give you a professional-looking solution on your own site. The second thing is, don't use YouTube as a solution. YouTube is great as a novelty destination to watch video, but they use low quality for their video distribution -- and, when you place a YouTube video on your site, you're placing a YouTube watermark that encourages your audience to click away from your site and go to YouTube. Instead, do a professional solution that will be easy to implement and give you high quality to showcase your videos in the best light possible.


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