Getting Your Feet Wet in the Web Stream
Effectively Using Streaming Media to Enhance Your Web Site
In our first article in this series, we discussed the “new Web” and mentioned some of the features that drive people to the most popular sites on the Net. With access to affordable high speed connectivity available to home users, and with the price of storage and bandwidth dropping, these exciting new capabilities are now feasible for most businesses.
Streaming-media, either audio or video, will modernize your site, add an element of professionalism, and ultimately raise awareness about your products and services and drive visitors to your site.
Depending on your business or organization, the applications of streaming media are limitless: a hospital or healthcare organization can offer continuing education to doctors and nurses conveniently; a company can display a video that sells its product; a non-profit may use streaming video to raise awareness for its cause; a corporation may offer an interactive training module to its employees; an institution may Webcast a live event; it's even plausible to utilize or even sell old video currently collecting dust. It's up to you to decide what content you want to provide, but generally the more unique the content is, the more visitors it will attract.
There are two ways to provide streaming video on the Web: live or on-demand. Both have advantages and fulfill certain needs; people generally prefer to witness sporting events and Webcasts and Webinars live, while the main advantage of on-demand media is customer convenience-the ability to view media at any time-and permanence. Both live and on-demand media are effective, both have different applications, both can drive traffic, and both can be used to generate revenue.
At CCI, we provide clients with both on-demand services and live Webcasts. For a rocket launch, a one-of-a-kind experience, CCI shoots the event and broadcasts it via satellite, but we also Webcast it for viewers around the world. While an on-demand clip is available for download after the launch, a rocket launch is the kind of event that customers and the public want to see live. Because not everyone has a satellite dish and can tune it to the proper coordinates, CCI makes this event available to millions via the Web. Conversely, we also have several clients whose content is not time-critical; we help those clients offer on-demand video, either for free or for a fee. Live and on-demand streaming serve different needs, and both are effective marketing tools and potential generators of revenue.
Before setting up web-streaming on you site, you should consider offering different size files for broadband users and dial-up users. Typically, streaming media files for broadband users will be 240 to 300 megabytes per second (MB/s), while dial-up viewers can only receive about 56 MB/s. Based on the size of the files you that you plan to stream, you can calculate how much bandwidth you will need (simply multiply the MB/s and the length of each file or program in seconds). For live events, you will need that much bandwidth for every viewer you expect; for on-demand files, you will need enough bandwidth each time the file is viewed.
Though the price of providing streaming media is coming down, there are still costs associated with making this enhancement to your site. Costs for producing content varies, depending on whether you produce it in-house or outsource, and generally increasing your bandwidth and storage is necessary. If you already have a host for your Web site, you can get a quote for increased bandwidth; with a year commitment, you should expect to pay around a dollar per gigabyte for 10 terabytes a month. If you have never streamed media and don’t know how much bandwidth you will need, try to get a three month commitment rather than a year so you can test bandwidth. Also, for a large, one-time, live event, you may consider a separate vendor for bandwidth. For storage of your media files, you can expect to pay about a dollar a gigabyte with a 500 gigabyte commitment.
Whether you're looking to educate, inform, entertain, or sell, streaming media on the Web is quickly becoming the most cost-effective and compelling method to communicate with your audience.