Web Video Trends on Intranets

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I had already been pondering the surge in popularity of online video when Steve Rubel wrote today about the “Big Bang” that occurred when Apple began selling TV series episodes and other video content through its iTunes store.

Steve asks if your marketing or PR program is Big-Bang-ready. I’m wondering more about intranets.

I have maintained for years that anything that succeeds on the web ultimately finds its way onto intranets. Companies rejected the idea of instant messaging on intranets, for example, dismissing the technology as a way for idle teens to waste time in mindless chatter. Today, more than half the companies in the US employ instant messaging for work-related purposes on their intranets.

The uptake in online video has been staggering. A number of factors have driven it, including

  • Adoption of high-speed access passing the tipping point
  • Easy-to-use editing software leading to thousands of consumer-created videos available online
  • Services like Atom Films, Our Media, You Tube, Veoh, Google Video, and the iTunes music store providing access to videos

All of these changes don’t hold a candle to the changes about to surge through the population in terms of viewing habits. Even one of TiVo’s executives was quoted saying that TiVo is an interim step. Eventually, through whatever mechanisms emerge, consumers will download the shows they want to watch without waiting for the show’s time slow to roll around. Time-shifting will be the norm (with obvious exceptions for news and sports).

As consumers (who, by the way, also happen to be employees) come to consume online video as a matter of routine, intranets will seem quaint and old-fashioned unless the ability to download video content works somewhat the same. Town hall meetings, executive speeches, video summaries of major company events, chronicles of investor road shows, loops of new television commercials…it’s all content that employees will use if it’s available. Grabbing the latest manager meeting from the intranet should be no different than grabbing the latest episode of “Lost” from the Net.

This is different than the low-quality streams available now on some intranets. We’re talking about subscribable, downloadable content that can be transported from the computer hard drive to a video iPod, a Sony PSP, or any of the other dozen or so handheld devices out there that play video.

Sadly, it’ll take a long time for companies to embrace the idea no matter how much sense it makes. I can hear the dismissals now: “We don’t have bandwidth for that.” “We’re not in the business of providing entertainment for our employees.” “They can just read about it.”

If you work with an intranet, start exploring the potential for quality video sooner rather than later. Many of your employees probably already have devices that will play the videos, and the adoption rate is going to soar. (Apple sold 14 million iPods in the last three months of 2005 alone.)

Shel Holtz is principal of Holtz Communication + Technology which focuses on helping organizations apply online communication capabilities to their strategic organizational communications.

As a professional communicator, Shel also writes the blog a shel of my former self.

Web Video Trends on Intranets
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