I’ve been seeing a ton of sales and marketing videos on Facebook and LinkedIn lately. It’s a great way to show your expertise in an area in a new and exciting way. However, I’m seeing a lot of room for improvement in these videos. In today’s age of microscopic attention spans, you need to capture someone’s attention quickly. Here are some tips and tricks  you can use to improve your videos today.

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I’ve always wondered why Amazon has not jumped into the user-generated content game, especially when it comes to video, in an attempt to wrestle the crown from YouTube.

They have the audience base, brand recognition, and certainly the infrastructure to roll out such a platform. They are already in millions of homes natively with apps on platforms ranging from their own FireTV line of products, connected players like Roku, smart TVs, tablets, gaming machines like the PlayStation4, and more. Amazon also owns live-streaming giant, Twitch.

Recently, Amazon announced they will in fact start accepting and featuring user-generated videos on its platforms. More content, especially content it doesn’t need to produce or acquire, means more viewers, more hours watched, and, yes, more revenue for Amazon.

To its credit, Amazon is saying the program is for “professional video producers.” It’s not clear what that means and what the threshold is to be considered a professional producer, but for Amazon, it probably means having to not police user content uploads as much as YouTube does with programs like automatic content matching (which fails, a lot.)

youtubefaceJust last week, YouTube made headlines when its systems let the Fox television network use a clip a user created and uploaded in 2009 of the old Nintendo game Double Dribble. Fox used that clip in an episode of Family Guy, and then had the original clip taken down claiming copyright. Read more at TorrentFreak.

It’s not clear if this was malicious, or it’s another example of YouTube’s Content ID matching system run amok, but the message is clear: there has to be a good way to monitor and handle legitimate copyright claims without letting the big guys beat up on the little content producers. Are some claims legitimate? Yes, of course, but more and more, based on YouTubers posting updates, the system is busted and people can easily take advantage of it for monetary gain.

These are the types of challenges Amazon is going to have to figure out if it wants to win at this game.

The other trick is how are they going to monetize users and encourage them to upload content to this new service? YouTube, owned by Google, makes it easy to integrate Google’s AdSense platform right into the showing of videos1.

According to Bloomberg:

The new Amazon service gives video producers many ways to get paid. They can sell or rent their programs on Amazon, or make videos available to all Amazon customers (not just Prime subscribers) in an advertising-supported format. Another option: Provide videos to Amazon Prime members and get royalty payments based on how many times the content is streamed, or as part of an add-on subscription.

Will Amazon force producers to sign exclusive publishing agreements, or can producers continue to post their content on multiple sites? That remains to be seen – and if that revenue sharing will be enough to lure producers from other platforms and move to Amazon.

According to 3playmedia.com, Amazon is putting some big time money in front of producers:

The most striking incentive is Amazon’s offer to pay $1 million a month to the makers of the top 100 AVD programs viewed by Prime members.

What interests me are the requirements for publishing on Amazon’s platform: the videos must be in high definition, which makes sense with so many TV-based players, and second, all videos must be closed captioned. That’s a great move for accessibility, and I bet many producers are going to have to scramble to find a way to easily caption their videos.

1 – I use an ad blocker 99% of the time, so I rarely see how they are integrated ads into the viewing experience.

It’s Commencement season in higher education – the time of year that many of us are given the unenviable task of live-streaming our commencement exercises.

We’ve come a long way in our streaming abilities and quality here. My first Commencement at JCU, in 2010, I dragged my iMac outside in 85˚F weather and physically connected it to a camera. The second year, it took my boss’s antiquated PC laptop connected to an old video converter box. For the last three years, we’ve received a feed from the video production company that shoots the event. The last two years, we give them our Flash media streaming settings and they send the feed right to the provider for us.

Our provider as well has changed over the years. We started with Ustream, since it was free, then their private-label Watershed product, then back to paid UStream.

This year, we tried something different. We used YouTube to stream our Commencement.

The experience was, well, good and bad.

First, the good. You can’t beat YouTube’s infrastructure. Our commencement with maybe 100 concurrent users tops was never going to put much of a strain on the network.

Creating a live event was simple, and setting up the technical backend was easy as well. We chose not to use a Google Hangout and instead send them a stream to ingest and broadcast. It gives you both settings to use and downloadable files to load into a Tricaster, Flash Media Encoder or hardware/software platform of your choice. Here’s what that looks like:

Live Stream for Commencement Settings

Click for a larger version

The real stream went fine. It was rock solid, looked great and I liked the fact that you could  mark in and out points during the stream for separate uploads. This allowed me to easily separate out our Commencement speaker. You can see that video here. That feature alone saved me a large amount of time in post-production.

YouTube also provides good analytics, including concurrent users, total hours streamed, and country of origin. Here’s what that looks like:

Commencement Live Stream Stats

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I was watching on campus, my wife was watching from home and my friend Adam was watching from the UK, and all reported back that it was looking great and sounding perfect.

I was pleased with the production aspect of using YouTube to stream our Commencement.

Now, for the bad parts.

One word: copyright.

We have experienced two issues with YouTube’s vile Content ID system in the last two days.

The first was on us. The production company streaming for us used the audio feed they were piping into the quad. That audio feed was playing copyright music, and it didn’t take long for YouTube to recognize that and after 30 seconds, completely kill our feed. Our bad – we didn’t think about this and didn’t alert the production folks to not use the audio feed from the quad. We know now – but this wouldn’t have been an issue if we had used UStream or a private-label stream.

Here’s the quickly banged out text message I sent to our team member working with the production company:

Screenshot_2014-05-19_09_52_43

I was typing fast on my phone, hence the terrible spelling.

Luckily, we saved our settings so we created a new live event, downloaded new config. files and got them to the truck. This is why you test things, and this is why we know not to broadcast any type of pre-recorded audio. It’s turning into a thing with YouTube where it’s safer to just have no audio and not risk upsetting its overzealous Content ID system.

The second problem is now after the event. YouTube records the entire stream for viewing later, and I made it live after the ceremony for replay. This morning I came in to check the stats and found three Content ID copyright hits on our Commencement – the one with no copyright audio. Three hits.

Copyright hits on our commencement stream

Click to view larger version

First, let’s state that Pomp and Circumstance is in the public domain.

The first was claiming we were using a recording of Pomp and Circumstance. No, our version of Pomp was played live by a brass band. Not the best rendition I’ve ever heard, but I will give them credit that they had to play the song for nearly 25 minutes.  But, sorry, no recording.

The second claim was in all Chinese and I had no idea what it was asking about. It was linking to Pomp and Circumstance. After disputing, they dropped their claim.

Third, is a claim by a company called “AdRev Publishing” claiming we have illegally used their track called “Journey to India Megatrax.” This claim links to Pomp and Circumstance. Sadly, our version of Pomp was done with a brass band and had no sitars and tablas. That would have been awesome, by the way. You can hear “Journey to India” on their webpage and hit the play button. Not only did we not use it, it didn’t contain any similarity to Pomp and Circumstance.

I have contested them all. One’s already been dropped and YouTube’s broken system gives the claimant 30 days to respond. I’m not a fan of seeing this:

Your dispute awaiting response by 6/18/14. 

I understand YouTube’s need to have a system for managing content claims, as there are hundreds of videos uploaded every hour that use copyrighted music. YouTube’s system, however, put all the onus on the video creator to prove they are doing things the right way. We’ve bought music through 3rd party services for videos and often they get marked as using copyrighted music. We dispute them and often get the claims removed but we’re fighting one where it’s just easier to buy a new track, a second purchase, to get around a claim that keeps getting re-instated, though we’re clearly in the right in this case.

The system is broken, and it needs fixed. There are many YouTube videos made by content creators decrying the system because it costing them money, even when they’re in the right.

Music owners have been empowered by YouTube to just spray out notices based on automatic matches, and I would assume these owners see this as a revenue opportunity, because as a YouTube content creator, you can sometimes keep using the copyrighted tracks, but the rights owner can put ads on your content, and the revenue goes to them, not you, even if you are in the clear and have done everything correctly.

The live-streaming tool is really good. The Content ID system is bad.