By Scott Matthews, CEO of Webcollage
Online retailers have a lot of visitors, but more than 97 percent leave without buying anything. Part of the formula to driving more conversions is to assure that what you answer is most if not all of the consumer's questions about your product. This may seem self-evident, but it is not just what you say to visitors, it is how you say it that can lift sales (anywhere from 12-36 percent in some cases I've seen).
For example, enhanced content - which runs the gamut from simple text, elaborate product shots, video (see 'New to QuickBooks?'), 360-degree views, customer testimonials and reviews (click on 'Product Tour”/”Feature Reviews') has proven in countless A/B tests to drive higher sales. Here are some best practices when using enhanced content to move customers down the sales funnel.
- Typically, Internet users do not read every word of text presented on a Web page; instead, they scan the page for information applicable to them. So use graphics to accompany each feature. Shoppers who scan the page can be lured into reading the full text, or may get the answer they need to make a purchasing decision just from the graphic. Using large images enhances the visual quality of the page and helps shoppers quickly scan through the different product features.
- With interactive tours, shoppers get a complete view of product features. Shoppers can click on each feature and learn more about it and how the feature is used in practice. Videos can also be included to elaborate on each particular feature in even greater detail. Be aware that neither Amazon.com nor Walmart allow videos or interactive tours, opting to use just the video snapshot as static graphics (referencing the 360-degree views link above).
- Always include a list of all items that are included in the product package. Shoppers need to understand what complementary items, accessories or parts they get and which ones they need to purchase. Without this information, they may delay a purchase decision. Try using not just a bulleted list but also an image of the unpacked box, with all included items. Providing the full set of attributes helps shoppers who need to understand a particular aspect of the product decide if this product fits their needs—thereby accelerating their decision cycle and reducing return rates.
- Include a compatibility (or System Requirements) section that lets shoppers know what other equipment, devices or environment they need to have for using the product. This helps shoppers determine if they will be best able to use the product in their home or office. Also provide access to product documents to let shoppers find information that may not be included in your web marketing materials—such as specific information about installation, connectivity diagrams, operating instructions, etc.,. Owner’s guides and installation guides are particularly beneficial as they help address shopper questions and concerns around using and installing the product.
- Show the product in its day-to-day context, for example, a video camera held and connected to a notebook computer. Showing products in context help shoppers visualize how it would fit in their environment and provides them a better sense of dimensions and convenience.
- Other quick-hitting ideas: A Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) section may be the best way to address some shopper concerns. If you present a comparison table that shows the difference between this product and other products in the same family you help shoppers understand the differences and possibly upsell them to a more profitable product. Don't forget to emphasize your company’s green strategy. If you have new functionality in each edition of your product (e.g., 2013 edition vs. the 2012 edition), a What’s New section is helpful to consumers.
The bottom line is that with consumers increasingly accessing the internet for information before making purchases, the more information you give them in the most compelling packing, the higher the chances they will buy on your site or in your store.
About the Author
Scott Matthews joined Webcollage in April 2006. He brings more than 20 years of sales and executive management experience to his role as CEO. Scott has a proven track record in direct sales, business development, OEM sales and distribution channel management. Most recently, Scott served as a Director of the Eastern Region for Secure Computing, an industry-leading network security vendor. He previously worked as Vice President of Sales for both Optum and InterWorld and held sales management positions with Data Switch, Oracle, Siebel and Genesys. Scott holds a bachelor's degree in business administration from the Rochester Institute of Technology and a master's degree from Pace University.
Video remains one of those areas of immense, yet relatively untapped, potential. One of the reasons may just be that few (if any) solutions exist that assist brands in maximizing their exposure. That will likely change however with Website Magazine’s Startup of the Week – vidIQ.
The SaaS-based enterprise-level audience development suite is designed to help YouTube marketers increase their views and subscribers.
What makes the vidIQ platform so interesting from a brand marketing perspective is that it incorporates most, if not all, of the essential elements of a successful video campaign. The platform offers a database of relational YouTube search trends that recommends the best tags, listening tools to help accurately identify influencers, an analytics engine to break down viewer and engagement metrics, automation mechanisms for scheduling videos at the optimal time, and collaborative workflows so marketers can work with other members of their team.
vidIQ already successfully manages over 10 billion views, primarily serving agencies, larger networks and global brands, including AOL, Mondo Media, and Revision3.
“As YouTube’s popularity continues to skyrocket, it has become a critical destination for brands to engage with their audience. And, as YouTube has let us all know, ‘Audience development is equally as important as great content.’ CMOs and social media managers who use our suite are thrilled that they finally have a tool in their arsenal that allows them to double down on YouTube and drive real growth,” says Rob Sandie, CEO and Co-Founder of vidIQ. "This is a watershed moment for online video, and our tools ensure vidIQ’s users won’t be the last to arrive at the party.”
A strong video strategy can provide merchants with many benefits – from an increase in engagement and conversion rates to better placement within the SERPs.
The biggest challenge with video, however, is creating content that will engage consumers and entice them to hit the play button. While many merchants implement video on their sites, often times their video strategies are limited to product videos and demonstrations for specific items. Although these types of videos are definitely helpful, they aren’t very engaging and are rarely available for every product on an e-commerce website.
In order to harness the true power of video, merchants need to create a more robust and innovative strategy that not only showcases their products, but is also interactive and makes consumers want to hit play. Luckily, Website Magazine has compiled a list of five tactics that can help merchants revamp their current video strategy to get better results, check them out below:
Brands that want to stay a step ahead of the competition should consider implementing a live video strategy. One way this can be done is with the Your BrandLive platform, which is a video communication software that uses live video and chat to create a unique customer to brand experience. In fact, brands can use the service to broadcast live video from any location and participate in real-time interactions with customers. Moreover, merchants can sell products during video sessions by uploading items into the Brandlive dashboard. By doing this, products are displayed across the bottom of the live video with titles, descriptions, images, prices and a call-to-action button for making a purchase.
That being said, merchants can also go live on Google+ with Google Hangouts. This feature can be used to video conference with up to ten people at a time, as well as live-stream a broadcast publicly onto Google+, YouTube and websites. This could come in handy when revealing a highly-anticipated product for the first time.
According to comScore, U.S. consumers watched 11.3 billion online videos in December 2012, which proves that video advertising is a big business. Furthermore, video ads tend to be successful because consumers typically either have to choose to hit play in order to view the advertisement or have already decided to watch a video (meaning they are alert) when the advertisement is shown. Merchants can launch video advertisements through Google, as well as on video ad networks like BrightRoll, Live Rail or Adap.TV. Additionally, LinkedIn recently announced video ads on its self-serve platform, which could be a good place for B2B merchants to display their advertisements.
Most merchants know how influential consumer reviews can be, so why not feature them in a unique way? Yes, we are talking about video reviews. In fact, there are a variety of platforms available that allow merchants to include user-generated video content on their site, including Bravo, Authntk and EXPO TV. These videos could even prove to be more valuable than written reviews, because it is easier to tell someone’s sentiment when you can watch them speak, which makes this type of user-generated content more personable, relatable and believable.
It is important to use a multi-channel approach when implementing a video strategy. By maintaining a YouTube channel and cross-promoting that content on other social sites like Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and Pinterest, merchants have the ability to show their products to a wider audience. Moreover, merchants can use their social videos to create a variety of content outside of tutorials and demonstrations, such as entertaining spoofs or a behind the scenes look at a company.
Just because you have updated your current video strategy to include some of the aforementioned tactics, doesn’t mean you should neglect adding or updating product videos/demonstrations on your site. After all, product videos are helpful to consumers who are on the verge of making a purchasing decision, which means having a video on every product page could potentially have a dramatic influence on conversion rates. That being said, creating videos is time consuming, which is why platforms like Treepodia can be very helpful to merchants. This is because Treepodia can be used to turn entire product catalogs into product videos. The platform does this with Image Reviving Technology, which brings still photos to life. Moreover, the videos are always kept up-to-date as the platform automatically generates new video versions to reflect changes in inventory and all videos are based on existing product images, descriptions, prices, user reviews and merchandising rules.
Treepodia provides a sort of all-in-one video management solution, enabling users to create, host, stream, distribute and optimize video delivery. It's new downloadable extension, which it is distributing on Magento Connect (the platform's app store) brings these capabilities inside Magento installation. With built-in social sharing features and mobile capabilities, and combined with performance optimization features through built-in A/B testing mechanisms and learning algorithms, the extension is one that should definitely catch the attention of Internet retailers.
"Product videos are proven to have a major impact on ecommerce conversion rates as well as SEO rankings," said Melody King, VP of marketing for Treepodia. "The availability of Treepodia's platform on Magento Connect will make it easy for Magento-based retailers to leverage our powerful platform used by giants such as Walmart, Dell and Office Depot, at an affordable cost and backed by our 4x ROI contractual guarantee."
While 2012 might have been the year of mobile, Web workers should note that online video’s popularity was steadily rising as well.
In fact, video hosting platform vzaar saw record growth last year, with sales increasing 48 percent from January to December 2012. According to vzaar chairman Gareth Cadwallader, the monetization of video content was one of the strong drivers for 2012’s growth.
“We have seen a surge in the amount of companies using video subscription services to generate profits and enable commerce,” said Cadwallader. “One of the key developments within vzaar's platform has been the move to integrate VAST 2.0 compliant pre- mid- and post- roll linear commercials.”
Security concerns also drove companies to make the move to paid-for-hosting platforms, according to vzaar CTO Adrian Sevitz.
“By developing enhanced security features such as Signed Keys to prevent videos from being embedded anywhere that the user does not want them to be, vzaar are ideally placed to serve this growing market,” said Sevitz. “Security is not just about access but also about control of the Brand. Branding control is essential to any business using video as a way to market their brand. In 2012 vzaar introduced branded video pages that allow subscribers to customize video pages to their own specification.”
Other business features available through the vzaar platform include Multi User Accounts for managing multiple subscriber profiles, Bulk Uploading for up to ten videos at once, Multi Language Player-Support and Video Watermarking.
"2012 represented an important achievement not only in terms of the numbers but also because they reflected a healthy split between new accounts and existing customers who signed on for larger and longer term contracts," said Jim Henry, vzaar vice president of sales. "With the continued rise of online video, global demand for our platform will continue to drive significant growth for us going forward."
In 2013, Web Retailers will focus on many things to achieve success - mobile design, search engine optimization, and the customer experience in general to name but a few. It's important to prioritize those digital efforts accordingly based on the needs of your organization as they are fundamental to generating buzz and profits, but another channel should also be capturing retailers attention in 2013 as well as greater financial investment: it's Video, and the top brands are well aware of the channel's importance.
It's not uncommon however for ecommerce merchants to drag their virtual feet when it comes to video. Sometimes that's because of the associated cost (it's not easy to produce high-quality, share-worthy information or entertainment focused video content) so many just don't try. Fortunately, there are an increasing number of powerful software solutions available which make the process of creation, distribution and analysis far simpler (Side note: Website Magazine Associate Editor Michael Garrity is developing a video editor comparison for the March 2013 issue - Subsribe now and make sure you have access).
Video is a powerful marketing mechanism to propel
merchants' online retail efforts to new heights - but the time to get started is now. Often, fortunately, all that's really needed initially is a little inspiration. Take a look at ten of the top
ecommerce brands and how they're using video today.
Some things that stood out in our analysis was the use of custom profiles, featured playlists, and the integration of social sharing onto the brand's YouTube pages (the only video destination examined).
Not using Video yet? Check out Website Magazine's YouTube Video Basics for Beginners.
On-site videos deliver brand awareness and engagement, but what is most appealing to companies is the performance and financial impact videos are generating, specifically conversions and revenue.
That’s according to SundaySky, the creator of SmartVideo (a personalized, real-time video experience). The company recently published its 2012 State of Online Video report, which captures and analyzes the current trends in online video including consumption, personalization, advertising, retail, mobile and 2013 predictions.
Highlights of the report include:
• Personally relevant video: While the average email click-through rate is 5.4 percent, Forrester confirms email with video increases this rate 11-16 percent
• Video advertising market growth: Forrester predicts the online video spend will grow 26 percent each year
• Mobile video: 33 percent of marketers could use mobile video to replace the traditional 30-second spot
• Online retail: The number of online retailers that feature videos on their websites is up 200 percent from last year
Also interesting to note, is video’s impact on email. The report indicates that the average text email open rate is 11 to 22 percent, but when you add ‘video’ to the subject line of marketing-related emails, open rates rise up to 30 percent.
SundaySky data also reveals that when customer emails contain video content that is personally relevant to the recipient, such as a bill, statement or account status - open rates jump to 40-60 percent. Furthermore, the click-to-play rate for personalized video ranges from 80 to 99 percent.
Personalized content clearly goes a long way in driving deeper levels of customer engagement.
“We all, as consumers, want to be treated like individuals more and more,” said Sears CTO Dr. Phil Shelley. “We want to personalize engagement, including real-time offers and rewards.”
In addition to using SundaySky’s Smart Video product for showcasing products, Sears also leverages a big data program to drive customer loyalty.
Other retailers have also seen video’s impact on their bottom line. In fact, 48 of the top 50 online retailers feature videos on their website. This is a 200 percent increase from 2011. Higher conversion rates are likely the reason.
“Five percent of consumers who get to the configuration stage and view one of these videos makes a purchase, tripling the conversion rate from before we implemented,” said Lewis Broadnax, Executive Director, Web Sales & Marketing, Lenovo.
Looking forward to 2013, SundaySky predicts the C-suite enhancing customer experience and engagement strategies with smarter applications of videos. Naturally, the company also anticipates the continued rapid growth of digital and mobile video consumption and ad views.
Web marketers are likely putting the finsihing touches on their plans for 2013 right now; here's to hoping they haven't left video advertising out of their promotional mix.
A new report from Adap.tv indicates that online video ad spend rose 27 percent in 2012 and is expected to grow another 20 percent in 2013. If spending increases in one channel, it has to go down in another of course and broadcast TV, Cable, Print and Direct response channels all suffered.
Below is a video of Adap.tv President Toby Garbiner discussing the report, but here are two additional highlights from the research study that caught our attention:
- Real-time bidding via DSP's, and interest in private exchanges tripled in Q3
- Fill-rates for publishers are up an average of 19 percent over last year.
- Available inventory is up 67 percent from 2011
- CPMs are up an average of 12 percent from 2011
Email marketers can start monitoring how their subscribers interact with videos thanks to the Email + Video widget from StreamSend.
The email marketing provider’s widget helps marketers identify their video subscribers and monitor how their videos are being shared. Additionally, the widget can be leveraged to add list building and a call-to-action button to any video, which is a less expensive method than building this capability directly into the video production.
“Video channels need to know who their subscribers are, and where their videos travel online, so that they can better target and add value to their customer communications,” said Dan Forootan, president of StreamSend Email Marketing. “Earlier methods have been expensive and inflexible. With our widget capability, they can get to know their audience, and messages can be tailored to changing customer preferences, while costing way less.”
Businesses can drag and drop the widget for any existing video, including YouTube videos, and then configure it for sending. By sending a video through email, it has an increased chance of being shared by subscribers on social networks. Furthermore, businesses can add a form to videos in order to encourage subscribers to respond.
It is also important to note that since StreamSend allows subscribers to watch videos within the email, all of their behavior will be available and trackable, which helps marketers optimize future messages according to subscriber likes and dislikes, while also building response rates and increasing the value of their messages to customers and prospects.
The partnership allows brands to embed visual and audio content, such as demos, testimonials, virtual dressing rooms and interactive runway shows, into their digital catalogs in order to create an immersive shopping environment. Additionally, the partnership provides brands with a consistent branded in-catalog experience as well as enables consumers to shop and view video on all digital channels – Web, social and mobile.
“A well-executed video strategy can help brands and retailers increase sales conversions and improve customer engagement and satisfaction,” said Craig Wax, CEO of Invodo. “This partnership will allow retailers and brands to integrate Invodo’s product videos into commerce-enabled catalogs from the industry leader, Zmags. In addition, companies can use Invodo’s advanced analytics package to further optimize the impact of their videos on shoppers.”
Click here to see how clothing retailer Express added video into their Zmags digital catalog.
If there is one network that I bet you wish you were more active and popular on, my guess would be YouTube (how did I do?). Unless you’re one of those Web workers that uses video predominantly, then you’re probably just featuring a handful of videos on your brand or personal page. But that's just not enough - video is big (and growing) and deserves more of your attention.
There is no secret to producing successful YouTube videos, but there are some basics. If you ever plan on making dollar one from that digital content, you’ll need to follow some basics.
- It’s All About Views and Subscribers
Engaging content isn’t a myth – you either produce it or you don’t. If you don’t know if you have engaging content or not – look no further than the number of views and subscribers to your channel. If you don’t have any idea on how to create engaging content, ask you existing subscribers, or poach some ideas of the competition (assuming they are generating more views and have more subscribers).
- The Beginning Absolutely Matters
The importance of the first 15-20 seconds that your video makes on the user can not be overstated. This is your opportunity to make a connection with a user. Check out some of the most popular video producers on YouTube and you will consistently find exceedingly short introductions – like in the five to eight second range (if at all).
- Don’t Go It Alone, Collaborate!
Marketing products and services is not unlike marketing anything. When you team up with others – let’s call it collaboration – not only do you capture whatever views that partner was receiving but you’ll likely attract a few new subscribers in the process. Reach out to your existing partners, users and maybe even competitors – but don’t go it alone (at least not always).
- Just Optimize It, Please!
If you want your video to rank in YouTube’s results, you’ll need to do two things – get views and optimize the metadata around that video – including titles, descriptions, keywords (tags), and even geographic data. If you’re not optimizing, chances are good that nobody is viewing.
YouTube needs to be a serious consideration for digital marketers. They are providing all the tools (including most recently translated captions - http://goo.gl/lVpNT) you need to accelerate your success, drive new visits and close more business.
Audience members can start tipping their favorite Vimeo videos, thanks to a new suite of creator tools from the video-sharing site.
The company recently launched the Vimeo Creator Services platform to help content creators make more money from their videos. Currently, the suite of tools only includes a feature called Tip Jar, with plans to launch a Pay-To-View service in the future.
Tip Jar is a pretty neat feature because it allows Vimeo Plus or Vimeo PRO members to collect money from their fans. Once Tip Jar is activated on a video, viewers will see a “Tip this video” button below the player. Then, viewers can enter a tip amount (from $1 - $500) and their credit card information, and video producers reap the benefits.
Additionally, Vimeo plans to introduce its first pay-to-view service in the coming months, according to the company’s blog. This service will give tools to video creators that will enable them to charge for access to their videos – with no coding required. The company's blog post also states that more tools will be coming to the Vimeo Creator Service suite soon.
Check out an example of Tip Jar on the 2012 Vimeo Festival + Awards' Grand Prize winning video below:
Receive a better return on investment (ROI) from your videos with a new email widget from StreamSend.
The email marketing service provider’s new widget gives businesses the ability to turn videos into advertisements by adding call-to-action buttons within existing videos. Then, videos can be emailed out as only a call-to-action button. This can help increase the video's audience, because StreamSend’s Email+Video offering enables videos to be played directly within email messages, so that viewers aren't sent to watch the video at another location. This also provides businesses with the opportunity to track video viewing statistics, which can help them optimize future messages according to customers’ interests.
“This new capability lets businesses add value to any video by quickly turning it into an engagement piece that attracts response and increases conversion rates,” said Dan Forootan, president of StreamSend Email Marketing. “Senders can turn any video into an ad that captures that visual impact as a sales piece, and there’s no limit to how far it can be shared with other potential prospects.”
As mentioned, businesses can add call-to-action buttons to any existing video, including YouTube videos, in order to create an advertising message that can be sent as an email, posted on a blog and on numerous other sites. The call-to-action buttons can be made to send customers to an order page, to print out a coupon, to sign up for a mailing list and more. Additionally, senders can add share icons that allow viewers to share videos on social networks, as well as within emails and blogs.
Developers now have access to the API of Socialcam, a video app that allows users to quickly and easily capture, view and share high-quality videos with their friends, family, acquaintances and any other interested parties.
By opening up the API, third-party developers will be able to build apps based around the videos that Socialcam users shoot and share. Upon its initial release, developers will get access to all public videos to embed and work with. However, since the primary purpose is to give them access to the library – rather than add to it – they’ll still have to use the regular Socialcam app to create and upload videos.
The API will include metadata that allows developers to sort videos by data and geolocation to allow them to create mashups based on events.
Earlier this year, Socialcam unveiled new features that allowed users to add themes and soundtracks to their videos, while also opening up the API as a private, request-only beta service. Eventually, it was contacted by the Washington Post to use videos of the London Olympics as part of the news organization’s coverage of the games. That’s about when it was decided that the API should be opened up to the public.
Socialcam was also recently acquired by Autodesk.
One of the more telling metrics in the wild world of Web analytics is time-on-site, which indicates how long your website visitors stuck around. But, what it really tells you is just how engaging visitors find your website content to be.
Of course, what makes “good” or engaging content varies based on the type of website you run, your objectives and the whims of the people visiting your site. At the end of the day, the biggest factor determining how long your visitors will hang out is you, and how well you’re able to provide them with the content that will keep them coming back for more (or ideally, just sticking around for a marathon session).
There’s a lot of stuff out there on the Web. If you want to create content that inspires marathon site visits, everything you publish should capture the attention of the (highly sought after) ‘Net users, both before and after they come to your site.
First things first – you need to come up with a great title or headline. Like it or not, the Web has made the art of headline writing the most important aspect of content creation, as users are likely to completely ignore content that doesn’t have a compelling enough title. Some ideas to keep in mind when coming up with headlines include referencing keywords or hot trends, using exciting descriptive adjectives or superlatives, summarizing the content or asking a question (the more provocative, the better).
As far as the content itself goes, there are a couple of proven methods that always seem to interest people. Lists are always popular, as is content that is broken up into different subsections. These allow visitors to easily skim to determine how much time they want to spend with the material. Content that has a call to action can also be very useful and engaging, especially if you have specific conversion goals; just make sure that the action is simple, easy to perform and clearly outlined. And last, but certainly not least, actionable content that provides an answer is always a winner. Start by presenting a question or problem (to get them hooked), and then use your expert authority to offer a solution.
Basically, the most effective content grabs someone’s attention, is easy to digest and, ultimately, provides useful information. And while these principles can be easily attributed to traditional text-based content like blog posts or articles, they also work just as well with images and video.
Right now, images are the reigning King of Content on the Web (look not further than the success of Pinterest, if you need proof). Using pictures on your site is a great way to enhance the user experience, as they’re easy for visitors to interact with. Images on your site allow you to replace whole paragraphs or sections of text and produce the same impact. Plus, they’re easier for visitors to share on social networks and blogs, and they will help your SEO efforts, as you’ll appear in more image search results.
One way to incorporate pictures onto your site, that will also help increase engagement and time-on-site, is by adding a slideshow or photo gallery. These allow users to scroll through and view an entire collection of photographs, drastically increasing the amount of time they spend engaged with them and helping you quickly and efficiently provide them with information about your brand, website, products and more. You can add image galleries to your website using publishing tools like SlideShowPro, SmoothGallery, Minishowcase or Zenphoto.
A recent Invodo study revealed that consumers watch videos 60 percent of the time, and these videos help 66 percent of consumers understand how products work. However, the biggest obstacle you may find in adding video to your site is coming up with the type of content you want to publish, which can include tutorials, product reviews or animations.
There are many tools for site owners looking to take the tutorial route. For example, you could create a screencast with a platform like Screenr to demonstrate how a new feature on your site works. Or, businesses who want help with the creative process could leverage a platform like Demoflick, which works with clients to develop concepts and build videos that can incorporate both music and sound.
Another great way to engage your site visitors is with product reviews; however, user-generated video product reviews are even more appealing. In fact, a Google study revealed that 4 in 10 shoppers visit a store online or in-person as a direct result of watching a video online, and many of those videos were consumer reviews on YouTube. You can add user-generated videos to your site by leveraging the services from companies like Bravo, Authntk or EXPO TV.
It might sound a little silly, but animation is a great way to attract attention. One way site owners can work this strategy into their website is with whiteboard animation from providers like Ydraw. This company helps businesses create unique whiteboard animation videos for everything from Internet marketing to tutorials.
There are plenty of creative ways for you to publish content on your site that will entice visitors and keep them engaged for a long time. In addition to crafting your blog posts and other text content to attract more visitors, you can also leverage one of the many solutions that allow you to include multimedia content on your site, such as images or video. That being said, the most important thing is to keep up with your website analytics to determine which content (and content types) your users gravitate toward.
A new Google study reveals that mobile and video are the keys to success for apparel merchants.
The study found that many apparel consumers are shopping on mobile devices and using online videos as tools in their purchasing decisions. In fact, 4 in 10 shoppers visit a store online or in-person as a direct result of watching a video online, while more than 1 in 5 apparel consumers are using their tablets or mobile devices for shopping on a daily basis.
An increasingly number of consumers are also using mobile at home. According to the study, 69 percent of consumers shop on their phone or tablet while at home, proving that if your website isn't optimized for mobile yet, you are likely missing out on valuable traffic. Another 28 percent shop on their mobile device while waiting in line, 31 percent do so in a store and 27 percent do so while at work.
However, it is important for businesses to know how consumers are leveraging these devices for online shopping. The study found that 56 percent of people who shop on their mobile devices do so to compare prices and look for promotions, 42 percent do so to read reviews, 38 percent use their devices to search inventory, 16 percent scan bar codes while shopping in stores and 13 percent leverage their mobile device to contact a retailer.
The study also emphasizes the importance of videos, which according to Google’s Blog, “has now filled the role as the virtual fitting room, enabling shoppers to hear personal opinions and reviews, and see the product in motion.”
According to the study, nearly 1 in 3 shoppers use YouTube to shop for apparel, which doesn’t make it a surprise that video ads top traditional media in encouraging purchases. For example, 34 percent of apparel shoppers are more likely to make a purchase after viewing an online video ad, compared to 16 percent who will do so after watching a TV ad.
It is also important to note that digital shoppers are valuable customers, because not only do these consumers typically spend more on purchases, but they also make purchases more frequently. The study reveals that 1 in 4 mobile researchers purchased apparel more than six times in the past six months, while 28 percent of video researchers spent more than $500 on apparel in the past six months. Comparatively, only 16 percent of non-mobile researchers purchased apparel more than six times within the last six months, while only 2 percent of non-video researchers spent more than $500 on apparel in the same time frame.
Merchants with millennials as a target audience should especially rev up their video strategies, because this age group is twice as likely to rely on videos to make purchasing decisions – particularly YouTube videos. In addition, Google expects to see more shopping reviews coming to YouTube – currently the site has nearly 600,000 shopping videos, with more than 35,000 of those videos being uploaded within the last month.
Screen recording and video editing software solution Camtasia (from Techsmith) for example just released version 2.2 for the Mac and it comes with quite a few new and interesting features to dig into. Let’s take a look!
Camtasia for Mac 2.2 now includes the ability to create clickable objects (aka hotspots) so video marketers can embed hyperlinks within their creation, sending them to online content and one step closer to the end of a conversion funnel. This release is also focused on optimizing the cross platform experience but providing one output that will work on any device, be it iOS or Android, smartphone or desktop. The entire list of featuers is available here.
“This edition of Camtasia for Mac brings completely new marketing, sales and teaching capabilities for business professionals and educators. It’s important because video is quickly becoming the fastest growing, most popular content on the web,” said Shane Lovellette, Camtasia for Mac Product Manager at TechSmith. “Interactivity, and hotspot linking, along with a lot of interactive and ease-of-use features such as smart sharing, table of contents, closed captioning and search put video-creation in the hands of novices and intermediate users. We can’t wait to see what kind of creative things people will do with interactive video.”
A free, 30-day trial of Camtasia for Mac 2.2 is available with discounted pricing options available for EDU and nonprofit organizations. New users can purchase the software for $99 and existing Camtasia users can upgrade to version 2.2 for $49.50 per user.
content is one of the most effective tools for Web businesses because it gives consumers a platform to express their opinions while providing companies and brands with a level of transparency that builds trust and loyalty.
Consumer reviews are 12 times more trusted by other users than product information or descriptions provided by the business itself, according to one study from eMarketer. User-review platforms such as Bazaarvoice also provide a host of other benefits for marketers such as improved search rankings, higher levels of engagement and more repeat customers.
Just recently, however, the demand for user-generated content has been married with video. A number of platforms have emerged that allow consumers to upload their own video content such as product reviews, customer service feedback, testimonials, contest entries and more.
These user-generated videos can be utilized by most any business website in a variety of ways. For instance, e-commerce merchants and affiliate marketers can show product reviews and testimonials, while content publishers can allow their visitors to comment on articles and other posts through video.
Many have predicted that video content will one day dominate the Web, so the businesses that can give their visitors this option are likely to benefit the most -- whether it be sooner or later. For those of you looking to get ahead of the curve, here are a few platforms to consider:
This company enables Web professionals to capture and share consumer-generated videos, including customer testimonials, social contests, product reviews, webinar or event feedback and sales pitches. Bravo provides brands with their own video portal where consumers can record videos that can be shared on websites, blogs and social media properties. This platform offers a 30-day free trial for all accounts, with other plans starting at $24 a month.
Here is an example of a promotion that Mario Tricoci ran on Facebook via Bravo:
Website owners can leverage Authntk to gather and publish consumer-generated videos, such as testimonials or product reviews, onto their Web properties. Brands can create a custom capture page, where they can ask fans a question and set a maximum record time. Once consumers visit the capture page they can record a video or upload a pre-recorded video to submit. All of the videos are managed by merchants, so that only approved videos are displayed on their site. The platform also includes built-in social media tools, which enables the content to be spread via email, Twitter and Facebook, as well as includes an analytics engine, which helps identify key influencers.
Here is an example of how consumers would record and upload their video via Authntk:
This platform focuses on creating and distributing high-impact product videos to drive engagement and conversation on websites. The end-to-end solution captures, manages and publishes consumer video that brands can utilize for word-of-mouth promotions. Once a company partners with EXPO TV, they can publish consumer-generated video content, such as how-to’s, product reviews and other content onto their websites, within rich media advertisements and on social networking sites. Additionally, EXPO manages the videos to make sure that they are relevant, impactful and safe for brands to use.
Here is an example of a consumer-generated product review via EXPO TV:
Growing YouTube alternative Vimeo is looking to attract more video creators to its platform with the addition of some new features – a cloud-based enhancement tool and new soundtrack options.
The Enhancer will allow video publishers to make changes to their content without having to edit them on a desktop and then re-upload them onto the site. In other words, creators can edit from Vimeo’s website, which includes being able to instantly add music to their videos, update audio levels and control a song’s starting and ending point.
Through a collaboration with music partner SmartSound, Vimeo has also added almost 4,000 new soundtrack options on top of the 50,000 titles that were already available through its soundtrack tool. These new options are supposed to make way for improved flexibility.
At the price of $1.99 per song for a personal license, or $19.99 for a commercial license, users will be able to create custom soundtracks for their videos using SmartSound songs. For greater customization, users will be able to control the length, arrangement and instrument mix of the tracks.
Managing content and videos across channels can be a challenging task, but new upgrades to Limelight Networks’ integrated Web content management and video platform offerings makes it much simpler.
The Limelight Video and Limelight Dynamic Site enhancements enable users to publish and manage videos across multiple online and mobile sites from one dashboard. And by managing all Web and video assets from one interface, users can increase publishing frequency, which can drive engagement and conversions.
"As websites become the primary source of information for consumers and business buyers, publishers and marketers more than ever are tasked with providing engaging, relevant and timely content," says David Hatfield, senior vice president of Limelight Networks. "Managing, publishing and delivering this content using disparate point systems is cumbersome and costly. To meet the challenges they face today, marketers and publishers require a powerful, unified system that allows them to quickly and cost-effectively manage a digital presence that drives site traffic and builds brand loyalty."
The integrated solution provides users with the ability to combine video and Web content into a single content workflow, access an integrated view of the video repository, edit and update video metadata, publish and reuse videos across channels, access video channel-management features and add multiple videos into single or multiple channels simultaneously. Furthermore, by leveraging Limelight's complete offering, digital marketers have the ability to quickly upload, manage, publish and analyze online and mobile content, as well as optimize the performance of their online and mobile sites.
This will be the fastest version of the app; these speed increases are based on process improvements in the program’s encoding engine. Among these changes are single output acceleration, which optimizes each of the major output formats (including mp4, MOV, MwebM and MKV), and drives the engine with parallel, rather than sequence, processing.
This means that the app will systematically break decoded, compressed video files into separate content “chunks” and partition them simultaneously across multiple CPUs, resulting in speed improvements that average 200 faster than Squeeze 8.
Version 8.5 also features Intel quick sync optimization for Intel’s Sandy Bridge and Ivy Bridge processors, faster adaptive bitrate encoding that also uses parallel processing, and complete CPU control, giving users the ability to choose how to throttle CPU encoding through the use of an intuitive slider bar.
Using seamless integration and free permanent storage with Sorenson’s online video platform (OVP) Sorenson 360, Squeeze 8.5 lets users encode and upload video files to the cloud, where they can be stored and distributed directly from the Squeeze interface. Here, they will be available for a review and approval process, which has been streamlined by eliminating steps requiring burning/delivering DVDs or using file sharing services that aren’t optimized for video sharing.
Sorenson Squeeze 8.5 also features an enhanced user interface that comes with a new rich text editor and allows users to send existing video content already in the Sorenson 360 OVP for review and approval without requiring them to re-encode.
Squeeze 8.5 is now available for $799, with Squeeze 8.5 Pro being offered for $999. Current Squeeze 8 customers will be able to upgrade free for a limited time and will receive 5 GB of permanent storage and use of all Sorenson 360 features for free.
Video encoding solution Sorenson Media released results from a survey of its own users which reveals that the MP4 video format leads a wide range of formats being used today for distribution on the Web and mobile devices.
A full 69 percent of users employ mp4 for the Web and 58 percent use it for mobile. A majority of respondents selected more than one format from the options provided according to Sorenson, revealing the broad diversity of formats in use today.
“While some of the results confirmed what we knew about how video professionals approach their work in this increasingly complex online video world, others were enlightening, including how broad and varied the use cases and formats were across the board,” said Peter Csathy, president and CEO of Sorenson Media.
Other highlights from the study include that as it relates to Web video specifically, there is still a high level of support for Flash (54 percent), QuickTime (45 percent), and Windows Media (34 percent), but emerging WebM format was selected by only 5 percent of respondents, underscoring its low adoption to date. For mobile video, Sorenson found that MP4 adoption outpaced all other formats including Flash at 16 percent, HTML5 just 16 percent shockingly, Windows Media at 9 percent, and WebM with 3 percent. In addition to the formats selected, 78 percent of respondents indicated that they use the H.264 codec to encode their video content.
“Standardization in online video is still far from reality, which means doing it right can get extremely complicated. It requires the best work of top professionals who can fully utilize and adapt solutions to the many tasks, tools and processes that make up their video workflows.”
A new study from Adobe reveals that video ad consumption is beginning to imitate that of traditional television commercials.
This is because mid-roll ads, which have the most similar placement to that of a television commercial (directly within the middle of a video), are dramatically outperforming both pre-roll (advertisements before a video) and post-roll (advertisements after a video) ads. This is good news, or course, for media companies because it could open the door to greater revenue potential.
“Market research shows that over the next five years the number of people watching video content online could grow as much as 50 percent, and a significant number of them will be doing so on connected devices like tablets, IPTVs and smartphones,” says Jeremy Helfand, vice president of monetization at Adobe. “For professional content owners and media companies exploring TV-like ad experiences online, the latest data demonstrates the strong potential for extending traditional broadcast advertising dollars to digital video.”
According to the study, mid-roll video format remains the most engaging placement for online video ads, and easily outperforms completion rates of both pre-roll and post-roll ads. Currently, mid-roll ads average an 87-percent completion rate, which surpasses pre-roll ad engagement by nearly 30 percent.
Other statistics reveal that mobile devices receive the highest engagement of any other channel, at 94 percent, which suggests that mobile viewers are more engaged and open to watching ads on the go in exchange for their desired content. Aditionally, 76 percent of viewers are more likely to consume ads within professional content, which is higher than the average completion rate of 63 percent for user-generated content (UGC).
Furthermore, live online events also recieve higher ad engagement compared to video-on demand (VOD), averaging an 85-percent completion rate for video ads, which is 23 percent higher then ads within VOD content.
Online video provider Ooyala has launched a new content discovery technology that drove four times the amount of consumer engagement with videos during its pre-release – including an increase in viewing periods, completed videos and revenue.
The technology enables publishers to increase monetization of multi-screen video by using proprietary algorithms, machine learning and collaborative filtering to deliver personalized content recommendations. It leverages data from almost 200 million monthly viewers who watch Ooyala-powered videos on the Web.
The company’s global user base collects more than two billion analytics everyday, which provides insights into viewer behavior and trends. The content discovery engine applies real-time analytics processing to this and other inputs to offer continuous content recommendations that are locally, personally and socially relevant. The recommendations are integrated into the viewing experience, which leads to an increase of revenue streams from advertising, video-on-demand or paywall transactions.
“Forward-thinking content providers have figured out that success hinges on their ability to turn analog dollars into digital dollars,” says Mike McGuire, vice president, research, media industry advisory services for Gartner, Inc. “Capturing the attention and imagination of consumers engaging with TV content in new ways requires highly personalized video experiences driven by real business intelligence, where big data plays a major role.”
Motorola’s Xyboard tablet line is just about everything I wished the Motorola Xoom had been when it was released not even a year ago.
The Xoom, Motorola’s first attempt to build an iPad-competing tablet, was critically acclaimed when it launched last February. It even won the Best of Show award at the 2011 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.
But the Xoom, which sported a 10.1-inch screen, was a bit too heavy (1.6 pounds) and much too expensive (launching with an $800 price tag), and the 3G and 4G models were available only through Verizon. The 4G capabilities were also delayed about seven months, and when they did arrive, Xoom owners had to mail in their tablets to get a 4G hardware upgrade.
Thankfully, in the Xyboard, it seems Motorola has made up for most (but not all) of its missteps with the Xoom.
For one thing, the Xyboard prices are more acceptable.
The Wi-Fi-only version of the Xyboard starts at $399.99 for the 8.2-inch model and at $499.99 for the 10.1-inch model. The Verizon-exclusive 4G version, known as the Droid Xyboard, starts at $429.99 for the 8.2-inch model and at $529.99 for the 10.1-inch model — that is, as long as you sign a two-year data plan along with the tablet. (All four of the prices named are for tablets with 16 gigabytes of storage.)
Both the 8.2-inch and 10.1-inch Xyboards have touch screens with a resolution of 1280 x 800 pixels.
The Xyboard 10.1 is thin and light, and physically felt much more competitive with Apple’s iPad and Samsung’s Galaxy Tab 10.1, the two high-end tablets against which I think the Xyboard 10.1 will be competing most for consumer dollars. The Asus Transformer Prime tablet, a tablet I haven’t yet tried, is likely be in this category as well.
In my time testing the 4G-equipped Droid Xyboard 10.1, it was clear more than just the pricing strategy was different with Motorola’s new tablets.
Inside, the Xyboard 10.1 is fitted with a 1.2-gigahertz dual core processor and 1 gigabyte of RAM, which powers the tablet to speedy performance that lived up to its price tag.
In the front and rear are 5-megapixel cameras, which shoot detailed photos and 720p video out back too. They aren’t as sharp as some 5-megapixel cameras I’ve seen on smartphones like the Samsung Galaxy Nexus, Apple iPhone 4 and Nokia Lumia 710, but they’re far better than the lackluster cameras in the iPad 2 and the Galaxy Tab.
The Xyboard 10.1 is just 0.35 inches thick and weighs 1.32 pounds, making the inclusion of such high-resolution cameras and a rear LEG flash all the more impressive. It also has dual stereo speakers in the back, which sound good for a tablet (better than speakers on the iPad and the Galaxy Tab 10.1) but don’t replace a good set of headphones.
The displays on the Xyboard 10.1 were another high point, responding to touch input quickly and rendering websites, apps and videos sharply, clearly and brightly. Unlike the iPad or the Galaxy Tab 10.1, the Xyboard has a mini-HDMI port built in, so it’s easy to hook the tablet up to a TV set.
The Xyboard 10.1 is also compatible with a stylus (sold separately) that works well for taking notes and simple sketching. Motorola has preloaded the tablet with is own Floating Note and Evernote apps, which both work well.
I do have a major complaint with the Xyboard’s inability to let a user rest his or her palm on the tablet while using the stylus. Anyone who draws regularly knows that your hand often rests on the surface you’re drawing on. The need to raise your hand above the screen makes the Xyboard basically unusable as a drawing tool for long periods of time. The Xyboard isn’t going to replace artist tablets such as Wacom’s products.
The Xyboard 10.1 is covered in a water-resistant nano coating. For the sake of testing, I poured liquids on the tablet and easily whipped the device on, and it worked with no problems. I still wouldn’t recommend dropping the Xyboard into a bucket of water to see how it holds up, but the water resistance makes a lot of sense. I would love to see this feature on more tablets and hopefully phones too.
The edges of the Xyboard 10.1 and 8.2 are coated in a grippy rubberized material that is comfortable to hold while surfing the Web, watching videos or reading an ebook for a long period of time.
But this thoughtfulness of design didn’t carry over to the power and volume buttons, which are on the back of the tablet and nearly flush with the surface. The result: I frequently flipped around the Xyboard to see the buttons I wanted to use. After a while, I did get somewhat used to this, but the buttons are among the least convenient I’ve found on a tablet. This was a problem on the Xoom as well.
I averaged about seven to eight hours of battery life out of the Xyboard 10.1, which is good for a 4G tablet. But charging from an almost depleted battery took about three or four hours, which is much longer than I would like.
Verizon’s 4G service was fast, but unless you plan to use the Xyboard outside with no nearby Wi-Fi signal, opting for the Wi-Fi-only version makes a lot more sense to me, and it would save you from having to pay at least $30 a month in data-plan charges for the next two years.
All in all, the Xyboard has some quirks and some forward-thinking features that, in my opinion, place it ahead of the Galaxy Tab 10.1 as a daily-use tablet running Google’s Android Honeycomb operating system. THe Xyboard is due for an upgrade to Android Ice Cream Sandwich, which I’m excited about. But for now, Honeycomb is a solid OS for a tablet.
If I had to choose an Android tablet to own, I’d choose the Xyboard 10.1 over the Galaxy Tab 10.1, which is a fine piece of hardware in its own right. The Xyboard 10.1 feels as though it’s made with better materials — the Galaxy Tab has a plasticky feel, and the Xyboard’s speakers and cameras are higher quality as well.
What really prevents the Xyboard from topping the iPad 2 as my favorite tablet is the app selection found on Android. This isn’t Motorola’s fault — it seems to be a side effect of Android tablet sales being much smaller than iPad sales. With low Android tablet sales across the board (in the last three months of last year, Motorola sold 200,000 tablets while Apple sold 15.43 million iPads), developers largely have not designed apps specifically for Android tablets.
It’s a shame because even apps that could be considered essential, such as Twitter’s own Twitter app, don’t work as well on Android tablets as on iPads. On the Xyboard and the Galaxy Tab, the Twitter app is simply a stretched-out version of the Android phone app. The experience is far from ideal and it sure isn’t pretty.
Other apps designed for the large screen, such as news reading app Pulse and Amazon’s Kindle reading app, look and work great on Android tablets, but these experiences are few and far between.
Until developers start treating Android with the same attention and care that they do iOS, great hardware like the Xyboard 10.1 will be hamstrung by inadequate apps.
– Nathan Olivarez-Giles
Photo: Pouring water on the water-resistant Motorola Droid Xyboard 10.1 tablet. Credit: Armand Emamdjomeh / Los Angeles Times
People of the Internet, you love your YouTube.
On an average day, you watch 4 billion videos on YouTube. And the next day? You watch 4 billion videos on YouTube. That’s a 25% increase over the number of daily video views just eight months ago, and it shows what kind of immense numbers we can see when a popular Web destination becomes even more popular.
It’s kind of amazing — and kind of frightening.
When it comes to how much video people are uploading to the site, the numbers are also mind-boggling: YouTube reports that 60 hours of video is uploaded to the site every minute, compared with 48 hours eight months ago.
What’s behind this growth of activity? Reuters points out that parent company Google is pushing the video-sharing service beyond the personal computer, with versions of the site now compatible with smartphones and televisions. The company also has been making an effort to get more professional-grade content on the site.
Does all of this translate to money? Well, some of it does. But, Reuters reports, Google said only about 3 billion videos a week are monetized.
– Deborah Netburn
Sony's PlayStation Vita has got me intrigued.
As much of the gaming world has moved toward smartphones and tablets, I've wondered if consumers (or myself as a gamer) would take to new handheld consoles the way they did with the Vita's predecessor, the PlayStation Portable.
But after spending a few minutes with the Vita in my hands at the 2012 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas last week, my interest has piqued.
If you've played video games on the PlayStation Portable, which affectionately became known to most as the PSP, then the Vita will look very familiar at first glance. Joysticks and buttons are placed to the left or right of a nice, wide display and the graphics produced by the system are detailed and sharp.
But unlike the PSP, there are many features of the Vita that better equip Sony's handheld formula for competition in a smartphone-riddled future. On the front of the Vita is a 5-inch OLED touchscreen and a similarly sized touch panel can be found on the back of the device.
I played a bit of Uncharted: Golden Abyss, one of the titles that will launch with the Vita during its U.S. release on Feb. 22, and the game used traditional controls and the touchscreen. And switching between the different control options was intuitive and easy.
The Vita can also be used as a controller for Sony's PlayStation 3 home console, which could bring touch controls to even more games if developers embrace this feature. Though I didn't get to spend a long time with Uncharted or the Vita, the potential for some really creative game-play options was obvious.
The Vita will also run a number of smartphone-like apps, including apps for the photo-sharing site Flickr and video-streaming service Netflix, local-discovery app FourSquare and social networks Facebook and Twitter.
There are also two cameras on the Vita, one on the front and one on the back, and in the few test shots I snapped on the CES showroom floor, I have to say I was a bit disappointed. Photos didn't seem to be high quality and colors were washed out and not sharp. Sony wouldn't say what the resolution of the cameras would be for the U.S. release of the Vita, but the Japanese version (which went on sale on Dec. 17) featured VGA-quality cameras in front and back with a resolution of 640-by-480 pixels, which is about the same as an Apple iPad 2.
We'll be getting a review unit of the Vita in a few weeks, and I'll reserve final judgement for then, but after my hands-on time with the system, there's a lot to like and a few things that I'm not so excited about (aside from the camera). One of them is the pricing of Vita's new proprietary memory cards.
The Vita will sell for either $249 in a Wi-Fi-only version or $299 for a 3G/Wi-Fi model that runs on AT&T's network. AT&T is offering no-contract data plans for the Vita of $14.99 for 250 megabytes of data per month, or three gigabytes for $30. Games (on a new card format and not the UMDs found in the PSP) will sell for about $9.99 to $49.99, according to Sony. All of that seems to be pretty fair pricing in my opinion.
However, memory cards for the Vita — which you will definitely need if you want to store any apps, downloadable games, movies, music, photos or any other content on the Vita — are sold separately.
A four-gigabyte memory card will sell for $19.99. Not bad. An eight-gigabyte card will sell for $29.99 and a 16-gigabyte card will sell for $59.99. Getting a bit higher. And, a 32-gigabyte card will sell for a whopping $99.99.
It seems a bit painful to think you may end up spending an extra $100 after plunking down as much as $300 for a Vita, but this is the current reality, depending on how much stuff you'd like to store in the device. Ouch.
– Nathan Olivarez-Giles
Photo: The game Uncharted: Golden Abyss on the Sony PlayStation Vita. Credit: Armand Emamdjomeh / Los Angeles Times
This post has been updated. See the note below for details.
A Volkswagen teaser that features dogs dressed as "Star Wars" characters barking out the "Imperial March" theme song associated with the evil Darth Vader has gone viral, generating more than 3 million views on YouTube since Wednesday night.
VW created the teaser, called "The Bark Side," in advance of a commercial it plans to air during the third quarter of the Super Bowl, scheduled for Feb. 5.
The teaser aired during Wednesday's episode of "The Middle" on ABC. It was also posted to YouTube that evening.
Volkswagen gained both critical acclaim and sales publicity during last year's Super Bowl, when it aired "The Force."
That commercial also used the "Imperial March" music from "Star Wars" and showed a child in a Darth Vader costume attempting unsuccessfully to use the movies' legendary "force" on a variety of household appliances and other objects. To his surprise, he's able to use the force to start a Passat -– with a little unobserved help from his father.
[Updated at 12:31 p.m., Jan. 19: Mike Sheldon, chief executive of Deutsch LA, the Marina del Rey firm that does the creative work for Volkswagen, told The Times' Meg James that "The Bark" was the firm's way of trying to stay "one step ahead" of the competition. He added that the teaser was trending "faster than 'The Force did, and this isn't even a Super Bowl ad."]
– Jerry Hirsch
Beats Electronics and Monster Cable Products, two companies that together defined the current $1-billion headphone industry with the Beats by Dr. Dre line, are parting ways at the end of the year.
But before the two become competitors in a segment of consumer electronics that is just as much about fashion as it is technology, a wave of new Beats by Dr. Dre headphones and boom boxes (built by Monster) will hit store shelves.
At the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas last week, I caught up with Jimmy Iovine, Beats Electronics' chairman and CEO of Interscope Geffen A&M Records, to talk about what products the Beats brand had planned for 2012 (you can see our interview in the video above).
First up will be the new Mixr headphones, designed by Grammy-winning producer and DJ David Guetta. The Mixr is a lightweight and strong design — I twisted and bent the headband, and it returned to form and never felt week — that offers the bass-heavy sound Beats is known for. At $279, the Mixr is set to hit U.S. stores in early February in black and white. They're already available in Europe.
February will also see a wireless release of the Solo headphones, also priced at $279. And due in mid-September are the $349 Executive headphones, which bring a sleeker and more understated look with a leather headband and aluminum ear cups.
Iovine was also proud of the new BeatBox, a follow-up to the first-generation (and much less portable) BeatBox, which will sell at a price of $399. A release date hasn't yet been set for the new battery- or AC-powered BeatBox, which plays music from smartphones and MP3 players docked on the speaker setup.
Since launching in 2009, Beats has teamed with Justin Beiber, Lady Gaga and Sean "Diddy" Combs for artist-sponsored headphones. The Mixr is the only artist-specific set of headphones planned for 2012, Iovine said.
But this year we will see more HTC smartphones paired with Beats headphones as a result of HTC purchasing a $300-million stake in the audio company late last year, he said. And Beats speakers will be found not just in the Chrysler 300, as they were in 2011, but also in the Dodge Charger. And, as we saw at CES, Beats speakers are making their way into more HP laptops this year too.
After the Monster manufacturing deal expires at the end of the year, Beats plans to go out on its own, Iovine told my colleague Gerrick D. Kennedy on our sister blog Pop & Hiss. Despite reports to the contrary, Iovine said, the split was always the audio start-up's intention.
"It was always planned. It was always a five-year deal," Iovine said. "It was a manufacturing distribution deal. We were with Monster for headphones and speakers. It was always a plan to turn into a freestanding company."
Image: The Beats Executive headphones from Beats by Dr. Dre. Credit: Beats Electronics/Monster Cable Products
The future of video games is increasingly shifting from discs to downloads over Internet-connected consoles, phones, tablets and PCs.
Microsoft Corp. is aware of this trend as much as any other player in the gaming industry and rolls out multiple promotions a year to bring attention to games available for download through its Xbox Live Arcade storefront on the Xbox 360 console. And next up for Microsoft is the Xbox Live Arcade House Party, which starts Feb. 15 and includes the launch of one game a week for four weeks.
At the Consumer Electronics Show last week in Las Vegas, I went hands-on with Alan Wake's American Nightmare, which will be the first game to roll out in the month-long promotion.
Alan Wake's American Nightmare is a sequel to the on-disc game Alan Wake, which was released in 2010 to critical acclaim for story-driven game play that mixed a psychological thriller plotline with the action of a third-person shooter.
The game, which focused on a fictional fiction writer named Alan Wake and his quest to solve the mystery of his wife's disappearance in a small Washington town, was also praised for its inventive use of lighting, with Wake spending a lot of time running around in dark forests at night with a flashlight and a gun.
In Alan Wake's American Nightmare, the game's hero finds himself in the deserts of Arizona. The impressive lighting effects are back and shooting mechanics are solid. I tried my hand at the new title's Fight 'til Dawn survival mode, which pits players in a 10-minute scene with wave after wave of enemies attacking. (You can check out our hands-on with the new game above.)
The game play was intense and challenging, and it should be a satisfying experience for fans of the original Alan Wake game as well as those of shooting games such as Dead Rising, Left 4 Dead, Resident Evil and the Call of Duty series' zombie modes.
Alan Wake's American Nightmare will also have a campaign of about four to five hours, depending on how much time a player spends exploring and digging into the game's story, said Oskari Hakinnen, a spokesman for Remedy Entertainment Ltd., the developer of the series.
For those who haven't played the original Alan Wake, there's no need to fret. Hakinnen said that the sequel will pick up where the first title left off story-wise, but it was written in a way that won't confuse those who are new to the world of Alan Wake. Pricing for the game hasn't yet been disclosed.
The other three titles coming out in this year's Xbox Live Arcade House Party are Warp, a new puzzle game from Electronic Arts; arena-based first-person shooter Nexuiz from THQ; and the eagerly anticipated I Am Alive, from Ubisoft, which follows a man searching for his wife and daughter a year after a worldwide disaster killed most humans on the planet.
– Nathan Olivarez-Giles
Image: A screen shot from Alan Wake's American Nightmare. Credit: Remedy Entertainment
The most interesting and impressive gadget I saw at the 2012 Consumer Electronics Show this week was Nintendo's next video game console — the Wii U. It was also one of the riskiest products I saw, outside of Nokia's new Windows Phone handsets.
Despite not offering games with high-definition graphics, Nintendo's Wii home console changed the way people play video games, introducing motion sensing controllers called Wii remotes and a then-new level of casual games that appealed to millions of people who in the past didn't consider buying a gaming system. But since the Wii's launch in 2006, the gaming landscape changed as well.
Microsoft's Xbox has controller-free motion gaming with its Kinect technology. Sony has motion-sensing controllers with its PlayStation Move controllers for the PlayStation 3 console. Casual gaming is increasingly taking place on smartphones and not home consoles.
The Wii U intends to have an answer to all of its rivals, Nintendo of America's President Reggie Fils-Aime told me this week in an interview and hands-on demo of the new system in Las Vegas (you can see a video of our hands-on above). The demos we played were the same demos Nintendo showed off at the E3 gaming expo in Los Angeles last year.
The most obvious feature that separates the Wii U from rival hardware is the system's new tablet-like controller. Traditional buttons, triggers and joysticks are found in the Wii U controller, as is a 6.2-inch touchscreen in the middle of the unit that can be used by hand or with a stylus. The controller was 5.3 inches tall, 9 inches long and about 1 inch deep. There's also a built-in accelerometer and gyroscope, with a front-facing camera, microphone, speakers and a motion-sensing strip to interact with the remotes introduced on the Wii.
So what can this new controller actually do? One gaming demo, called Chase Mii, was essentially video-game hide and seek. My character in the game was the one being chased and, with the Wii U controller's screen, I saw an entirely different view of the game then those I was playing against with an included map of the terrain I was using to hide from my chasers.
In another demo, Fils-Aime and Nintendo spokesman J.C. Rodrigo showed me a recording of a car driving around a street in Japan. The same image that was on the HDTV that the Wii U console was connected to showed up on the Wii U controller in my hands, but when I moved the controller to either side or above my head, the view changed. I could see the street in 360-degrees; the sky, the cars passing by, a rear view, all just by moving the controller around.
The potential that this sort of technology offers video game developers is hugely exciting if you love playing video games, as I do. The military shooter genre is hugely popular right now — how about the ability to see a digital battlefield in 360 degrees while not disrupting the view on your TV? Maps and menus on the Wii U's controller are an obvious choice as well.
The most important feature of the Wii U for video game developers, however, might be that it can handle high-definition gaming, up to 1080p in resolution. This can allow for developers to more easily develop games for Nintendo's new hardware alongside high-definition titles being made for the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3.
We'll have to see whether or not Nintendo can actually get developers on board en masse to bring major titles to the Wii U, but adding HD gaming should make this option more attractive.
I saw a demo of a Legend of Zelda game in HD and it looked outstanding. The main character of the game, Link, had texture details in the fabric of his clothing that simply weren't possible on the Wii's lower-powered hardware. I was able to change major environmental details, such as being able to switch the scene from night to day and back, with just a tap on the Wii U controller's touchscreen.
The touchscreen also seemed to me to be a play to court developers who are building for smartphones and tablets. The Wii U's hardware will enable it to be a console that (if enough games are made) can offer something for the hardcore gaming crowd and something for the smartphone set. Angry Brids or Cut the Rope on a Wii U controller? Yeah, I'd love to see that and I'm sure Nintendo would too.
The Wii U controller's second screen can also act as the only screen for gameplay too. For example, if you're playing a game, and your roommate or partner wants to watch the latest episode of their favorite TV show, the Wii U can stream the game to the controller so you can keep gaming. Despite looking like a tablet, the Wii U controller isn't a tablet and isn't usable without the Wii U nearby.
But as impressive as the demo was, Fils-Aime and Nintendo didn't show up to CES with much new information about the Wii U. We still don't have a price for the system, launch titles haven't been announced and hardware specs are few and far between. The Wii U will play downloadable games and games on-disc. It will also be backwards compatible with Wii games. It will also have some undetermined amount of internal flash storage, four USB ports and at least one SD card slot will also be included for expanded storage. IBM is supplying a multi-core processor and AMD is supplying a graphics processor as well.
Fils-Aime also wouldn't say whether or not the Wii U will be able to support multiple Wii U controllers or not. This, in my opinion, is a huge question for an otherwise solid-looking piece of hardware. If the Wii U only supports one Wii U controller, I think Nintendo will be making a mistake. Unlike the Wii Remotes, the Wii U offers the experience of a traditional controller. Some games are better played by pushing buttons and using joysticks rather than flailing your arms. For example, with fighting games and shooters, many gamers prefer the precision and speed that a regular-old controller can offer. If only one person can use a Wii U controller at a time, playing the sorts of games with friends on the couch won't be as fun. Hopefully the new console will support multiple Wii U controllers and give gamers the ability to choose the gameplay set-up they prefer.
Nintendo still also hasn't offed any details on what it will offer in terms of online multiplayer. In my opnion, Microsoft's Xbox Live service is the best in console gaming and allows gamers to play with their friends online and talk in real time as they play in their respective homes. Online multiplayer has been something that so far Nintendo has flatly failed to include in a compelling or easy-to-use way with its home consoles. For that reason most games for the Wii are single-player games. I believe Nintendo has to get online gameplay right in order for the Wii U to succeed.
So, when will our questions be answered? Hopefully at E3 2012 in June, which will be the next time Nintendo makes a big push before the press with the Wii U.
– Nathan Olivarez-Giles
Image: Zelda in HD on the Nintendo Wii U console. Credit: Nintendo
Nintendo is set to launch the Wii U, a new video game console, later this year. And while there is a lot of excitement around the Wii U, there are also a lot of questions hovering around the Japanese company, which seems to have its back against the wall despite a history of innovation and success in an industry it has helped define.
The company's current home gaming system, the Wii, is on the decline, selling about 4.5 million units in the U.S. in 2011, down from about 7 million sold in 2010.
Meanwhile, the 3DS, Nintendo's new hand-held console, started out selling slowly when it launched in March. But by the end of 2011, the system sold about 4 million units in the U.S., hitting that mark faster than the Wii when it first launched in 2006.
With all that in mind, I sat down with Reggie Fils-Aime, president of Nintendo of America, at the 2012 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas this week. You can see parts of our interview in the video above, but as expected, Fils-Aime said he didn't see sliding Wii sales as a negative but a positive leading into the release of the Wii U.
"The Wii is now approaching 40 million homes here in the United States, so from a penetration standpoint we're beginning to top out in terms of the total number of systems sold, and that's why it makes so much sense to prepare for the launch of the Wii U," he said.
The Wii U will still use the motion-sensing controller system introduced in the Wii, but will add to the mix a new tablet-like controller with a built-in 6-inch touch screen. Some have said that, so far, the Wii U's new controller is a winning idea, while others have questioned if it's already destined to fail.
Fils-Aime said Nintendo is on the path to breaking new ground again, just as it did when it added a joystick to a controller for the first time or when it was first to add motion and rumble feedback to controllers as well.
"The big innovation with the Wii U is the controller and the ability to have an interactive experience that leverages all of your traditional input buttons as well as a screen built right into the controller," Fils-Aime said. "Yes, the system is HD capable; it'll generate the most gorgeous pictures. But for us that's not enough.
"We need to continue pushing the overall experience forward. We need to bring new types of entertainment. New types of gaming and the combination of a big first screen — your home TV — coupled with a second screen in your hands, in our view, is going to bring gaming to a whole new experience and to continue driving the industry."
Fils-Aime offered little new information about the Wii U — we still don't know much about specs and Nintendo isn't announcing launch titles, pricing or release dates yet.
But for now, the Nintendo executive said hardware horsepower isn't the point as much as what the Wii U and its new controller will be able to do that rival gaming platforms — the Microsoft Xbox 360, Sony PlayStation 3 and even Apple's iPhone and iPad — can't.
"The system is capable to do the most complicated, the most HD-intensive types of games. But plus, now with a touch screen in your hands, all types of other gaming possibilities exist. So we want the full experience," Fils-Aime said, later adding, "One of the things that we think makes us different from all of the other companies here at CES is that we leverage technology for people to have fun."
Stay tuned to the Technology blog for more on the Wii U from CES. I also got to go hands-on with the Wii U, and on Saturday I'll offer my take on just how much fun the new system is.
– Nathan Olivarez-Giles
Image: Nintendo's new Wii U controller. Credit: Nintendo
As General Motors introduced its first efforts to bring apps from your smartphone into your dashboard at the 2012 Consumer Electronics Show, Ford expanded its Sync AppLink system — which does just that and launched about a year ago.
When AppLink made its debut, Pandora was the only app a Sync user could operate via in-dash touch screen. Later, Stitcher radio gained Sync compatibility, which includes voice control as well.
Ford announced at CES in Las Vegas this week that apps for iPhones, BlackBerrys and phones that Google's Android would be added to the AppLink-friendly list, including NPR News, Slacker Radio, iHeartRadio, TuneIn Radio and Ford's own Sync Destinations turn-by-turn navigation app.
To see NPR News and Slacker Radio in action in a new Ford Mustang GT, check out our video from CES above.
Ford says that more apps that work with Sync's voice recogniton software are on the way. Oddly enough, Sync (which was developed through a partnership between Ford and Microsoft) has no AppLink compatibility with Windows Phone apps.
Just as with GM's in-car-app systems — Chevrolet MyLink and Cadillac CUE — AppLink can use apps only if it’s connected to a smartphone with the app installed, and it accesses data through the phone. Ford isn't selling any AppLink data plans.
For now, AppLink is available only in Sync-equipped Fiestas, Mustangs, Fusions, F-150s and Econoline vans, but the U.S. automaker is considering pushing AppLink out to other Ford brands, such as Lincoln, as well as to vehicles running older versions of Sync.
– Nathan Olivarez-Giles
Image: A screen shot of Ford's Sync Destinations app. Credit: Ford
New televisions, laptops, all-in-one desktops and a "Stream Player" set-top box that can add Google TV software to any HDMI-equipped television set — Vizio had a lot of announcements to make at the 2012 Consumer Electronics Show.
A bit more quietly, the Irvine company also previewed a new tablet that it says will launch this year as a follow-up to the 8-inch Vizio Tablet that launched late last year.
Vizio let us get a few minutes of hands-on time with its new tablet, but details on what the device would be made up of were few and far between.
The new tablet sports a 10-inch touch screen and front and rear cameras, and it felt a bit lighter than the current 8-inch model.
Rob Kermode, a senior product manager at Vizio, said the company was declining to say anything about the tablet's price or release dates or about what processor, how much RAM, how much storage or what screen resolution the tablet would be.
In my short time using the tablet, I felt a step up in performance compared with its 8-inch predecessor. The device reacted faster to my touch, launched apps more quickly and seemed not to stutter as much when it handled simple tasks such as playing animations Vizio has programmed into the operating system.
The prototype tablet was running Google's Android Honeycomb software with Vizio's VIA Plus user interface over the top of it, which looks very similar to the version of Android Gingerbread found on the 8-inch tablet. Kermode said Vizio was looking into Ice Cream Sandwich, the latest version of Android, but wouldn't promise that the new tablet would ship running that OS.
To see the new tablet in action, check out our video from CES in Las Vegas above.
– Nathan Olivarez-Giles in Las Vegas
Photo: Vizio's 10-inch tablet. Credit: Vizio
Pick. Thrash. Wail. Let out your inner Jimmy Page, Jack White or Yngwie Malmsteen — with an iPad.
The Guitar Apprentice app and controller from Ion Audio, which we looked at during the 2012 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas this week, aims to help students learn the basics of playing guitar before they drop some cash on a full guitar and amp setup. Although playing iPad guitar isn't as sexy as the real thing, this might reduce the number of Squier Strats and practice amps languishing in the closets of frustrated students who never pegged down barre chords.
The most obvious comparison is with the popular Guitar Hero and Rock Band video games, but Guitar Apprentice offers a more complex setup than the video game controllers, with buttons simulating the six strings on each of 14 frets on the neck, in a body similar to the classic Gibson SG. LEDs on the frets light up to show basic note or chord patterns, and students strum or pick simulated strings on the iPad screen. Effects such as delay, reverb and flanger are also available to customize distortion effects.
Guitar Apprentice is one in a series of music learning app-and-controller sets from Ion Audio, which also includes Piano Apprentice and Drum Apprentice, as well as Drum Master, which comes with a full-size electric drum kit. The plastic instruments connect to the iPad, and each shows students where or how to play, lighting up frets, piano keys or drum pads as appropriate. Teachers also appear on the apps to present basic lessons to users.
Apps are Core MIDI, which enables integration with other music apps such as GarageBand. The app and controller, when released, are to have a retail price of $99.
Just keep in mind: Although the frets on the controller are designed to simulate fretting real guitar strings, it doesn't look like the app will alleviate the sore fingers students will have if they ever move up to a real guitar.
– Armand Emamdjomeh
Photo: The fret board on the Ion Guitar Appretice. Credit: Armand Emamdjomeh / Los Angeles Times
At the 2012 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, we saw a bit of a scramble by TV makers such as Samsung and LG to show off what they working on or releasing in the coming year that would allow us to control our TVs using voice, gesture and facial recognition.
Many technology pundits and analysts have said these sorts of announcements, which also took place at last year's CES, are in response to rumors that Apple is working on an "iTV" that will offer a new way of controlling a TV and maybe even how we pay for or watch channels and TV shows.
But as many video-game lovers out there know, TV voice recognition, gesture controls and facial recognition are already here in the form of Microsoft's Kinect motion-sensing camera, which is an accessory to the Xbox 360 home gaming console.
However, Kinect is just getting started, and currently has a small number of apps. And it's still a device that sells for about $150 and requires an Xbox 360, which starts at $200. Make no mistake, there will be a cost of entry to the future of TV.
At CES 2012, Microsoft showed off a bit of what the future may hold for Kinect, the Xbox and TV with demonstrations of its latest Kinect-enabled app for the Xbox, called Sesame Street Kinect (you can see our demonstration of the app in a video atop this article).
Sesame Street Kinect is what it sounds like, episodes of the long-running children's program tailored to use the Kinect camera. And what Kinect can do is really impressive.
Since 1969, children around the world have sat in front of TVs repeating back the alphabet, colors, words and numbers to characters on Sesame Street (I did it when I was a child). Until Sesame Street Kinect, which is set to release later this year at an unannounced price, the characters on the screen couldn't respond to the viewer's actions. Now, to a limited extent, they can.
The demonstration we saw featured the Grover, Elmo and Cookie Monster characters prompting viewers to interact by either saying certain words or moving in certain ways.
For example, we took part in a demonstration in which Grover drops a box of coconuts and asks that the viewer pick them up and throw them back to him.
I f the viewer stands up and moves in the way that they would throw an imaginary coconut (don't throw a real coconut unless your trying to break your TV) then Grover catches each one in his box, even reacting to how hard the Kinect interprets the viewer's throw to be.
The experience was a lot of fun for a room of four adults, and I imagine kids will enjoy this sort of thing too. Jose Pinero, am Xbox spokesman, said a similarly interactive app from National Geographic is coming this year as well.
Although Microsoft has sold more than 66 million Xbox consoles and more than 18 million Kinect cameras, the tech giant realizes it has something bigger than just video games on its hands with Kinect.
Both Kinect and Xbox Live are headed to Windows 8 later this year. Hopefully, that will mean more interactive "two-way TV" apps like Sesame Street Kinect, and more apps related to media outlets such as ESPN and National Geographic.
There are also rumors that the company is working to get Kinect built directly into TVs, which would very likely place Xbox Live and Kinect in direct competition with Google TV and Apple's expected entry into the TV market. That's a living-room showdown I'd like to see.
Photos: Sesame Street Kinect in action. Credit: Armand Emamdjomeh / Los Angeles Times
Nokia and Microsoft's first flagship smartphone for the U.S., the Lumia 900, made its official debut at the 2012 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.
The new Windows Phone handset was first unveiled Monday by Nokia, and later that night Microsoft brought the new phone on stage in what was the final CES keynote speech from the tech giant best known for the powerhouse Windows PC operating system.
The Lumia 900 so far has been confirmed as running only on AT&T's 4G LTE network and picks up stylistically where the Lumia 800 left off, with an attractive rounded polycarbonate body and a flat, sliced-off-looking top and bottom.
However, the Lumia 900 will have a larger screen than the Lumia 800 — up to 4.3 inches from 3.7 inches. The resolution of the display will remain 480 by 800 pixels, as is standard for all Windows Phone handsets.
The new Nokia will be offered from AT&T in either cyan or matte black and feature a 1.4-gigahertz Qualcomm processor, 512 megabytes of RAM, 16 gigabytes of built-in storage, an 8-megapixel rear camera that can shoot up to 720p video and a 1.3-megapixel front facing camera for video chatting.
The Lumia 900 will be thinner than T-Mobile's Lumia 710, a 0.45-inches-thick 4G phone I reviewed last weekend.
Nokia officials also told me at CES that the Lumia 800 is finally going to get a U.S. launch as well, but it will be sold only as an unlocked phone. That means the Lumia 800 will sell without part of the cost of the phone being eaten up by a wireless carrier's subsidy, which may put it in the $500-range, though Nokia declined to specify.
Microsoft and Nokia also had no details to offer on pricing or a release date for the Lumia 900. As soon as we can, we'll get the phone in our hands for a full review. In the meantime, check out our hands-on video from CES with both the Nokia Lumia 900 above; and photos and of the Lumia 900 and Lumia 800 after the jump.
– Nathan Olivarez-Giles
Photo: The Nokia Lumia 900 in the foreground, with the Lumia 800 in the middle and an Apple iPhone 4S in the rear. Armand Emamdjomeh/Los Angeles Times
General Motors is at the 2012 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas in a major way, showing of its new infotainment systems for Chevrolets and Cadillacs.
Both systems — Chevy's MyLink and Cadillac's CUE — will debut this year, and each brings touch screens and in-car apps like Pandora and Stitcher to GM's automobiles. For many cars, MyLink and CUE replace in the dashboard a big radio and CD player.
After getting some hands-on time with CUE and MyLink, I couldn't help but think that systems like these are yet another nail in the coffin of CDs and physical media in general.
And why not? It seems that for years CD sales and even DVD sales have been on the decline. With the rise of MP3 players and smartphones, many people are now plugging their digital devices into their dashboards to listen to music. Even GPS units have been replaced by navigation apps found in smartphones for many.
So what's GM doing about this change in consumer behavior? MyLink and CUE are aided by users who have smartphones. For example, both systems offer a Pandora app for listening to music streamed from the Web, but that app is unusable in the dashboard unless you have a smartphone with a Pandora app of its own.
When you're using Pandora with MyLink or CUE, you're consuming data on your smartphone's data plan as well. And MyLink and CUE can play music, video and even photos loaded on a smartphone, MP3 player or even a thumb drive.
Although the systems use the smartphone, they don't by any means replace the smartphone's role in a car. Instead, MyLink and CUE build off of this growing relationship between consumers and their phones.
Of course, MyLink and CUE are usable without the aid of a smartphone, for things like operating a car's air-conditioning system, tuning the ol' AM/FM radio or getting turn-by-turn navigation through OnStar (with an OnStar subscription of course).
Chevy's MyLink also comes in two flavors, so to speak. There is a lower-end version, built and supplied by LG, that will be found in the 2013 Sonic and Spark, Chevrolet's entry-level autos. In these models, MyLink will be devoid of a built-in CD player.
However, a different version of MyLink built by Panasonic for higher-end Chevrolets such as the Volt and the Equinox can be ordered with a CD player as an option. With Cadillac Cue, owners can get a CD player in their glove box as an option.
The two variations of MyLink perform the same actions but offer different user interfaces and perform tasks a bit differently. For example, although both can handle voice recognition for hands-free calling, LG's version uses voice recognition software found in a connected smartphone, and the Panasonic version has this feature built in.
GM has promised software upgrades and some more apps for MyLink and CUE after customers offer some feedback on what sort of apps they want.
To see CUE in action, check out our hands-on video above. For MyLink, check out the video from GM below.
– Nathan Olivarez-Giles in Las Vegas
Photo: Chevrolet's MyLink infotainment system. Credit: General Motors
It used to be that only "real" cameras had the cool lens accessories. But more and more are coming for the camera on your phone. One that caught my eye at CES gave a new perspective to iPhone video.
GoPano Micro — which really made me want to yell "up periscope!" — is a lens by EyeSee360 that lets your iPhone 4 and 4S shoot real-time 360-degree video. You attach it over the iPhone's camera using the case that comes with it. And in conjunction with a free app, you can shoot the scene around you with minimal effort.
The video isn't just panoramic. It's also interactive. You can tap the screen — or click in the video on your computer — to shift perspective and see what's on the other side of the camera. You can also flatten out the image to see all angles at the same time.
GoPano Micro sells for about $80.
– Michelle Maltais in Las Vegas
The Nokia Lumia 710 is a small, low-cost smartphone with some big, high-cost bets riding on its success.
The Lumia 710 is Nokia's first phone to hit the U.S. running Microsoft's Windows Phone operating system — more specifically, Windows Phone 7.5 Mango. It's also the first tangible product to hit store shelves, in this case T-Mobile stores, as a result of a deal between Nokia and Microsoft announced in February and signed in April that's reportedly worth billions of dollars.
So is the Lumia 710 a good smartphone or not? Simply put, it is. It's a simple, low-end phone, but it's a solid little phone worth your consideration if you're new to smartphones or looking for an affordable Windows Phone handset. The Lumia 710 runs $49.99 on a 2-year contract with T-Mobile starting Jan. 11.
A 3.7-inch touch screen is featured on the new Nokia, which looks good but results, disappointingly, in a bit of color distortion at extreme angles. The resolution of the screen, which is responsive and very fingerprint prone in the black colorway I tested, is 800 x 480 pixels. Video playback, apps, photos and websites all looked great on the Lumia 710.
The phone is powered by a single-core 1.4-gigahertz Snapdragon processor from Qualcomm, and 512 megabytes of RAM and 8 gigabytes of built-in storage are included. There is no microSD card slot for storage expansion and there is no front-facing camera for video chatting — which falls in line with the lower-end expectations the Lumia 710's price reflects. Though it should be noted that the HTC Radar 4G, which sells for the same price from T-Mobile, does include a front-facing camera.
On the back is a 5-megapixel camera with a single LED flash, which takes clear, detailed photos and can also shoot 720p video. The camera can't match the 8-megapixel shooters found on higher end smartphones, but again, the Lumia 710 isn't a high-end $200 or $300 smartphone.
The Lumia 710 was fast and performed well. I won't go too deep into Windows Phone Mango (for more on that, check out my October review of Mango), but while it isn't the most complicated or power-demanding operating system out there, the Lumia 710 handled everything I threw at it. In about two weeks of testing, I never had an app freeze or crash on me. Call quality was good with voices sounding clear and no dropped calls experienced. T-Mobile's 4G network offered up fast downloads and uploads on the Lumia 710. Battery life was also great: I consistently got a day's worth of charge, no problem.
Stylistically, the Lumia 710 is a bit plain, though not at all unattractive. The curved back plate on the phone is coated in a rubberized plastic that is grippy and comfortable to hold in the hand no matter what you're doing on the phone. The back plate is removable and Nokia is selling different colors — cyan, magenta, yellow, black and white — which thankfully can help add a bit of style.
Below the phone's display is a single piece of plastic which rises out of the face of the Lumia 710 to house three buttons: back, home and search. Many Windows Phone handsets have opted for touch-capacitive buttons and not a large physical button, but that's the way Nokia went this time around and it's unique. You may or may not like the large button, but it is an original look and one I didn't mind at all. The right side of the Lumia 710 is a volume rocker above a dedicated camera button, which responded fast when clicked. Up top is the phone's power button, headphone jack and, in another departure, USB port.
The top of the phone is a bit of a strange place for a USB port, but I actually liked this decision simply because I hadn't really seen it before. Nokia's phones will need to stand out and feel genuinely different from Samsung, HTC and others that make Windows Phone handsets.
This phone, while overall a standard and not at all groundbreaking phone, still feels different than others I've seen at this price range and I think that's a good thing. It's small choices, like the removable colored back plates, the large button on the front, and the USB port up top that give the Lumia 710 some personality.
Build quality is solid and the Lumia 710 feels like it could take some abuse and survive over the life of a two-year contract with no problems.
The Lumia 710 also has a couple of unique features on the software side, with a different color option for Windows Phone's app tiles called Nokia Blue, which looks a bit more royal than the standard blue like the Tar Heel blue worn by the University of North Carolina. Nokia apps are also another differentiator for the Lumia 710 and future Nokia Windows Phones.
The best of the included Noika apps was Nokia Drive, a turn-by-turn voice navigation app that delivered GPS directions in a clear, understandable manner. Nokia Drive also re-calibrated quickly when I went against its suggested routes.
All in all, the Nokia Lumia 710 was a phone I enjoyed using. It didn't make me want to give up my Apple iPhone 4S or the Samsung Galaxy Nexus. But unlike the Nokia Lumia 800 on sale in Europe and Asia, the Lumia 710 wasn't designed to do that. Nokia will need to release such a phone in the U.S. to justify its multibillion-dollar partnership with Microsoft.
But while there aren't a ton of bells and whistles here, this straightforward, well-built, speedy little smartphone looks like a good starting point for Nokia and Microsoft.
– Nathan Olivarez-Giles
Photos: The Nokia Lumia 710. Credit: Armand Emamdjomeh/Los Angeles Times
Microsoft has released new details on its Windows Store for Windows 8 — no it's not called App Store a la Apple — which will be its online storefront selling applications to run on Windows 8 laptops, desktops and tablets.
The Windows Store will sell "Metro-style" apps. Microsoft Metro is the design language of flat, actively updating "live tile" icons for apps that debuted last year on the Windows Phone 7 operating system, and is making its way over to the Xbox 360 video game system this week in a software update.
Most Windows 8 Metro apps available in the Windows Store should adhere to touch, stylus or keyboard and mouse input, since they'll have to run on traditional PCs and tablets as well.
Microsoft will also have a tiered system of what its cut of an apps revenue will be. Apple famously takes a 30% cut of revenue for all apps sold in its iOS App Store (for the iPad, iPhone and iPod Touch) and Mac App Store (for Mac computers).
Microsoft will take a similar 30% share of revenue for each app sold in its Windows Store, but once an app passes $25,000 in total revenue, the tech giant will drop its share down to 20% for the remainder of time that the app is sold, the company said in a statement.
To access the new Windows Store, the masses will have to wait until Windows 8 officially launches sometime next year. But developers will be able to access the Windows Store, in a beta release, if they've installed the Windows 8 Developer Preview version of the new OS, which is a free download available to all.
Microsoft is now taking Windows 8 app submissions and has launched a "First Apps Contest," which the tech giant will use to choose the first eight apps available in the Windows Store when it officially opens.
The new Windows Store isn't the first time that Microsoft is taking a stab at replicating the success Apple has had with its App Stores. The much-maligned Windows Vista had an app store called the Windows Marketplace, though both the operating system and the Marketplace never found much popularity.
Still, Windows is the most widely used PC operating system in the world. Microsoft says it has sold more than 500 million Windows 7 licenses worldwide to date and the company is hoping that Windows 8 will continue dominating PCs as well as give the company a significant stake in the growing tablet market that it lacks.
Microsoft also said that the Windows Store will launch globally in 231 markets and more than 100 languages, with the ability to accept payments in 58 currencies.
Follow the jump to see screen shots of the Windows Store in action.
– Nathan Olivarez-Giles
Image: A screen shot of the Windows Store in Windows 8. Credit: Microsoft
The Kobo Vox tablet feels like a missed opportunity.
Over the last year, the scrappy Canadian e-reading company has released the impressive Kobo Touch eInk eReader and polished its Kobo Reading Life apps into worthy rivals to Amazon’s Kindle apps and Barnes & Noble’s Nook apps on tablets and smart phones.
The company is in the process of being purchased by Japan’s equivalent to Amazon, the massive online retailer Rakuten. Despite Kobo’s largest U.S. retail partner, Borders, closing its doors, it seemed that Kobo was akin to a promising, aspiring prizefighter on the brink of being ready to challenge the heavyweight champs of e-reading, Amazon and Barnes & Noble.
With the Vox, Kobo has taken a step back, delivering a product that doesn’t come close to its rivals and one that doesn’t match up to the quality I expected given how much I like the Kobo Touch and Kobo reading apps on Google’s Android and Apple’s iOS devices.
On paper, the Vox looked like a smart move, selling for $199.99 and featuring a seven-inch touch-screen with eight gigabytes of built-in storage — that’s the same included storage and price as the Fire and the same as the Nook Color (the Nook Tablet sells for $249). Just as the Nook Color and Nook Tablet do, the Vox features with a MicroSD card slot, which can accommodate a card of up to 32-gigabytes in size, if you don’t mind buying one.
Like the Fire and the Nook, the Vox runs a modified version of the Android Gingerbread operating system, designed by Google with phones, not tablets in mind.
But unlike those two others, Kobo has only made minimal changes to Gingerbread, most noticeably pinning reading-related functions to the bottom of the Vox’s Android home screens.
I was hopeful Kobo would deliver a competitive product, but instead I found myself disappointed at just about every turn in using the Vox.
The hardware, from the outside, isn’t bad looking. The back of the Vox is great to hold on to, with Kobo’s signature quilted pattern rendered in a soft and grippy plastic. On the review unit I tested, a light-blue rim of plastic sat between the back of the Kobo and its 1020 x 600 pixel resolution display.
It’s nice to see a company take a bit of risk design-wise, especially when compared with the boring looks of the Kindle Fire. The Vox is also offered with lime-green, pink and black rims.
But once I turned on the device, it was mostly downhill.
The Vox starts up slow, and I failed to ever reach the seven-hour battery life Kobo claims for the Vox. I usually got about four or five hours of battery life, but there were about four times in my week of testing that the device would shut itself off when falling below an 80% charge (a couple of those delays struck when we were shooting the above video).
When the Vox was up and running, it did so sluggishly. Loading apps, menus, Web pages; checking email; opening e-books; turning pages in e-books — everything took place slowly. It felt as though the Vox was always a step, or a second or two, behind my touch input. The display also fails to match the clarity, brightness, color range or viewing angles of the Fire and the Nook Tablet.
Snappy, speedy, responsive — these are not words I would use to describe the Vox. Too often I found myself staring at a rotating gray circle waiting for something to load. This complaint can partly be attributed to lower-end internal specs, such as an 800-megahertz processor and 512-megabytes of RAM, but if tuned enough with the right software, such hardware shouldn’t be so slow.
Kobo has a solid selection of books available for sale, more than 2.3 million titles. Major new releases are often available at a price that meets or beats those of Amazon or Barnes & Noble. But unlike Amazon and Barnes & Noble, Kobo has no app store — instead directing users to purchase apps from the independent online app store GetJar.
Like Barnes & Noble, but very much unlike Amazon, Kobo has no storefront for music, movies or TV shows, either.
Although I like the hardware of the Nook Color and Nook Table, and I like the software and Web services of the Fire, I can’t say that I’m happy with either the hardware or software offered by the Vox. At the same price as the Fire and the Nook Color, the Vox seems overpriced and more in line with tablets that sold for about $130 to $150 a year ago.
I wanted to like the Vox, but I didn’t. Instead, the Vox feels like a prototype, not a fully finished product ready for the masses. And that left me flatly disappointed.
Photo: The Kobo Vox tablet, on top of an Amazon Kindle Fire and a Barnes & Noble Nook Tablet. Credit: Armand Emamdjomeh/Los Angeles Times
Youtube is rolling out a redesign today and it is easily the most significant since the site's launch in 2006.
The new design offers a completely new home page experience for users which integrates deeply with Google+ and other third party providers including Twitter and Facebook, emphasizes "channels" – likely in an effort to be the Internet TV provider of choice in the future, and is showcasing to users' their existing channel subscriptions and revealing new and related content.
The home page features an activity stream (see below) that includes video uploads, likes and favorites, comments as well as announcements. With this improved personalization, Youtube hopes to improve upon the 200 million people that visit the homepage everyday already – which are often one-and-done visitors that arrive from destinations like Facebook and Twitter. Users can browser categories, preview a channel's content, subscribe to channels and see the activity from all of their subscriptions.
In related news, this week the video platform announced its YouTube Analytics tool will replace Youtube Insights. Google is touting the tool as a way for account holders to gain more insights into who views their vidoes, where they view it, and for how long. The new analytics offers video producers the ability to access a quick overview and more in-depth reporting through its Audience Builder and Audience Retion Tools. Ultimately, YouTube hopes these more in-depth analytics will lead to video being optimize, and better made.
Top Tube Video Downloader Tools
YouTube has become a household name for entertainment and anything else involving videos, which is why a tube video downloader is such a useful tool. Everything from short goofy clips to involved online tutorials is available through the popular website with the only minor drawback being viewing access. You have to be on the internet, log in to find your favorites or search for the video and hope that your bandwidth is running at optimum performance so you can watch the video uninterrupted. But now you can enjoy the convenience of downloading videos on to your computer, this is made possible through a few different devices.
First off, the logical solution to this problem would be for YouTube to make the content downloadable. YouTube is in the testing phase of giving video uploaders the option to make their videos downloadable for a price or for free. This will eliminate any outside problems of copyrights or law breaking since no matter how videos are shared after download they will still contain the original users YouTube source. This will most likely become a standard option, instead of just a test, in the not so distant future.
For now though, other options are still available for downloading pleasure. One well known option with unknown abilities is RealPlayer. Most RealPlayer versions can be used as a tube video downloader to download YouTube videos directly from the site. When you move over the video screen an option appears to download the video straight to your RealPlayer library. RealPlayer is also capable of burning the files to DVD, but this usually requires a version available through upgrade, meaning it isn’t free.
Other software options such as Savevid.com or Keepvid.com will still let you download the videos just not directly from the site. The process is slightly more involved but still not complicated. Simply copy the video URL or web address onto the toolbar and hit download. There are two different quality options, the higher MP4 version or its original FLV type. The FLV or flash format usually isn’t supported by normal video players so a converter will have to be downloaded as well if this option is chosen. You can find one easily by searching the web for an FLV converter.
One of the easiest to use is the Tube Video Downloader add-on. It’s compatible with Explorer and Firefox, which are the two most popular browsers. Once installed for free, you simply go to the video you’re interested in and hit save. That’s it!
After downloading your favorite videos it’s easy to unlink from your computer by simply downloading the video onto a media storage device or mp3 player with video playback. As discussed, some programs will even enable you to make your own DVD from the content. Beyond browser compatibility and certain attached fees, it’s a cut and dry process anyone can do in a matter of minutes. You can now watch hamsters do a back flips as many times as you want without even connecting to the internet!
Nearly all internet marketing professionals use video as one of the core methods for marketing their business. These ten tips aim to help you get started creating short, attractive, effective videos based on solid keywords that convert and that stand the test of time.
Video grabs people’s attention far more quickly and effectively than text, audio or photographs. Making a short video can capture a thousand words and pictures and helps to get across your personal brand and lifestyle.
It’s important to stand out in the crowd on video channels and search engines. Aim your headlines at capturing the imagination regarding your topic. So don’t be dull – test out curiosity, shock or fun tactics for getting those download clícks.
First of all, get set up.
When you’re starting out, it’s ok to just use your webcam. It will give you the chance to practice while you’re honing your presentation skills before you fork out for a camcorder. When you’re ready, you can purchase an inexpensive digital video recorder, like say the Flip and a tripod.
Make sure you take your videos in well-lit conditions. Inside your office you’ll need decent lighting, or you can whip out your camera when you’re out and about. It makes for a much more interesting back drop.
OK. So now let’s go through each of my TOP 10 TIPS for creating and using videos to market your business.
#1: Keep Your Videos Short
Whether you’re loading videos on YouTube or just putting them up on your website or blog, it’s really important to keep to just 5 or 6 minutes.
If needed, you can of course break longer topics up into a series of smaller videos, which you could market as a series (see tip 10).
#2: Post Videos on Your Sales PagesM
You can use video on your sales page to introduce the main benefits of your product or business opportuníty. How about placing a video on your sales page or sign up pages.
This helps to orientate visitors and to highlight the main points of your regular, written sales letter.
#3: Choose Your Keywords Carefully
This is really an important tip, because it will affect how your video gets picked up by the search engines and other internet ‘bots’ that seek out content.
Research your top keyword phrases. Pick keywords that will attract the right kind of traffic and leads – research like crazy to find out what your prospects are looking for – and be sure to include your keywords in headings and tags and description boxes.
Doing this research and tracking clíck thrus (CTR) and conversions will help you secure your most cost-effective keywords and keyword phrases.
#4: Have a Clear Purpose & Structure
Your keywords will help make sure you target your video on the right purpose before you start. Does your video answer the questions your visitors have in their heads when they’re searching for solutions. Make things crystal clear.
Stay on topic and give added value – unique value if possible – and your videos will convert much better for you. Write down a structure – a set of headings – for what you’re going to cover. Have a script if necessary.
You can mention any links that you have to another video specifically on that related topic.
#5: Look at the Camera
The aim here is to connect with your audience, both in the topic you choose and the content as well as in your communication style. Remember you are talking to people – real live people. What are their needs and wants, hopes and fears.
With regards to presentation, stick your líst of headings right next to the camera so you stay looking in the camera at all times, rather than looking away at a screen or down at your notes.
An authentic and honest video is far more valuable than a glossy TV like broadcast. So don’t worry if you’re not up to TV presenter standards. Just be yourself and enjoy the opportuníty to reach out to people in a different way than using text copy.
#6: Create a Clear Call to Action
You should create one very clear service and call to action. It’s very important that people know exactly what to do as a result of watching your video.
What is your most wanted response (MWR)? Don’t confuse visitors with lots of options and different offers. Focus on the single most wanted response.
Alternatively, you can put your video up next to a sign up box – linked to your emaíl marketing – and clearly ask them to opt ín, more than once. Provide an incentive, such as a free report or further video coaching resources.
#7: Encourage Comments on Your Video
One of the best things about video is that it’s a very personal, social medium. The more people that are talking about your video and passing it on, the more buzz you’ll create.
Visitors may return to your page to see who has commented since their last comment. There may accumulate a whole líst of tips that have been created by your niche community, prompted by your initial video post.
Video SEO – A Neglected Path To Higher Search Rankings
Video SEO is an underutilized search engine marketing
strategy. Even as videos continue to gain significant
traction in the search engines’ natural listings, most
companies either ignore them, or remain completely unaware
of their potency. That oversight represents a valuable edge
your company can use to leapfrog your competitors in the
The strategy blends traditional search optimization tactics
with a relatively new platform. With the rise of YouTube,
Revver, Blip, and similar video sites, consumption patterns
have driven the search engines to provide these sites with
greater ranking authority. As long as your primary
objective is clearly established, a video SEO campaign can
have a dramatic effect on your exposure in Google, Yahoo,
In this article, we’ll explain why you should integrate
video SEO into your current search marketing strategy. We
will also provide a few ingredients that will help you
avoid potential pitfalls along the way. Last, you will
learn what to look out for when choosing a video SEO
company that can drive traffic and conversions.
How Video SEO Improves Your Search Exposure
Before Google released their Universal Search platform in
May 2007, their natural listings were dominated by
text-based pages. Videos were rare in the top spots.
Universal Search changed the way Google displayed their
primary index. Google, Yahoo, and Bing now include entries
from their respective video search platforms. What’s more,
popular video-sharing sites have been given higher ranking
authority and increased link weight (we’ll describe this
latter point in a moment).
Video SEO gives you greater exposure in the search engines
through two levers. First, it caters to the algorithm used
for Universal Search. By allowing syndication of your
videos to authoritative video-sharing sites, you will enjoy
more exposure through their increased ranking authority. In
effect, those sites will rank higher, drawing more people
to your videos.
Second, videos that are placed on your site (as opposed to
syndicating them) attract links – both directly and
indirectly. As your videos gain popularity, direct links
will naturally build, pointing to the pages on your site
that host the videos. Indirect links will point from other
sites whose owners have embedded your videos. As a result,
your inbound link profile will continue to grow and
strengthen, lifting your site higher within the search
engines’ organic listings.
3 SEO Video Tips To Capture Higher Search Positions
Your video SEO campaign can only be effective if you
recognize the limitations of the search engines. First,
their algorithms cannot read lips. In order to rank for
your target keywords, they must be available to the search
engines’ spiders in text form. If you’re placing videos on
your site, optimize your titles and surrounding text, and
include an edited transcript of the video. If you’re
syndicating them, optimize your external titles and tags.
Second, focus on inbound links. An effective video SEO
campaign relies on contextually related links pointing from
a wide breadth of sites. Videos that spark a groundswell of
attention – whether through entertainment, information, or
controversy – can achieve this easily.
Third, integrate a social media sharing component. You want
viewers to share your videos with their friends on
Facebook. You want them to “Tweet” about your videos on
Twitter. You want them to bookmark your videos on
StumbleUpon, Digg and Delicious. These social media sites
can form the backbone of your video SEO campaign, driving
waves of inbound links to your site.
Key Factors In Choosing A Video SEO Company
Traditional search optimization is a mature strategy. SEO
specialists have honed their craft for more than a decade.
By contrast, video SEO is still an evolving science. Even
though it leverages the core tenets of a traditional SEO
campaign, the rise of social media and video-sharing sites
have infused video SEO with enormous complexity. Hiring a
video SEO company removes the need to keep up with the
roiling landscape. The key is using the right criteria to
identify a proficient firm.
A professional video SEO company should have an established
track record that shows a keen grasp of the search engines’
organic algorithms. That track record should also
demonstrate an ability to evolve as the algorithms change.
Many search optimization experts were completely unprepared
for the debut of Universal Search. By extension, so too,
were their clients.
Leveraging Video SEO For More Traffic And Higher Conversions
A carefully executed video SEO campaign can sharply
increase your exposure within the search engine’s natural
listings. When implemented as a component of a
multi-pronged search engine marketing campaign, it can
drive more targeted traffic to your site. Targeted traffic
translates into higher conversions. If you are not yet
utilizing video SEO for your site, your current organic
rankings may be more vulnerable than you realize.
Lacking any information to the contrary, many businesses still think that all they need to do to get new clients is to put their name and face in the Yellow Pages or online social directories, get some professional looking business cards, a website and Voila! It’s the old adage “build it and they will come”.
Trouble is, that’s what their competitors are doing also and in this day and age, it’s just not enough.
Does Your Business Stand Out Online?
Most advertising on the Web follows a time-honored format, although some might call it a time-worn format as it does little to differentiate itself. You can bet that a high percentage of this advertising will be ignored and the money spent on it will be wasted.
So how does a company stand out from the crowd online?
Thanks to an oversupply of similar text, claims, and presentation – coupled with a short 21st century attention span – your website has less than ten seconds to move a visitor to action. If it doesn’t, that visitor will click away to another site, and then another. Therefore, it’s critical that you find a way to break through the noise your competitors are making. But even that’s not enough.
Statistics show that even the best-looking websites generate conversion rates of under one percent, so for every 100 visitors you do manage to get, less than one will call or email you.
Sound bleak? Thinking of redirecting more of your advertising budget back to the Yellow Pages? Don’t. You’re on the right track – you just haven’t leveraged all the power available to you online.
One-to-Many Communication. One-on-One Feel.
Most websites are little more than electronic versions of Yellow Page advertising. For the most part, they don’t encourage interaction beyond the obligatory “Contact me for more information” plea. These sites don’t encourage trust any more than their print counterparts. They don’t give visitors the warm-and-fuzzy feeling that a face-to-face meeting would.
But they can.
Searching for a local service provider online can be a daunting prospect, but even more daunting than the search is deciding which provider to use once you get to the page, especially since most websites promise the standard good service, competitive pricing and high quality.
So how does a business differentiate itself from the sea of competition? Web video makes this possible on a grand scale.
Thanks to rapidly improving technology, it’s easier than ever to add that warm-and-fuzzy, face-to-face element to your site, replicate an in-person interview, and offer your visitors an opportunity to check you out before picking up the phone. With Web video, you can present an interview that addresses all the questions and concerns of potential clients. You can keep them on your site longer and give them insight into the “business behind the business.” In a way that wasn’t possible even a few years ago, business owners can now speak directly to their audiences and showcase their personalities and areas of expertise. This is especially helpful if you are a professional service provider.
Any business that relies on conveying trust-ability will benefit from this type of web marketing. Really, it’s one-to-many communication with a one-on-one feel. It’s the perfect ice breaker and an efficient means of generating the interest and trust needed to compel potential clients to make an appointment and do business.
A high-quality Web interview placed strategically on your site is a huge timesaver for you and prospective clients because you reach a wide audience in minimal time. Potential clients get the information they need to pre-qualify – and pre-sell – themselves before they call.
Online video delivers some of the best ROI of any advertising medium today and if set up properly, is actually ranks higher than text now by the major search engines like Google. Short of spending valuable face time with a potential client (often times a poorly qualified potential client) there is simply no better way to forge a personal connection with them. With that in mind, here are 10 tips to help you get the most of your online video marketing efforts.
10 Tips for making the most of Online Video
1. Make sure your video is professionally done.
This is an absolute must. The whole point here is to establish credibility and trust, but you’ll do the opposite with a poorly executed and produced video. Yes, many of the videos you find on sharing sites are mediocre at best, but that is changing rapidly as companies begin to see the value of promoting themselves in this manner. In fact, a recent Permission TV survey found that 67% of 400 hundred top executives intended to focus their online marketing efforts on video in 2009. The rush is coming – find a personable, engaging interviewer and a top notch production crew to really stand out.
2. Submit your video to as many outlets as possible.
While YouTube is the clear leader here, there are many other video sharing sites worthy of consideration. Here are some others you won’t want to pass up:
• Google Video, http://video.google.com
• Yahoo! Video, http://video.yahoo.com
• Daily Motion, http://www.dailymotion.com
• MySpaceTV, http://vids.myspace.com
• MetaCafe, http://www.metacafe.com
• Revver, http://www.revver.com
• Veoh, http://www.veoh.com
• Blinkx, http://www.blinkx.com
• Break, http://www.break.com
3. Embed your video on the front page of your site.
Don’t hide what’s going to become one of your most effective selling tools on a dusty inside page. Get it out front. Customers and search engines will love you for it.
4. Find out what search terms your potential clients are using and put them in your video’s title.
If you don’t know what words clients in need of your services are typing into Google and other search engines, get professional help or use some of the resources featured on this page. Once you’ve identified these terms, use the most popular in your video’s title.
5. Make your tags and descriptions SEO-friendly, too.
Most video sharing sites let you tag videos with keywords and post a short description, so get the most out of these by sprinkling in the search terms you’ve identified.
6. Don’t forget your thumbnail.
A thumbnail is a still shot from your video that appears along with search results. Don’t waste this opportunity to present yourself in the best light possible – choose a key moment from your video, preferably one where you’re smiling as you speak with your interviewer.
7. Link back to your site.
Put your URL near the top of your video’s description. You’ll get a higher search ranking and potential clients will quickly learn where to go for more information.
8. Interact with your viewers.
Most video sharing sites allow viewer comments. Use this opportunity to answer questions, respond to comments, and further promote your business.
9. Consider a pay-per-click campaign.
Natural search engine optimization, while effective, takes time to bear fruit. In the meantime, you might want to jump start the process with a pay-per-click campaign that gives you a sponsored search listing. You can learn more about PPC advertising at www.google.com/intl/en/ads, sem.smallbusiness.yahoo.com/searchenginemarketing, and http://advertising.microsoft.com/search-advertising.
10. Add new content often.
Search engines look for it and so do potential clients. Keep your content fresh and up-to-date and keep visitors coming back for more.
With an ever-increasing stream of competition, it’s more important than ever to stand out from the crowd. These days standing out means maximizing your online presence and leveraging the technology to present the unique advantages of you and your firm. There’s no better way for a growth-oriented business to build a solid and secure future than by using effective and affordable online video.
Use these free resources to get a handle on the terms that potential clients are using to search for you right now.
Google AdWords, http://adwords.google.com/select/KeywordToolExternal
Keyword Discovery, http://www.keyworddiscovery.com/search.html
Google Trends, htttp://www.google.com/trends
10 Tips to Grow Your Business Using Online Video
By Diana D’Itri (c) 2010
Lacking any information to the contrary, many businesses still
think that all they need to do to get new clients is to put
their name and face in the Yellow Pages or online social
directories, get some professional looking business cards, a
website and Voila! It’s the old adage “build it and they will
Trouble is, that’s what their competitors are doing also and in
this day and age, it’s just not enough.
Does Your Business Stand Out Online?
Most advertising on the Web follows a time-honored format,
although some might call it a time-worn format as it does little
to differentiate itself. You can bet that a high percentage of
this advertising will be ignored and the money spent on it will
So how does a company stand out from the crowd online?
Thanks to an oversupply of similar text, claims, and
presentation – coupled with a short 21st century attention span
- your website has less than ten seconds to move a visitor to
action. If it doesn’t, that visitor will click away to another
site, and then another. Therefore, it’s critical that you find a
way to break through the noise your competitors are making. But
even that’s not enough.
Statistics show that even the best-looking websites generate
conversion rates of under one percent, so for every 100 visitors
you do manage to get, less than one will call or email you.
Sound bleak? Thinking of redirecting more of your advertising
budget back to the Yellow Pages? Don’t. You’re on the right
track – you just haven’t leveraged all the power available to
One-to-Many Communication. On-on-One Feel.
Most websites are little more than electronic versions of Yellow
Page advertising. For the most part, they don’t encourage
interaction beyond the obligatory “Contact me for more
information” plea. These sites don’t encourage trust any more
than their print counterparts. They don’t give visitors the
warm-and-fuzzy feeling that a face-to-face meeting would.
But they can.
Searching for a local service provider online can be a daunting
prospect, but even more daunting than the search is deciding
which provider to use once you get to the page, especially since
most websites promise the standard good service, competitive
pricing and high quality.
So how does a business differentiate itself from the sea of
competition? Web video makes this possible on a grand scale.
Thanks to rapidly improving technology, it’s easier than ever to
add that warm-and-fuzzy, face-to-face element to your site,
replicate an in-person interview, and offer your visitors an
opportunity to check you out before picking up the phone. With
Web video, you can present an interview that addresses all the
questions and concerns of potential clients. You can keep them
on your site longer and give them insight into the “business
behind the business.” In a way that wasn’t possible even a few
years ago, business owners can now speak directly to their
audiences and showcase their personalities and areas of
expertise. This is especially helpful if you are a professional
Any business that relies on conveying trust-ability will benefit
from this type of web marketing. Really, it’s one-to-many
communication with a one-on-one feel. It’s the perfect ice
breaker and an efficient means of generating the interest and
trust needed to compel potential clients to make an appointment
and do business.
A high-quality Web interview placed strategically on your site
is a huge timesaver for you and prospective clients because you
reach a wide audience in minimal time. Potential clients get the
information they need to pre-qualify – and pre-sell – themselves
before they call.
Online video delivers some of the best ROI of any advertising
medium today and if set up properly, actually ranks higher
than text now by the major search engines like Google. Short of
spending valuable face time with a potential client (often times
a poorly qualified potential client) there is simply no better
way to forge a personal connection with them. With that in mind,
here are 10 tips to help you get the most of your online video
10 Tips for Making the Most of Online Video
1. Make Sure Your Video is Professionally Done.
This is an absolute must. The whole point here is to establish
credibility and trust, but you’ll do the opposite with a poorly
executed and produced video. Yes, many of the videos you find on
sharing sites are mediocre at best, but that is changing rapidly
as companies begin to see the value of promoting themselves in
this manner. In fact, a recent Permission TV survey found that
67% of 400 hundred top executives intended to focus their online
marketing efforts on video in 2009. The rush is coming – find a
personable, engaging interviewer and a top notch production crew
to really stand out.
2. Submit Your Video to as Many Outlets as Possible.
While YouTube is the clear leader here, there are many other
video sharing sites worthy of consideration. Here are some
others you won’t want to pass up:
� Google Video: http://video.google.com
� Yahoo! Video: http://video.yahoo.com
� Daily Motion: http://www.dailymotion.com
� MySpaceTV: http://vids.myspace.com
� MetaCafe: http://www.metacafe.com
� Revver: http://www.revver.com
� Veoh: http://www.veoh.com
� Blinkx: http://www.blinkx.com
� Break: http://www.break.com
3. Embed Your Video on the Front Page of Your Site.
Don’t hide what’s going to become one of your most effective
selling tools on a dusty inside page. Get it out front.
Customers and search engines will love you for it.
4. Find Out What Search Terms Your Potential Clients are Using
and Put Them in Your Video’s Title.
If you don’t know what words clients in need of your services
are typing into Google and other search engines, get
professional help or use some of the resources featured on this
page. Once you’ve identified these terms, use the most popular
in your video’s title.
5. Make Your Tags and Descriptions SEO-friendly, too.
Most video sharing sites let you tag videos with keywords and
post a short description, so get the most out of these by
sprinkling in the search terms you’ve identified.
6. Don’t Forget Your Thumbnail.
A thumbnail is a still shot from your video that appears along
with search results. Don’t waste this opportunity to present
yourself in the best light possible – choose a key moment from
your video, preferably one where you’re smiling as you speak
with your interviewer.
7. Link Back to Your Site.
Put your URL near the top of your video’s description. You’ll
get a higher search ranking and potential clients will quickly
learn where to go for more information.
8. Interact With Your Viewers.
Most video sharing sites allow viewer comments. Use this
opportunity to answer questions, respond to comments, and
further promote your business.
9. Consider a Pay-Per-Click Campaign.
Natural search engine optimization, while effective, takes time
to bear fruit. In the meantime, you might want to jump start the
process with a pay-per-click campaign that gives you a sponsored
search listing. You can learn more about PPC advertising at:
10. Add New Content Often.
Search engines look for it and so do potential clients. Keep
your content fresh and up-to-date and keep visitors coming back
With an ever-increasing stream of competition, it’s more
important than ever to stand out from the crowd. These days
standing out means maximizing your online presence and
leveraging the technology to present the unique advantages of
you and your firm. There’s no better way for a growth-oriented
business to build a solid and secure future than by using
effective and affordable online video.
Use these free resources to get a handle on the terms that
potential clients are using to search for you right now.
Google AdWords: http://adwords.google.com/select/KeywordToolExternal
Keyword Discovery: http://www.keyworddiscovery.com/search.html
Google Trends: http://www.google.com/trends
Online video ads are not as popular as perceived with only 11 percent of consumers saying they were likely to click on video ads, according to a recent study. Simple text ads were found to be the most likely to receive clicks with 25 percent of consumers doing so, followed by display ads at 20 percent and banner ads at 12 percent.
It seems the video audience is mostly young people under the age of 25, a group that accounts for nearly one-third of the video-ad viewing audience.