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Broadening The Set Of Enterprise Content Platform Customers

May 8, 2009

In 2006, when we were just starting this project, we knew that a niche would be required to be able to successfully monetize our then video-only platform. We knew that the flash video player would eventually become commoditized just as it did and focused on platform capabilities rather than a feature rich player.  Turned out to be a smart move on our part – we’d otherwise be right where almost all of the other youtube clones are right now.

Because we were (and still are) a bootstrapped company, our approach was fairly simple: build out a section of our platform, get paying customers, rinse, and repeat. We made the decision to focus in real estate because it was and still is a great niche to demonstrate our platform capabilities with geolocation, content management, and language support.  Let’s face it, we were video before video was cool, local before local was cool, and international before international was cool.

That said, we always knew that the platform had broad applicability outside of real estate.  We are starting to market to those non-real estate markets and beginning to find success. We’re entering into a series of technical discussion with multinational players around a number of applications for our platform.  We’ll still have a team 100% focused on the real estate specific platform features but are also now hiring for broader expertise and executing against a plan well beyond real estate.

As a result, this blog will continue to focus on the broader aspects of the platform.

When we said that we would be an enterprise solution, we meant it. If our current technical discussions go well, we anticipate seeing rollouts of non-real estate versions of our platform within the next 2-3 months.  Stay tuned – we’ll release details as we are allowed.

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Month Of Code – Adding A New Feature Or Major Fix Every Work Day In April

April 19, 2009

The Month of Code for our team is now is full swing.  What is the Month of Code?  It’s an attempt to release a fully tested new feature or major fix every working day during the month of April 2009.

The Month of Code concept came about as a result of a simple question – “what features do we have just laying around that aren’t live?”  because we are bootstrapped without external investors, we’ve sometimes get sidetracked by large projects that keep the lights on.  This means that development on a certain feature begins, gets interrupted for a period of time, and then isnt a priority when we get back to feature development – the iPhone conversion feature is a great example.

So we’ve decided to do our best to see if we can empty our library of unreleased changes.  Here is our progress so far:

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1 April – significantly boosted our platform’s video conversion quality without losing the instant start and buffer free video that we are famous for

2 April -Added capability for members to associate videos by language so alternative language version appear in the player

3 April –  Integrated profile videos with certain types of content (example is from our real estate video portal)

4 April – Saturday

5 April – Sunday

6 April – released by popul;ar demand Unbranded Video for MLS and the ability to group Community/Neighborhood videos (real estate specific fixes)

7 April – added iPhone friendly video conversion for most types of video uploads

8 April – added FLV processing for videos uploaded as video podcasts

9 April– Improved the handling of related videos that are shown underneath the main video

10 April– Rewrote the interface and logic for creating custom branded embeddable video widgets far more simple

11 April – Saturday

12 April – Sunday

13 April – Added the ability to Syndicate  Documents/Youtube/Real Estate Show Content From A Folder to a tab underneath the video that is playing

14 April – Made a bunch of virtual folder upgrades and externation syndication changes for partner sites  (added a video demonstration for virtual folders)

15 April – Made updated new feature and system information available in member area

16 April – Added Geo targeted local market reports and hyperlocal blog posts available in member area

17 April – Made it possible to Syndicate Member Blog Posts To Videos/Filter Blog Posts by Tag

18 April – Saturday

19 April – Sunday

20 April – made a member’s shared video content available on the member’s public profile page (didnt quite get all of the bugs out of the functionality for video podcasting that we hoped to release today)

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I’ll keep adding to the list from time to time as we go through the month.  Taking the platform route was a choice that cost us early on but now we feel that we have “crossed the hump” and can develop new features and implement them on customer sites rapidly.  Thanks for sharing the ride with us.

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Improvements To Set The Stage For Better Location And Enterprise Services

March 7, 2009

We made a lot of interface and under the hood changes this past week.  The changes were for two reasons:

1) to improve the location based video, document, and external link services that the online content management provides.

Back story: we started building the bulk of our geolocation services in 2007.  It was initially slow and clumsy and limited to just video but we knew that it would be the future path to differentiating our video services and providing a set of valuable services to our customers. We kept geolocation in the middle of our priority list as we finished the huge work items that we had.  In short, we worked on different parts of location based services at different times and added new content types for these types of services throughout 2008.

The result was a system to geolocate properties, documents, images, and members  that worked well but didnt have a lot of standardization on the back end.  With most of this phases big work items out of the way now, we spent this past week updating and standardizing how geolocation across the entire platform so that we can really focus on a new set of local video and content services for both users and application developers of web and mobile applications.

2) To tee up broader organizational focused functionality associated with corporate memberships

We believe that enterprises should be able to pass unique organizational branding and syndication to their staff, members, and partners to provide a seamless experience for their users. We’ve been selling memberships to selected real estate, web portals, and other organizations for over a year now that allow these orgs to do just that. We haven’t been offering membership levels on our website in an automated way because much of what we have been offering involved a very hands-on, boutique style of professional services approach. Now that our first phase of functionality is built out, we are specifically focusing on automated set of value-add online services that we can help organizations, portals, and associations provide to their employees, members, and internal business online. In addition to an automated method to sign up for various membership levels (including corporate), you’ll also be seeing a whole set of functionality aimed at the enterprise customer in the coming weeks.

Imagine being able to provide different types of content branding and syndication for different business units, teams, or levels within your organization. Content can be accessed, shared among the organization, and syndicated externally to others without multiple uploads, cutting and pasting of embed codes, or constantly moving content into “networks”. Content can uploaded that remains private…as in “no one can see it but you”.  Your organization doesn’t have to be limited anymore to public facing channels.

We realized that we had a number of dependencies on the back end of the platform that were fine for individual members but not as flexible for broad organizational use as we think that organizations need. Those dependencies have since been cleaned up this past week.

The result is that we are now ready to start offering a broad set of content management and branding functionality that allows a member to be part of any number of organizations. apply that organization’s branding and use any unique sharing/syndication associated with that organization when it is needed, and still retain the capability to use their individual membership to the fullest.  Multimedia and content developers will also find the new capabilities appearing in both the member set of the platform developer application programming interfaces as well as the full set.

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100% Customizable Embedded Video Widgets Available On 20 Feb 2009

February 19, 2009

on Friday, 20 Feb, we’ll be releasing another game changing piece of web 2.0 online video functionality – completely customizable video widgets that can be embedded into your blog or website.  We’ve been collecting feedback from a series of well known bloggers and the feedback has been remarkably positive.  You can select all of the colors associated with widgets hosted by our system – from the background colors to the text colors to the image border colors and even the shape of the title bar (square or rounded corners).  I have to say that it drop dead simple and remarkable in terms of the possible combinations.

You can even upload a logo and select where you’d like to have the logo displayed within the widget.

We’ve been developing custom widgets to Premium and corporate level customers for some time now. However, the design process was completely manual.  We’ve finally automated the process so that even TRIAL level members will be able to see the direct benefits of  designing and using their own embeddable widgets before they choose a premium or corporate membership.

Corporate members will be to design a number of custom branded widgets that can be made available to members of their corporate umbrella.

As always, once you’ve designed a custom branded widget, it automatically becomes the default widget whenever you upload a new video. No further configuration or manual selection is required – it just happens!

Our developer partners will find the APIs required to design widgets  programatically in the beta API toolset starting next week.

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Should Automated Twitter Integration Be Part Of The Video And Multimedia Platform?

January 24, 2009

Do you think we should add to the noise level on twitter?  We are a video, multimedia, and content management platform but that doesnt stop us from talking about other platforms and services that could be potentially complementary.

I dont know if I’m representative of many Twitter users or the atypical user. I have about 4500 tweets, find twitter useful in a social way, but not with *any* sort of business ROI. I’d guess that the group with the highest ROI onTwitter are the people that make money from telling you to use – the social media consultants, authors, bloggers, etc. To be clear, ROI for us isnt isn’t measured in the number of people that upload or view free videos. We measure your likely ROI by the number of likely customers that are “touched” by your message and our own ROI by the number of  people and  organization that see the differentiation and business value in our video platform and content management offerings. There doesn’t seem to be a lot of ROI for either of us with automated Twitter integration.

Why isnt twitter a better tool for your customer base? Discoverability of people outside of those that one follow is a big problem for making Twitter useful in a business sense. You cant tell by someone’s actions that they are in the market for a house, car, video, or insert product/service here without an explicit clearly written statement on their part. Therefore you have to invest a LOT of time per sale to find potential customers based on their conversation. This is different from other social networks where you can discern intent by their actions rather than their statements.

The issues here aren’t technical at all. Integrating with Twitter is ridiculously easy. The API has been around for some time now, is well documented, and any decent dev could have a simple mechanism for inserting automated tweets within minutes.  Many legitimate apps do exactly that as do many spammers.  Again, this isnt something I personally enjoy about twitter. Post occasionally about a blog post? no problem – i do that myself.  Having to tell the world about every single thing you are listening to on your playlist is another thing completely. Again, just me, but I often unfollow people simply based on the number of valueless automated tweets.

Our team had an internal discussion about automated Twitter integration several months ago and decided to invest in other more useful video functionality.  For instance, you can see some of the cool real estate video features that we’ve developed on our real estate specific video portal that runs on our platform.

The rationale for our automated integration hesitation is three fold:

– We aren’t about driving traffic to our own platform properties. We’re about using our platform to drive traffic to your site to buy your goods/services and search engines to your site to index the value add information that we provide there. In my view, if companies are using your twitter stream to advertise their own product/service by redirecting visitors to their site, you should be getting paid for it.

– If buyers of your product or service aren’t on twitter and/or aren’t following you, what is the value proposition?  We dont like the pollution level of automated posts on twitter as it is today. We’d rather continue to focus on syndication and distribution that have significant populations of potential buyers. In the absence of positive feedback, this may be one case where we say, “if Youtube decides to do it, so will we.”

– The FSBL platform has so many “events” that could be turned into automated tweets. Where is the line? is it when a video is made publically shareable?  Unlike video platforms that have open and very public video channels, our system is permissions based and often private to a specific organization. it’s more complex than a simple tweet/don’t tweet action.

You’ve heard what what we think about it. Tell us what you’d prefer.  If you’d like to see this integration implemented, what circumstances should it be under? If you are opposed, why are you opposed to it? Feel free to answer here or directly to me at tony@forsalebylocals.com.

EDIT:  Others have far better reasoning than us as to the lack of  business sense behind twitter integration.

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Monetize Your Organization’s Content With New Premium Platform Features

January 9, 2009

The ForSalebyLocals multimedia and marketing platform now can help organizations or individual trainers earn money from video/documents or organizational training made available through the FSBL platform on a premium basis. Think of this capability as a Youtube like Web 2.0 system where premium content can be uploaded and made available to end users. Revenues from sales are earned by the organization or person that uploaded the content. It’s a great way for an organization to make money from content that they already have.

We are pleased to announce that the U.S. National Association of REALTORS (NAR) is our cooperative launch partner for a real estate related website that offers premium educational content for agents and investors (http://www.educationalmedialibrary.com). The collaborative effort with NAR will have educational content available in 6 languages within the coming weeks. We are currently developing similar functionality for other websites.

Organizations or trainers retain complete control and intellectual property rights of any content posted to the premium functionality. Some other aspects of the flexible premium features of the FSBL multimedia and marketing platform include the following:

– Broad Range Of Content Options: Organizations or trainers have a wide range of choices for content that they’d like to make available on a premium basis. These include videos, documents, and live webinars.  Organizations or trainers that have an existing live webinar program can also make recorded versions of webinars available on a premium basis.

-Content Syndication Options: the organization or individual trainer can choose to make premium content available as functionality on their own website(s), separate website(s), or syndicated through choices of partner sites that also have agreements to host FSBL premium content. Organizations can also restrict syndication and availability of premium content to members within a specific geographical area, a specific organization, or a specific list of candidates.

– Video Preview Availability: the platform also support video previews for content.  These previews can be viewed whereever premium content is hosted or in special premium widgets that can be placed anywhere the organization desires.  The widgets allow preview content to be displayed and provide options to purchase the associated content right through the widget.

– Unlimited Content Uploads and Approval: The platform provides unlimited content uploads for premium content.  There is no artificial 100MB upload limit for videos so entire event sessions can be recorded and uploaded as a single upload.  Uploaded content remains in a pending state until your organization’s administrator configures the payment options, availability, syndication possibilities, and approves the content. Content goes live once approved by the organizations admin and (where necessary) becomes available for approval by syndication partners.

– Granular Billing Choices For End Users: the organization or trainer has granular control to make any individual content available for billing to end users on a pay-per-view, purchase, subscription, or grouped package basis. Billing options are configured as part of the content upload process and can be changed at any time.  Individual content can also be marked as free.

– Little or No Upfront Costs For Organizations And Trainers: Organizations can get involved with little or no upfront costs depending on the amount of custom work desired on one’s own website or with certain syndication partners. There are plenty of rich oportunities without upfront costs. Content available using the premium platform features is offered on a revenue share basis, billed through the platform, and revenue shares are paid out monthly.

– Premium Content Can Be Made Available in Multiple Languages: Organizations can provide or contract our internal capability to translate content into English, Spanish, Portuguese, German, Russian, and/or French. The platform wil handle all details to make the premium content available through the proper language distribution channels.

Affiliated partner sites also receive a revenue share for content sold through their site or widgets. if you are interested in becoming an affiliated partner, please contact tony@forsalebylocals.com

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Consolidating Blogs Into One AutoUpdating Place

December 23, 2008

You may or may not know that we maintain 4 english language blogs around various aspects of video concepts, platform issues, and real estate marketing. It’s caused a bit of “blog schizophrenia” while writing for different audiences because we really didnt have a way to consolidate the blog content in a way that made sense. heck, some of you may not even that we have hundreds of other blog posts in other places than this blog.

Since Vidlisting is undergoing a re-design, we figured it may be a good time to prioritize dealing with this schizophrenic approach to blogging. We ended up with a auto updating single blog page for the 4 blogs that (finally) makes sense of different blog themes and topics.

You can see what we’ve done at http://blog.vidlisting.com. Feel free to leave feedback.