Monday, May 18, 2009

Video Release Timing: Go Live Early, Announce Late

When first releasing any online video, it is best to make it live (soft launch, push live, etc.) well before you expect the audience to want to watch it. Usually this means at least a few hours before. For web shows targeting North America as a main audience, put the episode up (publicly available and live where you want it to be) at a few minutes after midnight pacific time on the given release day. This accomplishes many things at once, including:

  • This is 6 hours before East coast prime time begins (Weekdays 9am-5pm local time) allowing time for people and computers to react to the upload.
  • If the video is incomplete, corrupted, or simply not the right video, there are 6 hours to trouble shoot or delete and re-upload before large numbers will begin to try watching the video.
  • Titles, descriptions and tags do not always appear on the live site as originally written or intended; these can be checked and rewritten or fixed as needed.
  • Many computer systems take time to encode, transcode and syndicate the content. Give them time to finish their work and have the video fully live and available on all platforms before the audience wants to watch.
  • Search spiders and third party video search and syndication systems have automated components that need time to discover, process and make useful the information about the video that they discover. Since you can't know every system that may need time to react to your upload, give time for these unknowns to prepare so they can support your show. Make it live early to both give them a chance to respond and give yourself a chance to notice their reaction.

No two shows are the same and no single formula can address all the unique artistic and business needs, but in all cases: make sure the audience will be able to successfully watch the show how and where they want to before asking them to do so. This means send emails, publish blog posts, micro-blog (e.g., twitter), status update and make all forms of public requests for people to watch only after the video is fully functional and available.

Failing to give adequate time can mean you send audience to watch and they can't. When the audience can't watch what they want where and when they want to, they will blame you (even if it isn't your fault). Simple timing can save some of the disappointment from ever happening.

For example, YouTube needs a non-trivial amount of time to make a video available on cell phones in addition to the time it takes to make it available on the website. If, as I witness many producers doing, you send an email asking people to view your video on YouTube only after the video is live on the website, iPhone users who click on the YouTube link in the email will get a disappointing message telling them the video is not yet available. Rarely will they then make a special effort to seek out the video later or on a computer. Sending the email too soon loses viewers and fans just because it was too soon.

There are many other factors impacting video release and announcement scheduling, but usually doing a soft launch (it's up and works) significantly before a hard launch (hey everybody, come watch!) solves many problems.

Related note: releasing an entire 'season' at once often makes better sense than spreading it out over weeks.

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