Is free streaming worth the cost?

When should your organization engage a streaming service provider?

So you want to stream on Facebook or YouTube –

Can Code3AV help with that? We sure can. We have helped many organizations get started with streaming. As integrators, we install and configure your hardware and software production systems (cameras, microphones, graphics creation, etc), and usually we also integrate them with your new or existing conference systems, legislative systems, presentation systems, classrooms or houses of worship. We provide training and make sure that the audio and video leaving your site looks great. Our expertise and focus is on making sure that the equipment you have on site is easy to use and allows you to produce the content you want to share.

How does that content get online?

The audio and video content you create is sent to what’s called an encoder. An encoder is a device or software package which turns your local audio and video into a network stream, which can be sent over the internet. Once that stream leaves your site and hits the public internet, it’s treated just like any other network traffic. Video traffic usually gets a higher priority over other traffic, but most of the internet traffic today is video. Your stream leaves your building and travels through the public internet to Facebook, YouTube etc, and probably (usually) it gets where it needs to go. Sometimes it doesn’t.

What happens when it doesn’t work?

There are times when streaming just doesn’t work, and there are many reasons why this happens. There are many (countless) possible failure points between you and Facebook or YouTube. Some of these failure points are in your control, but the vast majority of them are not. Once that stream leaves your organization, there’s very little you can do when things don’t work. The major content sharing / social media sites don’t really owe you any explanation when the free services they provide don’t work. Essentially, these services are use at your own risk, and your mileage may vary, caveat emptor etc. As far as customer support is concerned, you get what you pay for. It’s free – so…. Having said that, it actually does usually work, and, as I said – it is free, so for many organizations, that’s just fine.

What are the benefits of streaming directly to one of these social media sites?

Your organization probably has an account on one or more of these sites, and your customers, clients, members, students, etc may also have accounts there. It may just be a very easy path for your organization to reach your market. Also, the content you create and share may also be a way to build your brand up on that social media channel. When you publish content under your account, your account gains “clout” on these sites, which helps to promote your organization. Your fresh content creates more visibility. It’s a mutually beneficial relationship for you and the social media company. You don’t have to worry about all the work that Facebook or YouTube do to support and build their sites, and the social media companies get your content and your viewers engaged on a site where they control the advertising and they have access to all the valuable personal data.

What are the downsides?

Well, they’re pretty much the same as the benefits. Your viewers are engaged on some other site, that you don’t own, support or control. You don’t really control the advertising. You don’t own the data. Facebook and YouTube are going to make money when people view your content, they’ll sell advertising to them, and they’ll sell the customer data to other companies. If you streamed directly to your own site, you could be making that advertising money yourself. You could be collecting that data yourself. Another downside is that If there is a problem with your stream, you’ll have a hard time figuring out exactly where the problem is by yourself. Is the issue local, somewhere between you and your ISP, somewhere between your ISP and Facebook, or is everyone having trouble streaming to Facebook today? Sometimes Facebook or YouTube just aren’t working. You could google to see if other people are having trouble at the same time, or try submitting a support ticket to Facebook. If you do happen to be drawing a large number of views, you may actually get some decent support. I’d be curious if you do. I’m sure if your organization is driving a high number of views on YouTube, they may be more attentive to your technical issues as well, but most of us aren’t driving that level of traffic. In most cases, I’d be surprised if you received any useful support, and it certainly wouldn’t be timely.

What can you do if you want more control?

Can Code3AV help with that? We’re not an internet service provider – at least not yet. This is where we would recommend working with someone who is. We would recommend companies like boxcast, churchstreaming or SLIQ. These companies can provide you with a monitored connection. They can view your encoder remotely. They can monitor the stream leaving your site. They can provide useful metrics about your traffic and views. They act as a middle man. They recieve your stream and re-broadcast it to those same social media sites, or to your own site. Often they will save a recorded backup of your stream, in case there is a problem. Now when there is an issue, you have someone with an interest in helping solve it, and the means to monitor it real time and possibly correct it automatically before you even know there is a problem. They can determine if the issue is local or remote. You may think you have plenty of local bandwidth, but when your venue fills with people, is that bandwidth still all there when you really need it? Often these services can help you optimize and shape your stream to get more out of the limited bandwidth you currently have available. Engaging the assistance of a streaming service provider will not keep issues from ever happening, but these providers can be very helpful in determining where the issues are, and in solving them quickly. These companies also often have helpful plugins for hosting your content on your own site as well. Leveraging your own site allows you to be in control of the advertising and the data being collected as well as the user experience and the user interface.

Should I be using a streaming service provider?

Well, that’s the questions, right? Is it good enough if it usually works? When it does fail, Is it ok, if you just post the video later or possibly never? Do you want to be in control of the monetization of your content? Where is that line for you and your organization? Here’s what I can tell you – These services are surprisingly affordable. If your content and your message is important, our recommendation is to engage them. Let us know if we can help!