For most people today, online video means YouTube. While YouTube is one of the key places for posting video, it may not be right for every situation. One limitation is that YouTube lets you post videos up to just 15 minutes. Users who signed up for Director accounts early in YouTube’s history can post longer material, but new sign ups for this type of account no longer get the added privilege. Now, only select YouTube Partners can earn longer upload limits. In order to move up to that level, you must first show that you are driving enough traffic to warrant it.
Some videos may not fit the YouTube guidelines, which leads to the basic question: should I post my video on a site that has its own audience, or should I host the video myself so that my site is the primary access point?
The answer comes down to control and audience. Posting sites force you to give up a bit of control but repay you with a vast potential audience. Hosting provides you with more control over the content but limits your audience to your own promotion.
That said, the vast majority of small businesses want to reach a large audience easily and simply, so that means finding the right posting site.
Posting: Mass Audience/Low Control
YouTube is the big gun in this category. It's easy to use, provides access to the largest video search engine in the world, and makes it easy for your video to be shared on other sites, blogs, and social networking channels such as Facebook and Twitter. It also offers a tremendous community of users and producers who can help promote, comment on, and improve your video over time.
But it doesn't offer you a lot in terms of configurable look and feel, and as mentioned above, it also restricts the length of your piece. Vimeo is an alternative that gives you a bit more room to run, offers higher-quality options, and has a good community, but it also has some of the same restrictions. On Vimeo, however, you can buy a pro account for about $100 a year to open things up a bit.
Both sites can run advertising on your video, which, for most people, isn't a big deal. But if you definitely don't want advertising, then you should move up to the next step.
If you're looking to create a series with multiple episodes, Blip.tv may be the place for you. But Blip.TV doesn't let you sell overtly, so it may not be a good fit if you're doing more aggressive marketing.
Another site, Viddler, offers a free basic option with restrictions including a small file size limit, advertising, and prohibition of commercial use. There is also a free premium option available to users with high quality content and a large audience, and there is a paid option ($100/month) with more features and less restrictions.
Options: Blip.tv, YouTube, Vimeo, Viddler
Hosting: More Control, More Expense
Hosting sites are very good at enabling users to view video. These sites let you build in a bit more interactivity either by making the video a more integrated part of your site (while still allowing for sharing) or making video linkable. Of course, when you move to hosting you're really moving to a "platform" rather than just a site.
Brightcove is one great option that provides a number of different professional tools to let you not only measure who is viewing it, but you can also control the look and feel, create live streams, organize the content on the back end, and even protect your work.
The bottom line is that for most growing companies, YouTube will be the way to go. In fact, many of the other sites, like Brightcove and Blip.TV, make it easy to distribute your content through YouTube. However, as you get more advanced in your video programs and start to use them as a venue to move prospects through the marketing funnel, you should step up to a "platform."