How to Make Money with Videos

How to hit the YouTube home page and earn money from your viral videos.

I was watching a network news journalist interview a teenage girl and her family. Her silly music video generated over 250,000 dollars in the first couple of months alone.

Now her family is quarter million dollars richer! Not bad for an average teenager, with an average voice, and less than stellar video production.

How did she do it? With ads in the video.

As soon as you hit about 1,000 views, Google will ask permission to advertise on your video. When you login to your account you’ll see, “Apply for partnership to take advantage of your popular video.”

If you can make it into the “Featured” or “Trends” section, you’ve hit the YouTube jet stream. The highly coveted home page, in front of millions of people.

To get there takes a mighty viral push. You’ll need to wrangle the support of all your social networks, Facebook and Twitter followers. Here’s how…

SEO for your YouTube video depends on four things:

– How many views you get
– How many thumbs up you get
– How many comments you get
– How quickly you get all the above

Keep in mind the following tips…

A view counts if it’s over 5 seconds long. Make the opening seconds surprise and amaze.

Tell them in the text under the video, to click on the thumbs up icon, aka the “Like” button. Don’t assume they know what to do.

Make an emotional appeal to the viewer. Ask them to leave a quick comment. Even if its just a single sentence. Every little bit helps.

Notes on Viral…

Most viral videos are funny, amazing, surprising or entertaining. Without one or more of these, your video will sputter on the way to the jet stream.

How to Optimize Your YouTube Channel…

– Put your most important keywords in the video title
– Repeat the keywords in the description and tags
– Don’t use a fancy design or border around the video
– Keep the page design simple, with a white background
– Make sure the video preference is set to auto play
– Put a clickable links in video’s description (Facebook, Twitter)

Important Notes from TubeMogul.com
(The video syndication dudes.)

TubeMogul’s data shows that video has a short shelf life. They did a case study of 10,000 videos that had at least 1,000 views. The biggest traffic spike came at three days.

They suggest that you put out a lot of videos, because they peak early. The maximum views come when you do a series of short videos and upload a new one every few days. Thursday afternoon and Sunday evenings are peak viewing times.

They also suggest that you, “Put the name of your brand in the video title, because some services list only the title. It’s important to be consistent and put out topically related videos, as it increases your overall rankings in Google.”

Additional Promotion

In addition to doing the SEO for YouTube, ask your viewers to bookmark you on Delicious. If you make it to their “What’s Hot” home page, you can get a boost of extra momentum.

Be sure to monitor your keywords using Google Alerts and the Twitter home page. (AKA the Goobert method.) Participate in every discussion about you and your brand. Link to the video everywhere you comment.

Be voracious thank you note writers. Jot a note every time someone mentions you. Even if its just a couple of words to say thanks. It goes a long way.

Remember what TubeMogul said, the biggest spike comes at the three day mark. So upload that video and spend the next three days promoting it like crazy, using the strategies I’ve outlined above.

Who knows, maybe your video will hit the jet stream and go viral. Say yes to Google advertising and one silly video could generate all the coin you need for a lifetime. It happens to others. It could happen to you.

So be sure to take your video camera along and keep shooting, because you never know when something funny, amazing, surprising or entertaining will happen near you.

The Biggest Marketing Mistake

Are you permission marketing? In other words, are you sending email to people who’ve asked to receive it? There are still a few of you – you know who you are – that don’t get signups from people visiting your site.

At the very least, I hope the following numbers inspire you. The average reader is worth four dollars per year, as long as they stay subscribed. Some markets are worth more, others less. This is the average.

So if you built a readership of 10,000, that’s worth an extra 40,000 dollars per year. That’s over and above any website revenues. Does that inspire you?

Some complain permission marketing is hard to learn.

I disagree.

Permission marketing is easier than ever. It’s not like the old days when you had to figure it out for yourself. Now there’s all sorts of video tutorials and ‘how-to’ guides online.

Some complain that they don’t like writing. Usually it’s a small minority of folks, in niches they know nothing about. To them writing seems like a job.

You know what? If you don’t like what you’re doing… quit and get out. Time is the one thing in life you cannot get back. Life is too short to be trading it, for something you don’t enjoy doing.

On the other hand…

If you love what you do, you never get talker’s block. So why on earth would you get writer’s block?

If you don’t like to write, jot down a few notes, then open a video camera and talk.

What if you’re camera shy? There are alternatives.

You can report on what’s happened and just summarize what’s already been written. You could source a Youtube video of the week, or the day. Maybe source a quote of the day, a recipe of the day, or even a product recall of the day.

You can subscribe to the blogs and newsletters in your niche. This is especially important for affiliate marketers, because most major manufacturers have newsletters. You can know ahead of time, about new product releases, and have your advertising ready to go, the minute they hit the stores.

You could do interviews with experts and have them transcribed through castingwords.com. (That’s how they maintain their position as leaders and experts. They make themselves available for interviews and other media coverage.)

You can subscribe to Google Alerts and Twitter feeds, (AKA the Goobert conversational marketing method.) Then choose the best content you’ve read and aggregate it back out. You can paraphrase the mood, or comments, interject your own opinion, and fire it back out into the blogosphere.

As a last resort you can invite, or use, guest articles and posts. Or if you really must, outsource your writing to freelance talent on elance.com or odesk.com.

So in the end, it doesn’t matter what you send. The important thing is to get started.

And when you’re ready to start permission email marketing, join me through AWeber, because that way, if you ever need help, I can give you a hand. I’ve been using them to send this newsletter for over 11 years.

If you’re not permission marketing. You’re eating the appetizer, but leaving the meal on the table. This is the biggest mistake marketers make.

Promise yourself – starting tomorrow – that you’ll make permission marketing a priority. Make it commitment. Write it on a sticky note and paste it on your monitor right now. Do it!

And no matter what the economy decides to do, next year will be your personal best.

How Super Affiliates Think

Sell with Relationships

A customer of mine used to be a sales person for a medical equipment company. She sold everything from rubber gloves to high end items like wheelchairs.

I convinced her to stop working for someone else. That she’d be happier being her own boss, and selling the same gear as an affiliate marketer.

Like many affiliates, she struggled at first. She liked writing blog posts, and selling online, but she really missed the daily human contact.

I suggested that she take her affiliate business offline. She could rekindle the old relationships and not just rely on strangers trolling the web.

I told her to get proactive. Go where the customers are. Don’t wait for them to come to you.

Now she’s thinking like a super affiliate. She gets a flyer printed every two weeks and a catalog once every quarter.

She goes and visits all the retirement homes and long term care facilities in her city. They’re far more likely to buy from her, because they know her and trust her.

She belongs to a dozen different affiliate programs. That lets her offer a massive inventory, with more makes and models than any competitor.

She set up an arrangement with the suppliers, so that she uses her own affiliate link when placing orders. How smart is that?

She went from struggling hopeful to super affiliate, by walking away from the web and knocking on doors. Good old fashioned face to face selling.

Both parties get what they want. The long term care facilities get a flyer they can look at and order from. She gets to visit the people she missed and multiplied her income by 20X in the process.

Sometimes you just need to think different. If you spread your advertising across different types media, you can make a mountain of affiliate revenue.

Sell at the Right Time

Another customer of mine is an established public speaker. He gets paid a decent sum for the speaking gigs, but he wanted to increase his back end sales.

I suggested that he set up a computer at the back of the room. That way, people could sign up for his newsletter, or order his products, right after the talk, and all through lunch.

Now he’s thinking like a super affiliate. He tripled his back end sales, because he sells other people’s courses and books, in addition to his own. He also allows the attendees to book him for future talks on the spot.

How cool is that. Triple the sales and he’s never out of work. Just by capturing people at the right moment.

Sell in Bulk

Another customer of mine, used to sell individual items to consumers. He worked very hard for small commissions.

The packaging, serving and cleaning supplies he sold, were also used by caterers, restaurants and hotels. I suggested that he try selling to businesses instead of consumers.

Now he’s thinking like a super affiliate. Sell by the caseload. Same amount of work. Much bigger commissions.

Now he’s got customers in all corners of the hospitality industry. Everything from motel chains to food factories.

Things are going so well, he’s considering setting up a warehouse and importing the goods. Then setting up his own affiliate program.

I told him to keep in mind… that businesses, governments and organizations are run by people. Those people source product suppliers on the internet, just like you do.

No matter how big the company, it all boils down to one person. They make a purchase decision and place an order online, just like anyone else.

Consumers order a quantity of one. Businesses order case loads and pallets. Which would you rather get the commission on?

Sell the Niche

Another customer could be called the original spice girl. She knows more about cooking spices than anyone I’ve met.

She didn’t think she could compete in the space though. It was the usual excuses of… too many people already doing it and not enough confidence.

(If you’d like to discover your passion and learn how to monetize it, download The Uncovery workbook http://www.theuncovery.com .)

I told her to swallow her fear and doubt. Just do it. She started blogging and selling spices, but not the usual stuff, because I told her to ultra niche it.

Now she’s thinking like a super affiliate. She’s selling dried peppers flakes and hot sauces, everything from Szechuan to Sassafras. Other people sell spices, but she knows how to thicken your gumbo.

If you know a lot about something, there are people who want to learn. When you help them by telling, not by selling, they’ll automatically want to buy from you.

Sell Your Passion

Another customer of mine owns a small hobby brew place. He helps you make wine and beer on his premises. You bottle it and take it home when its done.

He wanted to take his “dirt world” business online. To go beyond what he could reach with local advertising.

He took my advice started putting videos online. He shows you how to mix up the batch, attach a fermentation lock, sterilize and fill the bottles. Short 2-3 minute clips with one key concept in each.

He uses a basic no-frills hand held video camera. Then dumps the recording into iMovie for a quick edit before uploading them to Youtube.

He’s positioning himself as the leader in beer making knowledge. That makes people subscribe to his newsletter, shop in his store, and trust him.

Now he’s thinking like a super affiliate. Instead of stocking massive inventory, he uses affiliate links to sell everything from hops to brewing kits online.

The videos do the “cold calling” for him. Because of the knowledge he gives away freely, people know they can trust him when it comes to product recommendations.

So when there’s no customers in his retail store, he’s in the back room on the computer. Busy building an affiliate empire around his passion for beer.

What are you passionate about? What do you love to do? If you have confidence, you can transfer it to others. That’s a key secret to making a sale.

Learning How To Sell

None of these people started as super affiliates. The difference was having someone to talk to. Someone who understands advertising, sales and marketing.

If you’d like to know more about advertising, sales and marketing, give me a call. Once you’re a Dynamic Media member, I’m just a phone call away.

AdSense Account Disabled: What the Hell?!

Every morning when I wake up, the first thing I do is turn to my left side, pick up my iPhone, and quickly scan my new e-mail that came in since I went to bed the night before.  It’s a pretty mindless task that I can do while I’m still half asleep.

But not this past Friday morning.  Nope. I sprung out of bed as you might do when a fire alarm goes off in the middle of the night, or maybe on Christmas morning when you’re 8 years old.  I woke up to this little gem in my e-mail box:

adsense account disabled

Keep reading, and I’ll give you the full story.

The Initial Panic

Panic was probably the best word to describe my initial reaction when I read this e-mail:

google adsense account disabled email

This was no joke – I tried to open my AdSense account only to find a similar message, and nowhere to navigate.  This was one of the things we all fear – having one of our primary online income sources cut off completely.  I was having a great month too – it probably would have been my best AdSense month so far.  Of course, they will be taking away from me what I earned so far this month ($100+) and I’m not sure if my amounts accrued through last month (~$200) will be paid out.

Over a year of hard work, countless hours, thousands of dollars spent – diminished with a simple flip of the switch.  Yes, my sites are still ranking as they were and still receiving traffic as usual, but the primary means of monetization – the one source of income that was destined to keep growing each month – gone.

Sure, there are a lot of ways to monetize a site in general, but micro-niche sites by their very nature have a narrow focus, and therefore, limited means of monetization.  No other ad network has so many advertisers competing for all of the long-tail keywords that we target with these sites.  Sure, that doesn’t stop you from using one of them, but ads that are less relevant are sure to experience a lower click through rate and lower cost per click.

This was my initial panic.  Everything was over – my sites were worthless.  Even worse, I didn’t understand how or why this happened to me.  I’ve followed all of Google’s rules.  My traffic was all organic.  And my ad placements, although on the aggressive side, were well within what’s “allowed” and in no way were set up to wrongfully entice clicks (“invalid” clicks).

So What the Hell Happened?

As I mentioned above, Google is accusing me of having invalid clicks.  What this basically means is that they believe people were clicking my ads for reasons other than general interest in the ad’s content.

For example, if you click your own ad or tell a friend to click your ad, these are invalid clicks.  If you put an image or text next to the ad block that says “CLICK HERE >>>> “, any clicks generated would be considered invalid clicks.  You get the idea.

This of course leaves me baffled because I absolutely did not do any of that.  I know the rules and I know Google is very strict about enforcing them.  I’m not about to risk the status of my account for a $0.68 click.  I’m not an idiot.

Here’s what I think could have happened:  Someone who reads this blog decided to visit one of the niche sites that I’ve made public here in the past, and decided to click an ad – maybe they did it several times in one visit (also known as “click bombing”), or maybe it was spread over a longer period of time…or it was multiple people who did it one time.  Whether it was to screw me over or “help” me,  I have no idea.  I never noticed any irregular activity, so it never crossed my mind.

I can’t say with any certainty that this was the cause, but it’s very possible.  Something similar to this happened to Chris Ducker awhile back, and he suspected the same thing.

I guess the bottom line is, sometimes, transparency comes at cost.  If you read Pat Flynn’s site, you know that after he reported all of his success with his site from the “Niche Site Duel,” copycats started popping up, and probably affected his earnings somewhat (although they are still amazing).

Apparently, I’m Not the Only One

Naturally, when I found out my account was disabled, I wanted to take a look around and see if there was some kind big wave of account disabling by Google – although I suspect they disable lots of accounts on a daily basis.

I came across this thread on the Warrior Forum, and it sounds like there were a lot of people disabled around the same time I was.  Here’s an interesting quote from someone in that thread:

forum-quote

Based on this quote and what others in the thread wrote, it does sound like Google recently disabled a lot of accounts for invalid click activity.  I guess I’m not alone, though that doesn’t make me feel any better.

What’s the Plan Going Forward?

First of all, I appealed Google’s decision to disable my account. This probably won’t do anything for me, but I’ve read some success stories, so it’s worth a try.  I don’t want to try anything drastic until I know for sure that I can’t get my account back.

New Monetization for High Traffic Sites

Although none of my micro-niche sites were clear winners (yet), I am going to take my top sites and find a way to monetize them (how ironic is it that I blogged about my top AdSense sites just days before getting my account disabled?).

I have a few ideas in mind for alternatives to AdSense, and perhaps if people here are interested, I’ll do a whole blog post about AdSense alternatives.  For my top sites, I want to look at each site on a case-by-case basis – some sites may only benefit from another display advertising network, while certain ones may be better off promoting affiliate products or CPA  (cost-per-action) offers.

Overall, Take an 80/20 Approach for My Current Niche Sites

Because AdSense is no longer a viable monetization method for my existing niche sites, some of the sites simply won’t be worth putting any more effort into.  The 20% of my sites that account for 80% of my income will receive most of my focus.  The other 80% won’t be worth the time.   Sites that were only earning $1-5/month with AdSense (which I consider to be profitable) may only earn less than $1/month with another ad network (no longer profitable).

Now, I still have 8+ months left before I have to renew a lot of these domains, so I don’t want to “waste” any traffic that they are currently receiving.  What I will probably do is pick one ad network to apply to all of these sites (such as Chitika, which I already have some experience using).

More Focus on Amazon Sites

For me, Amazon is still a perfectly viable way to monetize my sites, and I still have a handful of sites that had regularly been earning more from Amazon than AdSense each month.  I’ll put more focus on converting traffic for my current Amazon sites, and for any new sites I build, I’ll probably look toward niches where I can easily integrate Amazon affiliate links.

Create an LLC

This is something I’ve wanted to do for a long time, and it seems like now is the perfect time to do it.  Because an LLC would be a separate legal entity, I’ll be able to apply for a new AdSense account under the business name (this is perfectly legal/in line with Google’s terms of service).  Unfortunately, I will only be able to use this account for new sites.  I don’t want to risk associating the new account with older sites, in case they are somehow “flagged” now.

My micro-niche site plan is not over yet, but I will need to invest the time to create new sites and build them up all over again, for the new AdSense account.  Once I go through the process of setting up the LLC, I’ll probably do a post on it here in case any of you are interested in doing something similar.

Lessons Learned

Diversification is Key

You can follow all the rules, have the most amazing content, and have a 2+ year solid track record (as I did)…but if your income all comes from one source (or mostly one source), you are at risk of having it vanish overnight.  People will always make the argument that as long as your sites are getting traffic, losing AdSense isn’t a big deal because there other ways to monetize.  It’s true that there are other ways to monetize, but I don’t think you can say that it’s easy to replace the income, especially with sites that were designed to make money with AdSense.

Google will always act in the best interest of their advertisers, NOT their publishers – this is Google’s key income source.  What this means is, if they have any doubt that you’re not good for their advertisers, they won’t hesitate to get rid of you – even if it doesn’t make sense.  You can’t blame them for trying to protect their business.

If you can diversify your income streams, both by having multiple projects (e.g. different websites) and within those projects, multiple methods of monetizing, you are in a much better position to survive the elimination of one of your projects or income sources.

Authority Sites are Better? Not Necessarily.

I bring this up because I don’t think you or I can conclude that micro-niche sites are specifically targeted by Google, in terms of deciding whether or not to disable an account.   Remember, the Google AdSense team is only concerned with their advertisers receiving quality, targeted traffic.  If your micro-niche site is very focused, and receives very targeted organic traffic, Google AdSense likes this.

Keep in mind, Google AdSense is a separate “team” than the team that handles Google’s search results and ranking algorithm.  Pleasing one doesn’t always mean you please the other.

With all of this said, I think authority sites will always be “safer” in that they have a stronger foundation and are easier to diversify with various monetization methods (ads, affiliate links, e-mail marketing, etc.) compared to micro-niche sites.   So if your site gets “click bombed” and you lose your AdSense account, the site itself will still continue making money from other sources.

Conclusion

While I know this post began in a state of panic, hopefully you’ve seen that I’m actually optimistic overall.  While all of this means I’ll need to do a lot more work, and it may be a little while until I can get my niche site earnings back to where they were (it’ll have to be after tax season), I honestly believe I will look back one day and conclude that losing my AdSense account was one of the best things to happen to my online business.

I feel refreshed, in some kind of sick and twisted way – I feel more inspired to think “outside the box” and  work smarter with my internet marketing projects.

Digital prototypes help university team get $550k+ in technology funding

The U.S. Dept. of Labor has a program in place, funded by H-1B visa fees, to increase the competitiveness of the American workforce. This program, called Workforce Innovation in Regional Economic Development (WIRED), has an initiative under way in the state of Ohio called the Ohio Valley Interactive Technology Alliance (OVITA). OVITA is focused on developing a creative and academically prepared workforce and establishing the region as a center of excellence and innovation in the field of interactive digital technology, which includes the Immersive Internet.

OVITA works with three state universities — Ohio University, Kent State University and Shawnee State University — as well as community colleges and high schools. As with any publicly-funded initiative these days, leadership has to work very hard to justify how money gets spent. Thomas Stead, the Associate Director for Education for OVITA and former department chair at Shawnee State University, recently shared with me some experiences he has had using immersive technology to positively influence budget decision makers. Continue reading

Change is under way at ThinkBalm

Disruptive-thinker-bus-SMALLAt ThinkBalm we’ve had a couple of great years as industry analysts dedicated to covering work-related use of immersive technologies—an early-stage, emerging technology market. We have worked with some terrific people at great client organizations like Altadyn, BP, Chevron, Forterra Systems (now part of SAIC), Linden Lab, Moondus, ProtonMedia, Teleplace, and Tandem Learning. We’ve published nine comprehensive reports spanning market overview, business value, technology selection, barriers to adoption, and best practices—and made this research freely available via our Web site. We launched the ThinkBalm Innovation Community, grew it to more than 470 members, and hosted more than 35 facilitated work sessions, training sessions, and networking events. More than half of our research reports arose directly out of ThinkBalm Innovation Community activities. Continue reading

ThinkBalm Innovation Community is now Tandem Learning Innovation Community

After we broke the news that we planned to disband the ThinkBalm Innovation Community, members of the community expressed lots of interest in finding new leadership for the community moving forward. We are excited to announce that effective immediately, Tandem Learning will assume the community management responsibilities of the newly named Tandem Learning Innovation Community.

The value of this community is in the membership and the collective wisdom and experience of the group, and Tandem’s focus on new technology, user experience, learning design, and strategic business innovation allows them to touch on the areas of interest that bind our community together. We believe the leadership at Tandem is committed to maintaining the integrity of the community while finding new and exciting ways to add value to everyone who participates.

Exciting times are ahead for all of us and we’re looking forward to what happens next! Continue reading

In the name of engagement, InXpo adds game features to its platform

Computer and video games are big—and they’re on their way to becoming big in the workplace. According to the Entertainment Software Association, people in 68% of American households play computer or video games. And according to the NPD group, a global provider of consumer and retail market research information, the average number of hours gamers spend online gaming has increased to 8.0 hours per week in 2010 from 7.3 hours per week in 2009.

When you combine this with the fact that people learn—and have always learned—new skills and information by playing games and engaging in competition, it becomes clear that game concepts and mechanics are destined to be transformed into business tools. It is not a matter of if, it’s a matter of when. Games in the workplace can increase engagement and productivity; help employees set priorities, share resources, and meet goals; facilitate team-building; and help organizations discover untapped leadership skills. (For great insights on these and other aspects of games in the workplace I highly recommend the book Total Engagement (2010) by Byron Reeves and J. Leighton Read. Another great book on the topic is Learning in 3D (2010) by Karl Kapp and Tony O’Driscoll.)

InXpo recognizes this potential and is dipping a toe in the gaming waters

InXpo customers deploy the InXpo Virtual Events platform for a wide range of purposes such as trade shows, meetings and conferences, career fairs, learning and training, and persistent virtual offices. Today, InXpo announced a new offering called InXpo Social Suite. This add-on to the InXpo Virtual Events Platform, slated for general availability in early May, will incorporate games and social network integration. The thinking behind this is that by offering increasingly compelling content and activities, InXpo customers (let’s call them hosts) can increase the engagement of users (let’s call them participants), thereby obtaining benefits such as improved knowledge retention, higher customer satisfaction scores, and increased revenues.

InXpo is working with a game design team from Tribeca Flashpoint Media Arts Academy to create a set of lightweight, casual computer games. The first two games InXpo will offer are a trivia challenge and word scramble. InXpo hopes to have 5 or 10 games in its library by the end of the year. Event hosts will be able to configure the games to reinforce learning objectives or advertise event sponsors’ products, for example. The system will track participants’ points and advancement in the game and list high scorers on a leaderboard.

What it means for business decision makers

If you are looking for ways to increase engagement—for example, increase the amount of time prospects spend on your Web site or attending your virtual conference or trade show, or retain employees or customers longer—adding games to your interaction portfolio may be a boon. Especially games that have a strong social element and allow people to compete with each other in a fun, challenging way.

If you feel uneasy about incorporating InXpo’s game elements into live customer interactions, start with internal trials. Perhaps hold an all-hands meeting or a regional sales meeting in the environment and solicit feedback from participants about their experiences with the game technology.

InXpo’s efforts to incorporate games and game mechanics into enterprise software isn’t new; providers of 3D enterprise immersive software have been offering game mechanics in their products for several years. But the launch of InXpo Social Suite is another sign that the market is driving immersive software toward richer, more engaging environments, regardless of underlying technology.

Immersive tech for meetings/conferences must be scalable and easy to use

In our January “trends” blog post, we predicted that 2010 would be a year of churn in the emerging enterprise immersive software market. It’s only a few months into the year and already a rapid-fire series of events has occurred, setting many industry participants on edge:

  • Forterra Systems was acquired by SAIC (see our February 8, 2010 post about it here).
  • Oracle discontinued funding Sun Project Wonderland (now called Open Wonderland) (see our March 1, 2010 post about it here).
  • Key roles on Linden Lab’s enterprise team were folded into the broader organization and several folks on the enterprise team have moved on, including former general manager Chris Collins.
  • Virtual Worlds Management, the company that has held Virtual World Expo and 3DTLC conferences since 2007, renamed itself Engage Digital Media and has de-emphasized its focus on virtual worlds. The 3DTLC conference and 3DTLC.net blog have been suspended. 3DLTC.net editorial content has been folded back in to VirtualWorldsNews.com.

Continue reading

Pseudo-3D immersive tech adopters illuminate business decisions

I recently spoke with three business decision makers who have been involved with deployment of pseudo-3D immersive environments in their organizations or for their customers. I spoke with Michael Doyle, executive director and editor of the Virtual Edge Institute; Kate Spellman, senior VP and managing director of UBM Studios; and Caroline Avey, director of innovative learning solutions at ACS Learning Services. We talked about why they are using pseudo-3D immersive technology rather than alternatives.

Pseudo-3D is used for conferences and trade shows—but it doesn’t stop there

When you think of virtual event platforms from companies like InXpo, ON24, and Unisfair, what likely comes to mind is large virtual conferences and trade shows. Here are a couple of examples:

  • The Virtual Edge Summit. This conference, which was focused on virtual events, meetings and communities, was held over two days in February, 2010—both online and in Santa Clara, California. Michael Doyle, the executive director of the Virtual Edge Institute, said that 400 people attended in person and 600 attended online.
  • COMDEX. COMDEX was a computer industry trade show last held in 2003. The event had become massive, with more than 200,000 visitors and 2,300 exhibitors. UBM Studios will bring COMDEX back this November as an online event focused on the show’s original audience: the high tech channel. Kate Spellman, senior VP and managing director of UBM Studios, said they expect to have about 35 exhibitors and 3,000 attendees.

While large conferences and trade shows certainly represent the bulk of usage to date, we’re starting to organizations use pseudo-3D immersive software software in other innovative ways. For example, ACS Learning Services held a launch event in January, 2010 for a new company-wide innovation program that leverages an idea management system. The company deployed the Unisfair platform for the launch event and now is leaving it up and running, for one year, to function as a portal for employees who want to learn about the innovation program and the idea management system. The idea behind the portal is to enable self-directed, discovery-based learning, a place to launch the program, a vehicle for social-networking to discuss ideas, and a front door to the formal learning via a deep link to both the learning management system and the idea generation system. The Unisfair platform provides a level of engagement above and beyond what people get from just the learning management system and a webinar.

Pseudo-3D technology meets requirements for scale and ease of use

Vendors like InXpo, ON24, Unisfair and others offer pseudo-3D immersive environments that can scale to tens of thousands of simultaneous users by giving participants the illusion that they are in a 3D environment, rather than delivering a full 3D experience. (See the related March 26, 2010 ThinkBalm blog article, “Pseudo-3D is a rising star, keeping barriers to adoption low.”) In a nutshell:

  • Hundreds or thousands of event attendees requires a highly scalable solution. About 600 people attended Virtual Edge Institute’s Virtual Edge Summit online, accompanying another 400 who attended physically. UBM Studios is expecting 35 exhibitors and about 3,500 attendees at this fall’s COMDEX trade show. Caroline Avey, director of innovative learning solutions at ACS Learning Services, said, “Because we have 15,000 employees located in 170 countries, there is just no way we could have brought everyone together for a physical launch event.” None of the 3D immersive technologies can support this number of simultaneous users being in the same virtual place at the same time.
  • Ease of use sometimes means that browser-based technology is the only real option. At ACS Learning Services, the project team had only six weeks to create the learning objects, design the experience, and customize the Unisfair environment. This required a solution that was simple to configure and deploy. Also, the team had limited insight into the computer setups and Internet access of employees around the globe. This required that a solution that adhered to the least common denominator; it had to be Web-based, with no plug-in.

Hybrid events will move beyond parallel experiences as technology and behavior evolve

A hybrid event is a meeting, conference, or trade show that some speakers and audience members attend physically while others attend virtually. Due to technical complexity and the habits of presenters and attendees, hybrid events are largely parallel events today. Networking activities are segregated: people attending physically mingle amongst themselves, apart from remote attendees. Speakers tend to address one audience or the other (physical or virtual)—not both at the same time.

With the Virtual Edge Summit, which took place in February, 2010, the Virtual Edge Institute has started to tackle some of these issues by:

  • Connecting attendees with electronic communication tools. The event producers set up a Twitter hashtag (#ve10) and encouraged attendees to tweet throughout the event. The producers set up a dedicated screen in some of the meeting rooms to display tweets in real-time, and tried to incorporate tweets into the Q&A discussion. InXpo, one of the virtual event platforms used during the Virtual Edge Summit, provides voice over IP integration with Skype, which enabled participants who were attending via InXpo Virtual Events Platform to communicate with each other via text, voice, or video chat. But participants attending via other virtual event platforms, or in person, had no way of joining in on these Skype conversations.
  • Attempting to cross the visual divide. The producers streamed video of speakers presenting remotely into the physical meeting room, where it was displayed on a screen. Likewise, presentations that took place on-site were streamed out to the virtual environments. Participants attending remotely could watch live video of the speakers presenting. This visual integration was limited to the presenters only. The on-site and remote audiences had no visual connection to each other.

My take: pseudo-3D immersive technology meets some burning business needs

My conversations with these early adopters confirm what I’ve been hearing from others. First, pseudo-3D technology meets requirements for scale and ease of use. When it’s not practical or possible to bring thousands of people together physically, pseudo-3D immersive technology provides an alternative. Full 3D solutions cannot scale to meet this need (yet). Second, pseudo-3D immersive technology will increasingly be used not just for large conferences and trade shows but other things as well, such as training. ACS Learning Services’ use of the technology as a learning portal is a great example.

And third, while hybrid events are largely parallel experiences today, they will move beyond this as technology and behavior evolve. I envision a time in the not-too-distant future when the walls of physical meeting rooms will be lined with displays showing the virtual audience’s communications (and avatars, when they exist), and the virtual meeting rooms will display not only streaming video of speakers but of the entire physical audience. Communication tools and networking opportunities will be available to all participants, whether on-site or remote. Speakers will become accustomed to having distributed audiences, and will more naturally be able to include them in their presentations and discussions.