All that cheap media

A relatively recent trend in how people produce, store and share media online is proving to be a particularly inexpensive and efficient way to incorporate multimedia into existing websites and blogs. An early mover in this new media/social networking space was Flickr which started out, I believe, as a way to share screenshots from games and soon became one of the premier online photographic communities on the Web. Basically Flickr is a website that allows users to create their own collection of photos or collections of albums or “sets” containing groups of photographs and share those photographs either with the online world or with friends and family.

Flickr was one of the early pioneers of a commonplace feature of social networking sites called tags. Tags are basically words or phrases that users allocate to photographs (in the context of Flickr) which enable other people to find them quite easily and share them with their contacts. That, at least, are two uses for tags. The tagging phenomenon has exploded and every site that wants to be part of the Web 2.0 revolution has tags incorporated into it somehow. One of the practical benefits of Flickr and the similar sites that can be found online is that these services host the images. You can incorporate elements of Flickr into your site (these elements have become very popular in blogs) and save yourself the disk space on your web server (through referencing the photo in Flickr) and bandwidth which is used everytime a photo is loaded in a web browser. If you are referencing a photo that is stored in your Flickr albums, Flickr picks up the tab for the bandwidth used when a visitor views that photo.

These latter benefits really come in handy if you have a series of videos you’d like to publish to your website or blog. Videos typically take up quite a bit of disk space and the cost of the bandwidth you will need to make those videos available on the Web can be prohibitive. Fortunately there are a number of services which allow you to upload your videos to their websites and embed video players in your site which references the video on those services. To explain that jargon I’ll point you to the example below. This video is stored on YouTube, one of these services (others include Google Video and Daily Motion), and you are able to view this video through a video player that is embedded in this post. The huge benefit of this facility is that YouTube bears the cost of the bandwidth necessary to bring this video to you as well as the physical disk space on its servers to host the video.

A service like YouTube becomes an inexpensive way to share everything from your videos of your baby’s first step to family movies on vacation to your ads promoting your business. The flipside of this service is that you usually have to agree to terms and conditions which contain provisions whereby you licence the service to use your content as they wish. There can therefore be little privacy if it is your intention only to show your videos to certain people. Even if you can mark your video ‘private’ it effectively becomes public once you share it online. On the other hand, services like Google Video enable you to post your videos to their sites and charge a fee for downloads of the video. What this really comes down to is what you would like to do with your videos and how you want to share them.

These are just two of a range of what we like to think of as “new media” services that can help grow or develop your business or just send that video of the kids on the beach to your relatives in Toronto.

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