Lights, Camera, Action Create a music video-style sales piece with Animoto

Posted by maggie.hunsucker August 26, 2009 at 1:26 pm

In Domo Arigato, we discussed how to put your images to music and make a killer slideshow presentation.  Now, Animoto (the featured idea) is letting you add video to the mix.

First, let me clarify that “slideshow” is an over simplification of Animoto’s product.   These aren’t exactly PowerPoint presentations here, but rather, mini music videos made with images, video, and text.   You can upload your own materials or pull from Animoto’s stock library.  Both images and video are categorized (e.g. travel, aerial shots, etc) for easy browsing.  Simply drag and drop the elements you want to use in your video, edit the order, and choose a soundtrack.   You can upload your own song or borrow a sample from Animoto’s library.  I was pleasantly surprised by the selection, even if I didn’t recognize the artists.  Songs range from classical to electronica, indie to hip hop.

When your presentation is to your liking, hit the finalize button and Animoto will create the video.  I threw this one together in 2 minutes using images found on my hard drive and Animoto’s stock video clips and soundtrack.

It’s no masterpiece, but it does illustrate the capabilities of this product.   You don’t need fancy software or a motion graphics artist to create a simple, yet effective video sales piece.  Animoto’s basic offering and what I demoed, the Animoto Short, is free, and a full-length video only costs $3.  An all access, 1-year subscription, which includes unlimited full-length video creation is $30.

We heart iPhone apps here, and Animoto's app is definitely worth a mention. Choose images, video, and soundtrack from your phone's personal library and click a button. It's that easy.

Animoto has a pure business offering too, which costs $249/year. The package includes unlimited full-length videos, commercial licensing, and no Animoto branding. Check out the gallery to see how a variety of businesses are using Animoto for their video needs.


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  Papa's got a brand new bag Align your YouTube channel design with your brand

Posted by maggie.hunsucker August 3, 2009 at 1:35 pm


A YouTube channel is one of the easiest ways to brand your video content (e.g.   Not to mention, it makes sense to have a single hub for video activity where you can send clients, customers, and brand enthusiasts.

YouTube is letting you put a bit more “you” into your channel by unveiling customizable page layouts.  On top of the new wide-screen format, the upgrade allows novice web designers like myself control over settings, themes, and modules.  Translation:  You can change colors and upload background images, as well as edit the order and appearance of the modules on your page (i.e. Recent Activity, Comments, or Favorites).  Edits are done in-channel, which means you can make alterations directly on the page and see the changes immediately.  Nothing is permanent until you click the save button.

When you log into your YouTube channel, you’ll see a little tab in the left corner, prompting you to upgrade.   You can always revert back to the old design if you miss the layout.   Each module will display an edit button, though the majority of changes will be done from the Edit Channel tabs at the top of your page.   If you’re adding a background image, a word of caution – choose your artwork wisely.  The on-page modules will more than likely interrupt your artwork, and it will take some practice, if not the hand of a skilled designer, to get right.   Resist the temptation to give up and use the “repeat background” option as it yields that classic (but not classy) tiled website background, circa 1997.

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Other than that, changing up the look of your YouTube channel is a quick and easy task. I can choose colors, fonts, and artwork that align with my branding, so visitors know when they arrive at my channel that this is the company, product, or video content they are looking for (and not the latest Beyonce imitation or “animals doing zany things” video).

One way to overcome the background image issue is to play with the transparency levels of the different modules and wrappers. Check out this example from the Discovery Channel (FYI It's Shark Week!).

According to the YouTube Channels Beta blog - yes, they came out with blog just for this design update - you can now add a full range of ads from your Ad Partners to your YouTube channel page.


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  Ready for this jelly? Make a one-click screencast and promote it through Twitter with Screenjelly

Posted by maggie.hunsucker July 13, 2009 at 11:35 am

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In Toast of the Town, we discussed how to promote your products and improve customer experience with screencasts. Now the makers of ScreenToaster have come out with Screenjelly, a pared down version of the original offering. With Screenjelly, you can quickly and easily record up to 3 minutes of video and audio from a simple, one-click interface. Screenjelly is a browser-based application, so no need to download or install anything. One button – that’s it.

The real selling feature of this service is the viral capabilities. Screenjelly comes with a built-in Twitter feature. Once you’re finished recording your screencast, you can quickly tweet it to your entire Twitter network. If you’re maintaining a company Twitter account, imagine promoting mini videos for product updates (e.g. like we did here when we integrated DocStoc with Lizzer) or walking customers through a sign-up process for a contest or event.

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Screenjelly is free, so you don’t need to sign up or pay a fee. Just login with your Twitter account to tweet your video. And if you’re not into the Twitter hype, you can share your video via email or different social sites like Facebook, Digg, Delicious, etc. Like Twitter, these options are available directly from the recording interface.

Although Twitter is a simple 140 character blogging platform, there are a number of services (, Twitpic, etc) that can help you share lengthy urls, pictures, and videos.

Screenjelly is designed to quickly and effortlessly disseminate information online, information that can easily be lost in translation or requires a bird's eye view to understand. If you're looking to create a more lengthy and polished tutorial, stick with the original ScreetToaster.


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  Better than no tail at all Manage your own video advertising with Longtail AdSolution

Posted by tom klein June 4, 2009 at 12:17 pm

longtail-logoVideo is becoming more and more popular all across the web, but the question that always bubbles to the surface is “How do I make money off of this?”

Sure, Google and YouTube have been serving up video advertising for awhile now, but with little control over who buys ad space and how those ads appear, web publishers are looking for a better way to sell their digital real estate.

Enter LongTail AdSolution, the first self-serve video advertising platform (well, technically it’s part ad network, part video plug-in). LongTail gives you the ability to embed a variety of video advertisements in your own website media player. It just so happens, LongTail Video makes one of our favorite open source video solutions, the JW Media Player, but favorites aside, you can install LongTail AdSolution on any media player, just by changing a few player settings and adding a line of JavaScript.

LongTail maintains proprietary relationships with many top ad networks (e.g. Google Adsense), so you can easily integrate and manage your existing advertisers/campaigns. Simply cut & paste your ad tags (snippets of Javascript and/or HTML that  launches creative from an outside server) into LongTail’s Dashboard and choose a video ad format (pre-roll, overlay mid-roll, and post-roll ,as well as traditional text and banner advertising). It’s that easy.

Overall, LongTail is a great solution for anyone looking to capitalize on their website video content. It’s totally flexible and easy to integrate, so why not give it a try. Just let us know what you think.

Longtail is a super easy way to serve video ads, as well as do some neat video tricks. You can break videos into chapters or clickable lower thirds for dynamic calls-to-action.

Whether you are using an existing ad network or not, Longtail can handle any type of ad you can manage, maximizing the bang for your open source buck!


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  A few rotten apples Protect your reputation and respond to negative reviews with Yelp for Business

Posted by maggie.hunsucker May 18, 2009 at 7:26 am

yelp-for-buisiness-logoWe usually discuss the positive aspects of customer feedback tools and how you can harness them to promote your brand or business on the web.  But what do you do when the reviews are in, and they are less than hot?

One avenue is Yelp for BusinessYelp, if you’re not familiar, is a popular feedback forum where people give unsolicited reviews of local businesses.  Until now, it’s been consumer-oriented and businesses have been powerless to combat negative or false reviews left on the site.   After hearing merchants’ cries (and a few lawsuits), Yelp decided to give business owners a chance to respond to the naysayers and repair the damage to their reputation.


First things first, you’re going to have to fill out an online submission form and claim your business on Yelp.   We had to wait a few days, but once our account was approved, we were able to log in and create a business profile page.   This includes information about our services, images, and a section to publicize offers and announcements.  These features are a great way to personalize, as well as advertise, your business to Yelp users.  However, the real offering lies in the reviews and messaging tools that come with Yelp for Business.   These gives merchants the option of starting a private dialogue with the reviewer (sometimes, all they need is a personal connection or explanation) or they can post a response directly after the Yelp review.

Yelp for Business is free, so if nothing else, it’s a good precautionary measure.  Even if you don’t receive a single review, your profile will serve as your representation on the site.

As an added bonus, Yelp throws in some very basic analytics. You can view daily and monthly page visits to your Yelp profile from your business account.

Yelp has about 20 million visitors a month. Most businesses are unaware that they've even been reviewed - positively or negatively - on the site. Luckily, Yelp for Business is set-up so you receive automatic notifications whenever a user leaves a review.


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