Many government agencies already post video content to their official websites, but is specialized technology needed?
No matter how you slice it, state and local government has joined the video age, as many agencies are live-streaming meetings or posting content through third-party sites like YouTube. But is that enough? Should government agencies invest in a product that specifically caters to managing and distributing their videos?
Today’s citizens are expecting a rich media experience, said Andrew Krzmarzick, the director of community engagement at GovLoop, a social network for government employees. Citizen expectations are rising because of popular free consumer services like Skype and Google Plus Hangouts.
And it’s not just about live streaming anymore. Several customizable platforms for video publishing are now available that do content management, automated publishing and video embedding — and make content available on all types of devices. Two examples are Brightcove and Ooyala. Another new option is “mpx Essentials” — from an independent subsidiary of Comcast called “thePlatform,” a video publishing company serving media enterprises like PBS and Time Warner Cable.
ThePlatform’s new offering marketed to government, announced Wednesday, June 6, is a cloud-based platform and console for uploading, maintaining, archiving and distributing video content. These are functions the company feels are specifically attractive to the public sector.
Tim Sale, thePlatform’s director of technical sales, said state agencies and county and city governments can use the console for posting official video content, such as recordings of city council meetings — and the video plays no matter what device is accessing it. “We think this is a really easy way for those people to provide a good experience,” Sale said. “So not only that people on a computer can see [the video content] but also people who are on an iPad or an Android device can view the content.”
But is this type of video-centric solution a wise investment?
Kristy Fifelski, CEO and founder of DigitalGov Group and also known by the alias “GovGirl” said any paid service would need to make a strong case to be used in government. “I do think that local governments have to keep up with the times,” she said.
Free services like YouTube may seem like an appealing choice for agencies that are posting video content online, but Fifelski said agencies should assess what resources and staff they have before making a final decision. Ask what type of content will be shared online. If agencies want to post videos that promote tourism or economic development that involve high-quality production — videos that look like they could be TV commercials — it would make sense for agencies to look into purchasing higher-end video solutions, she said.
However, lower-quality videos can still be successful, she said, noting that some agencies are shooting videos to be posted through YouTube without additional bells and whistles.
And another option is teaming with an existing TV station. For example, the
Seattle Channel archives government-related videos. The public TV channel is operated through a unit within the city’s IT department. Florida runs a similar station that covers the state’s three branches of government.
Fifelski suggested one more important point to ponder: Can a government justify the expenditure for the platform along with the staff resources it currently has?
“Do we have the staff to fully utilize a top-level premium paid [video] system? Do we have that video production staff? Do we have the staff to be able to shoot the video as well as take them and edit them to make full use of this platform?”
Krzmarzick said agencies may only have one video project in mind. He said agencies should think about future uses: “Do you really want to buy this type of product for one project — or do you want to scope out what’s going to be happening over the next year or two — in terms of where you might be using video and have a longer-term plan.”