Value added YouTube

There are boring TV networks, like CSPAN. There are generally pretty awful TV networks, like FoxNews. Then there’s Avnet On Demand.

Although not actually a bona fide TV network, Avnet On Demand is a dedicated video channel the company has been running for close to a year, offering footage specifically focused on the distribution channel. Believe it or not, this is actually filling a void in the market. Although there’s plenty of video content online that focuses on consumer subjects, type “value-added reseller” into YouTube and not much interesting comes up.

I decided to browse through Avnet On Demand to see what was on. The default clip is a welcome message from a middle-aged blond woman dressed for business. Below that is the library of approximately 300 clips the company has assembled so far. Although it’s a bit unorthodox not to stream these onto YouTube, this is a pretty decent site design, with plenty of online sharing tools at the top.

At press time, the most popular video was “Power Supply Requirements for the Spartan-3A FPGA Evaluation Board (Part 2),” featuring experts from Xilinx and Texas Instruments as well as Avnet. For those who aren’t really excited about the world of field programmable gate arrays, this would not be riveting viewing (but then, the title would probably have indicated that). The production values and overall energy of those on screen were also something less than what you could expect on a midnight cable TV talk show. This was really just another way to deliver product marketing messages, but I’ve seen worse. It definitely beats sitting through an actual meeting with some of these guys, where you really wish you had a “pause” or “fast forward” button.

CDN has made a considerable shift towards video and multimedia in the last year, and as I’m sure has been the case with Avnet, the learning curve has been rather steep. There are questions around how frequently content should be updated, how in-depth it should be (some Avnet clips dare to go close to 10 minutes!) and whether anyone can actually make money with this stuff. The one thing we probably all agree on, however, is that this is a communications medium with too much potential to ignore. So why do most VARs ignore it?

Most resellers probably don’t feel they have the time, expertise or audience to create extended commercials of the services they offer. Look at what’s already out there, though, and you’ll see the bar has been set fairly low. Few people are setting up elaborate studios. With little more than a handheld camera and decent lighting, you can at least get in the game. As with the transition from printed direct mail marketing to online ads and Web sites the content is more important than anything else.

As for what that content should be? How about down-to-earth explanations of critical technologies that could help an IT manager explain to his executive team why they need to spend some money? What about a regular update on the best technologies available to deal with particular vertical markets? Start thinking about the key questions customers raise during projects, and offer a two or three-minute clip providing an answer. Even a single video that introduces a reseller’s team on their Web site can be add a more personal touch than the average “About Us” page.

Video won’t solve every reseller’s problems, and it may make more sense to stream VAR-produced content directly to a distributor (or CDN) to reach the widest possible community. As with anything, the important thing is to start planning a strategy. The channel needs to get ready for its close-up.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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