The South Florida Business Journal featured a column by Jeff Zbar that examined the success of the Florida Keys & Key West Web site’s use of online video as a marketing tool. The agency’s Andy Newman — who came up with the video idea — was interviewed for the article:

Visitors inside the Key West International Airport see art, sculptures and images reminiscent of Old Key West. Paintings and other images of architecture, herons and foliage dot the walls.

Except some viewers aren’t in the airport. They’ve visited www.fla-keys.com and are watching a “video of
the week.” It’s the latest installment of a recurring feature on the site incorporating low-cost, streaming
video to enhance the site’s viewer appeal.

“We thought we would post what people who are coming to the Keys might want to see,” said Andy Newman, senior VP with Newman PR, the Miami-based public relations firm that handles the Monroe County Tourist Development Council account. “To us, it seemed pretty evident that video on the Internet was going to grow and take on an increasingly important role. So, it was important for the TDC site.”

The popularity of video continues to grow as the cost of photography equipment, video editing and production software, and hosting options continues to drop. Overall online video usage grew in double digits as recently as December, the Nielsen Co. noted.

Such user stats as year-over-year, unique viewers, total streams and streams per viewer were up, paced by time per viewer, which was up 13 percent from December 2008, the company reported.

Newman conceived the idea to post videos to the Keys site in 2008. Since that time, they’ve posted videos on how to make a key lime pie and fly fish for black fin tuna. In October, managers posted a video on the Florida Keys Overseas Highway being designated an All-American Road by the Federal Highway Administration’s National Scenic Byways Program. In May, they posted video on the sinking of the Gen.
Hoyt S. Vandenberg, a ship that became an artificial reef off Key West. The most popular video is on “Snuba,” an apparatus that allows swimmers to breathe beneath the water’s surface.

For the Keys marketers, the videos are often simple to come by. Newman already has a collection of video the firm shoots for use on TV news shows. His team takes the video, edits it down to 90 to 120 seconds, and posts to the site.

“Shorter is better,” he said. “People’s attention span is very short these days.”

Once posted to its own server, the TDC also links the videos to YouTube, and promotes them using Twitter and Facebook, he said.

Others take a more do-it-yourself approach. Since 2006, the team at CableOrganizer.com has used a “prosumer” grade Sony Handycam DCR-SR82 to shoot the images in the company’s Fort Lauderdale conference room, said Paul Holstein, CableOrganizer.com’s VP and COO. They shoot videos of product sampling in one take — meaning no editing necessary — and post to a YouTube channel they created for the company. They also host videos to the company’s own video player staff Web designers created in Adobe Flash CS3.

“We generally keep things simple,” Holstein said. “We have a few employees who are comfortable talking about and demonstrating the products on camera, so they take turns starring while someone else mans the camera.”

Setting up a custom YouTube channel is free and simple, he said. Once a YouTube account has been registered, code can be embedded on a personal or company Web site to show thumbnails of videos uploaded to the service. By including text content about the video and topic, the videos then are searchable by potential visitors. This will be critical to improving search results as more consumers search for video content on the Web.

Newman cautions, though, that the availability of low-cost or free tools or services shouldn’t encourage businesses to post low-quality video.

“If you’re going to have them on the homepage or Web site, they have to be professionally done,” he said. “I used to think you could get by with a substandard product. But, I came to the realization that your Web video to market your product or showcase your destination has to be just as good as if you’re going on TV with it.”

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