I review the video sharing application and project management service, Wistia, and talk with CEO Chris Savage on how they are positioning themselves as an affordable top-tier business solution for the SMB crowd.

Earlier I’ve covered how businesses are relying more on video content and features in their web-based project management systems, which they’re finding to be more integral to collaborating for business purposes. The problem? Some of the more well-known web-based project management (PM) systems are fairly limited in these features.

That’s why if your company is involved or getting involved with video being an important part of your business projects, you need to give serious consideration to an application that allows you and others to collaborate effectively around that video content, and even track the performance (i.e., level of engagement) of that video content – both with your private users and; if you so choose, with the larger public.

How Wistia is different from other video analytics services

Chris_Savage_CEO_Wistia-smI asked Chris Savage, CEO of Wistia, how they differ from some of the better-known video analytics programs, like Omniture’s Site Catalyst and Visible Measures.  Chris explained to me that Wistia is most unique in that their tracking focuses not only on the aggregate video data (for improving and understanding overall engagement and effectiveness) but on viewing sessions of the individual as well.

“Because Wistia tracks embedded videos and video viewed within the Wistia solution (i.e., hosted platform), the focus on individual tracking allows a marketer to gauge and understand the interest down to an individual lead,” says Chris. “That difference is critical for marketers to learn how people are converting, and for people in sales to know which leads to focus on. Both of these use cases are impossible with Omniture’s SiteCatalyst and Visible Measures.”

Embedded video metrics for your business

Wistia touts their platform for video marketing, sales, and collaboration. It’s a hosted management application (SasS) around sharing video, both for private and public use. Recently they announced a new version of their video sharing service coded-named Zebra, which is particularly notable in that you can now embed a video to any website or blog (or Wistia’s own private hosted environment) and fully track the experience through its embedded video metrics. This provides user the ability to closely monitor and analyze the behavior patterns of their online viewers engaging in the video content. We’re not just talking impressions and clicks, but advanced levels of viewer engagement.

Wistia’s embedded video metrics include:

  • Individual tracking – every individual viewing session, location, organization and IP address is captured;
  • Second-by-second video tracking – you can monitor how individual users interact with your videos second-by-second – including where they fast forward, rewind or stop watching; and where they have taken an intended call-to-action.
  • Aggregation – viewing sessions are aggregated by each video, and by groups, which you can tabulate to determine overall video effectiveness.

Wistia’s video project management features

As a video-analytics tool alone, Wistia is impressive. Even more impressive is how it naturally integrates its video metrics into its hosted platform for sharing and collaboration. Some notable features include:

  • Permissions – you control over how private (and public) viewers can access content through levels of permissions – sharing, downloading, and uploading, and file type.
  • Sections – You can create sections within a video project all on the same project page, which is a great way to stay organized with all your video content.
  • Playback quality – all video that gets uploaded to Wistia is converted from its native format into a standard FLV recipe (including FLV uploads). Their default bitrate of 1024 kbps (with a width of 640 pixels) may be on the high end for some users’ audiences, so Wistia’s customer service will offer to adjust the bitrate and player dimensions to your needs. (Note: I personally find the bit rate to be very good quality for watching the video full-size by clicking the “expand button” on the player.)
  • Not just for video – Wistia can upload and convert most standard digital files to either web-viewable formats (documents, images, audio, flash animations (SWF), and other file types (.zip, .psd, etc.) as icons for easy sharing and download. And of course, project members can make their own comments on each digital file uploaded.
  • Descriptions – you can enter a full description for each video or other digital file on web page’s right-hand column, along with the creator’s name and when the file was originally created.
  • Embeddable dimensions – Wistia’s embed code defaults to 640 x 380 pixels, and you can manually adjust the height and width if you wish.
  • Public Web pages – Wistia can make a publicly accessible version of a URL, which they call an “OpenLink.” You can basically think of it as having a user in your account which, when invited to a project, will allow you to construct a publicly accessible link to access the content which you can then distribute or link to as you wish.  Wistia’s customer service explained to me that this feature does first require them to flip a switch on the backend, and the provide some information to you on how to construct the links.

How Wisita is used effectively for business

Chris emphasizes that Wistia is designed as a video-based solution for the small-to-medium business crowd primarily in marketing and sales, rather than agencies or media companies (even though I would think it could still be of use to the latter as well). Aside from sales tracking and collaboration purposes, I find it functions particularly well as a training tool, from the individual client to large groups. (One good example Wistia recommends is doing a conference call and getting everyone to watch your videos, from which you can automatically track individual viewer engagement either at the time of the call, or from later viewing.)

Wistia’s limitations on metrics and business applications

What Wistia doesn’t do is measure all video content – just the video that’s embedded on the websites you control. This excludes video sharing sites and ad networks. Its also not meant to be an aggregator of UGC video metrics. (An existing solution for that is TubeMogul.) Chris says Wistia is focused more on direct marketing and sales efforts – which is much more actively done by the SMB crowd and relevant to their needs. In other words, not just impressions and clicks, but real levels of viewer engagement towards clearly-connected, business-related actions.

“There are two different steps,” says Chris. “The first part is driving demand. The second part is turning that demand into actual business results. The 2nd piece is the Wistia piece, where you can actually demonstrate a real ROI. With Wistia you can correlate specific views to a purchase process. And often, video can scale so well, so its pretty easy to use our solutions and see tangible sales revenue, and make the cost of the marketing seem relatively small in comparison to the size of the sale.”

Another thing I found limiting on the Wistia platform is that the only way to differentiate a single video’s performance across multiple locations online is you first have to create multiple copies of the same video in the project. (Wistia’s customer support was helpful with explaining this to me.) I would hope its next version would offer some kind of tracking or tagging feature that makes the current setup unnecessary, especially since its something you would expect on a standard video analytics program (even a free one like on Google Analytics.)

Wistia’s Pricing

Ah, the important part! Wistia is a software-as-a-service (SaaS) model with a monthly subscription. Their entry package (which I tested out) starts at $79 per month, which includes one manager, up to 50 contacts for private viewing and 500 trackable plays. That’s a lower pricing point than the popular video platform Brightcove’s entry level program, which breaks down to $500 a month (and with an annual commitment.)

The verdict – an solid SMB solution for video conversions.

Is Wistia a complete web-based project management system? No. While it does a great job with uploading and showcasing most non-video files, what it can’t do is create web pages for text-only collaboration, which is key to any PM system. However that’s not what is was designed to be, so that fact that I would be comparing it to standard web-based PM systems says a lot about what it has already accomplished, and the potential to be even more. So while its not a full-fledged replacement, it can certainly stand on itself as a project management solution for some and perhaps all of video-centric projects (and some that aren’t).