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Adobe's Emerging Rich Media Ecosystem, Part 3: Marketing, Service Level Agreements, and Security

  • May 5, 2008
  • By Marcia Gulesian
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EMarketer projects that nearly 80% of U.S. Internet users will watch online video at least once a month in 2008. A great indicator that online video has hit a mainstream audience is that 52.5% of all Americans, or 154 million, people will watch online video in 2008. By 2012, there will be an estimated 190 million video viewers.

So, if you are the publisher of one of these videos, you are probably interested in knowing the who, how, when, where, and so on about the viewers of your content.

For this, you need to carry out an online media analysis in order to find out whether your "marketing" strategy is working.

That's where Flash Media Server 3's powerful logging capabilities, which can be highly customized for your specific application and other optional analytics software, can help.

Analyses of this sort offer commercial contributors insights they can use to target their pitches.

For example, video producers who find their viewership peaks on Wednesdays could release new clips then. Likewise, producers who see their shows peaking after three weeks would know to release a new episode every three weeks, and someone whose material turns out to be popular in Spain might want to release the next video in Spanish.

A movie studio that uploads a trailer to your site could use geographic information to see where the clip is most popular and perhaps buy ads targeted to users in that region. They might want to gather additional information, such as how many times their video was viewed or commented on.

With this information, contributors can concentrate on creating compelling new content that appeals to their target audiences and post these videos on days they know these viewers are on the site.

Viewership breakdowns could count not only the number of times users start a video but also how many finish it. You might want to know information on how many viewers make it through 25 percent, 50 percent, or all of a video.

Access Logs

The access log of Flash Media Server 3 records information about connection requests by Flash Player and Flash Media Server application instances. The default configuration creates a single access log per server, called access.XX.log, which is located in the Flash Media Server logs directory. (Note: You also can configure Flash Media Server to create a separate access log for each virtual host.)

The access log will record data, such as:

  • Date and time a client connected to the server
  • How much total bandwidth was consumed during the session
  • Which streams were accessed by the connection
  • Whether the client published a stream
  • Whether the client jumped to a new location within a recorded stream

There are also application logs that record information about activities in application instances.

There is, of course, a cost to logging: The processor cycles you burn up for logging constitute a performance hit.

Server-Side ActionScript API

Because a progressive download is a simple download of a file, you can't easily log specific relevant statistics such as how long the video was viewed; whether the user navigated forward, backward, or paused the video; how many times the viewer played the video; if the viewer left the web page before the video completed playing; and so on. Streaming enables you to capture this important data easily.

To customize these tasks, there are many server-side programming options available in Flash Media Interactive Server and Flash Media Development Server. For example, methods like the following are available:

  • getInstanceStats()
  • getUsers()
  • getUserStats()

In addition, with Flash Media Interactive Server and Flash Media Development Server, you can use Server-Side ActionScript to connect to other systems, including Java Enterprise servers, .NET servers, and Web services. This connectivity allows applications to take advantage of external recourses such as DNS, LDAP, and database servers.

Google Analytics

There are ways of gathering analytics on web site usage as well. Remember, Flash Media Server is an RTMP, not an HTTP, server!

For example, Google Analytics, a web traffic analytics service, is a prototypical AIR application that is comprehensive, and totally free. It's a tool that can help you understand your traffic/visitors, measure performance of individual pages (or even ad units), identify low performing web pages, and more. Note: If your web site receives fewer than 50-100 K pageviews/monthly, any simpler analytics tool should be sufficient as well.

Bottom line: Marketing is a data-driven pursuit. To paraphrase Boswell, "Data, Sir, is like lace; every person should get as much of it as he or she can."

Service Level Agreements

Whether hosting or using a media server (or any other kind of server for that matter), the terms of service are sometimes provided in a document called an SLA, for service level agreement. This document details the fine print about how much uptime the service guarantees, how quickly and effectively the provider will respond to an outage, and whether it will compensate the user or reduce their fees if it does breech its service guarantee. In short, an SLA is a contract that dictates what level of service the provider is obligated to provide and what credits/remuneration, if any, is required when the terms of the SLA are not met.

SLAs can be between different businesses or between different parts of the same organization (such as the IT department and its users).

At its weakest, an SLA may be a simple oral understanding, documented by an exchange of letters. The best form is a formal legal agreement with the technical procedures and specifications annexed as separate schedules.

What happens if the terms of a service level agreement are broken? If the breach is fundamental, the party not in breach will be entitled to terminate the agreement and sue for the loss suffered as a result of the breach.

In other circumstances, there will be a system for measuring breach and apportioning cost. These systems range from an event-based system (if... then...) to a more sophisticated system of 'failure points' (if there are more than five examples of ... then ...).

The functions of such compensation systems vary from simply drawing attention to a problem to compensation for loss. Compensation for loss is difficult to quantify and, if it is excessive, will be unenforceable by a court (which will regard it as a penalty).

In practice, the right to withhold payment is a valuable weapon. The end (or slowing down) of payments into the supplier's accounts department is likely to put pressure on the supplier.





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