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Smart Libraries Q&A: Streaming Video

Smart Libraries Newsletter [October 2021]


YouTube recently changed its terms of service to claim the “Right to Monetize” any content uploaded to the service. The change in November 2020 affected only US users, but YouTube has applied that claim globally as of late May 2021. Effectively, they have granted themselves license to play advertisements before any video they host, regardless of whether the uploader chooses to monetize their content.

Our public library only recently started creating regular video content, and we have no plans to stop. YouTube is still appealing as a lightweight solution for video hosting, but ads on our videos are at odds with our values as a public library and a disservice to our patrons. What are some alternatives to YouTube (free or paid) when it comes to hosting a large and growing collection of library-made videos? And what are their benefits and drawbacks?

Streaming video has become one of the most popular formats for delivering content. It has become incredibly easy and inexpensive to produce videos with reasonable quality. Libraries can produce promotional or instructional videos on a small budget. The equipment needed to produce quality video ranges from using the built-in capabilities of a smart phone, to midlevel Digital SLR cameras, to professional quality video and sound studios. Video editing software has likewise become readily available. The main ingredient beyond the technical equipment lies in the skill and creativity of the individuals creating the video content.

Digital storage needed to accommodate video files has likewise become quite affordable. In previous times, the multigigabyte sized files were challenging to accommodate, but now that multi-terabyte drives cost less than $100 storing even thousands of video files, the cost of digital storage isn't much of an issue.

Video-playback couldn't be easier. It's built into web browsers and the HTML5 standard makes it easy to link to streaming video.

The main challenge today lies in where to host streaming video files to make them easily accessible and discoverable. YouTube, owned by Google, leads other services by far as the most popular source for streaming video. According to Statista, the service claims over 1.86 billion users. YouTube does not charge for individuals or organizations to post non-commercial video content they create. While YouTube offers subscriptions for premium commercial movies and shows, access to user-contributed content remains free.

YouTube can be an enticing platform for libraries to place their videos. Upload is easy, videos are available instantly, and the content is reliably discoverable through search engines. Libraries can set up a channel to make it easy for their users to browse their collection of videos and to view their latest uploads. The library can view statistics on the number of views for each video and other trends.

The key issue with library use of YouTube is its basic business model supported by advertising. YouTube lives within a commercial ecosystem that aggressively extracts personal information from its users for the purpose of personalized ad placement within its own set of web properties and externally to other commercial sites. When a library links to video on YouTube, even its own content, it sends its users to a domain of unconstrained privacy practices. Most libraries have developed privacy policies that state how they will treat personal information within their own environment and are careful to work with content providers that reasonably align with those policies. From the perspective of patron privacy, libraries should be very cautious about how they interact with YouTube and other ad-based commercial services.

The other problem, as you noted, has to do with the how Google may place ads alongside library-provided content. The library has little control over the ad placement, and the ads may imply library support of products or issues inconsistent with library intentions or values.

Google and other ad-based sites provide their services without direct monetary cost, but rather deal in the currency of user data, which is in turn monetized through the revenues paid by advertisers and data brokers. Facebook and other social networks follow the same basic approach. This business model seems inconsistent with most library use.

Libraries might consider a variety of other models for providing access to their video content. Many other commercial services offer free or affordable plans for hosting library-produced video content without the systematic entanglement with the advertising ecosystem. Vimeo, for example, offers a range of plans for individuals or organizations scaled to the quantity of storage needed, number of accounts for managing the content, and streaming bandwidth.

In many cases, libraries will also stream videos through the infrastructure used to deliver their website and related services. This approach takes more technical expertise and may not be as easy for content creators to upload and monitor content.

As with any other technology decision, libraries must make careful choices that balance functional needs, cost, convenience, as well as privacy and security requirements.

View Citation
Publication Year:2021
Type of Material:Article
Language English
Published in: Smart Libraries Newsletter
Publication Info:Volume 41 Number 10
Issue:October 2021
Publisher:ALA TechSource
Series: Smart Libraries Q&A
Place of Publication:Chicago, IL
Record Number:26767
Last Update:2022-11-29 00:10:08
Date Created:2021-10-11 16:32:38