eBay Embraces Enterprise YouTube

A funny thing happened on my way to writing a case study about eBay’s use of their enterprise YouTube. Specifically, the discussion transitioned from tech talk, like identifying channels and moderation workflows, to the social forces driving eBay’s decision to implement its enterprise YouTube and to surround it with complementary functionality.

As you’ll read below, eBay (Figure 1) didn’t implement their enterprise YouTube solely for tactical reasons; it was also a strategic measure to help ensure the long-term competitiveness of their products and services. In the words of Ryan Burnham, who manages eBay’s internal webcasting and streaming, “the exponential leap in technology has driven a rapid expansion of what the devices in our pockets can do, while social media sites like Facebook and Twitter are shaping how everyone—not just millennials—discover and consume information. If we’re not providing parity experiences for our employees, we’re by default expressing a corporate policy that it’s OK not to keep up, which puts us at risk for producing substandard products and services.”

 

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Figure 1. eBay credits its enterprise YouTube from Qumu with helping foster innovation across the eBay Inc. portfolio of products and services.

Enterprise YouTube as a vehicle for ensuring long-term competitive advantage? Pretty heady stuff. But I get ahead of myself. So let’s start with the basics.

About Enterprise YouTubes

As the name suggests, enterprise (or corporate) YouTubes allow employees and other stakeholders to upload content to a centralized location for internal distribution and, at the discretion of the organization, external distribution. There are multiple vendors that offer enterprise YouTube products, including Qumu, who supplies eBay’s product, traditional online video platform vendors like Kaltura, webcasting vendors like MediaPlatform, and companies whose focus is enterprise YouTubes like Vidizmo, which we’ll be reviewing in an upcoming issue of Streaming Media magazine. The list is growing; just this week VBrick announced its own enterprise YouTube offering.

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Figure 2. Qumu supplies enterprise YouTube functionality as a component of its Video Control Center product offering.

At a high level, the features offered by most vendors share many common elements. For example, all products enable organizations to specify which employees can upload content, with well-defined moderation workflows. All offer a portal for viewing content, and most can integrate with existing enterprise portals with single sign-on capabilities. All products enable the creation of channels and the ability to control which employees can view content in those channels. All enable the sharing of both live events and on-demand videos, and most provide detailed analytics that enable system administrators to track who watched which video and for how long.

Beyond this general functionality is a wealth of functions that fewer organizations actually leverage, like the ability to use the system for testing and certification, or to monetize content. Like the proverbial elephant, enterprise YouTubes look and feel like many things; it all depends upon where you touch. As it is with Qumu, enterprise YouTube functionality is often part of a much broader product, a specific interface or set of rules that gets enabled, rather than a standalone product.

eBay’s Scenario

As an example, eBay started using Qumu’s Media Publisher product in 2006, but didn’t implement enterprise YouTube functionality until 2010. At the time, the primary motivation wasn’t for employee uploads, but so that their team could manage its increasingly video-related publishing without involving an intermediary. To explain, most video publishing applications are highly centralized, with a few administrators uploading a large number of videos for viewing by many. By deploying the enterprise YouTube, eBay was able to efficiently and economically empower communications stakeholders to use video to dialog with their constituents.

As Burnham explained, this is critical in an enterprise as large as eBay Inc., which has three main divisions: eBay marketplaces, which includes the main eBay Marketplaces site plus eBay Classifieds Group and StubHub; PayPal, which includes Bill Me Later and Braintree; and eBay Enterprise (formerly GSI commerce) which fulfills online orders for brick and mortar companies. All three are international divisions, with eBay running in more than 31 countries using countless languages. When video distribution was highly centralized, communications around these divisions and geographical locations was very challenging.

When eBay first deployed Qumu, video communications consisted of quarterly CEO announcements. Today, Burnham sees three general types of content in the portal. First are VP-level webcasts, which occur two or three times a week, and often have a mix of local and remote viewers. Second are communications pieces from various departments, like a very popular weekly “PayPal in 90 Seconds” video, which informs PayPal employees of the progress around their business and geographic units and gets thousands of views a week. According to Burnham, this type of video is the “new document” and generates much greater attention and interaction than memos or other text-based documents. The third category is from general employees, and may be training videos, a product demo, or other quick-hit videos meant to be relevant to the business unit.

Channels and Moderation

Each division has its own channel and multiple subchannels tailored to its audience. All employees can upload content to the general channel for uncategorized content, while the ability to upload to specific channels is limited to stakeholders within those channels.

Burnham estimated that around 1,000 employees have uploaded some form of video content. One huge use case are periodic hack-a-thons eBay holds to generate new ideas for a product or process, where employees often use video to describe or demonstrate their concepts. In any given week, about 100 videos are uploaded into the system, though there are special cases like the hack-a-thons that spike that number.

All employee-generated content is uploaded without system-side moderation, though Qumu’s system does offer this functionality. When I asked why eBay wasn’t moderating, Burnham responded, “eBay is community governed and we rely on community input to moderate content. To date, there have been no issues, though we may look into a flagging system to identify inappropriate content. Anything that is published as official corporate content is always reviewed by corporate communications management first.” That said, all content can only be viewed internally, and Burnham felt that there absolutely would be moderation if any of the channels were ever made public.

In terms of viewing, Burnham estimated that more than 95% of the content in the system is available to all employees, even in other divisions, with obvious exceptions of legal channels or executive meeting channels. Inter-divisional viewing is encouraged, Burnham explained, as employees are expected to find new opportunities and synergies within the eBay Inc. portfolio of products and services.

Viewing the Content

Employees view content in the Qumu portal, called HubTV, which is separate from eBay’s internal portal. Burnham is part of a team responsible for eBay’s internal portals, and over the next 12-18 months they will be working to unify eBay’s intranet and video experiences. With so much content available, Burnham shared that “discoverability” was a key issue, and one area where eBay was investing outside of the Qumu portal.

As Burnham explained, much of the top-down content is driven by email. For example, when eBay schedules a live webcast, the system generates a URL and all relevant employees are notified by email. Fifteen minutes before the event starts, a calendar reminder notifies the relevant audience. Local employees can attend in person or watch over the network. Employees who are not at a facility can login to the portal as well, with video delivered via Akamai to ensure high-quality delivery outside the firewall.

Other regular video uploads, like the aforementioned “PayPal in 90 Seconds,” are also announced via email, and within the eBay system, employees can subscribe to these emails and be notified when they’re available. Beyond this, eBay relies upon the portal to expose employees to available content relevant to them. Though the Qumu portal offers the normal search and similar functions, eBay is investing outside the portal in two areasL curation and social feed. Both of these concepts rely on Qumu APIs, and both are inspired by best-of-breed functionality delivered by third-party sites.

For example, Burnham points to the TED Talks website as an example of excellent curation, where videos are categorized into different groups based upon multiple definitions, like Latest Stories, Environment, Hidden Gems, or Impact of Ideas to expose visitors to content relevant to them. eBay wants to deliver a similar curation function with categories most relevant to eBay employees.

For the social feed, Burnham pointed towards Facebook and Yammer. “Social feeds will allow our employees to see which videos their co-workers have uploaded, have watched, or are watching” he says. “Many times, for many employees, this is a much better indicator that the video is relevant to them than an email or memo.”

What It’s All About: The ROI of Enterprise YouTube

At this point, our conversation turned to ROI and the benefits the Qumu enterprise YouTube delivered. At a high level, Burnham pointed towards communications and engagement. “eBay is a 24/7 business in over 31 countries in many different languages,” Burnham says. “We’ve found that video has become the preferred method for keeping tabs on what’s happening; it’s much more effective to produce a short video or a live event than to draft a long memo. Video makes the concepts easy to consume, and easy to grasp, and our employees can finish up and go about their business.” 

I asked if the younger employees in the eBay workforce were driving this shift from memos to video, which led to a broader discussion about engagement, and how technology trends are driving how eBay wants to enable their employees to interact. “It’s not just that the millennials in our workforce are more used to communicating with video, it’s that video is a better form of communicating. Outside of our work environment, all of our employees are producing and consuming much more video, even the grandparents among us.”

“Think about it,” he says. “Ten years ago, it was a major hassle to produce a single video; you had to shoot with an expensive camcorder, edit with sophisticated software on an expensive workstation, and upload to a complicated web server for delivery. The only place you could watch the video was on a computer. Today, these functions have been democratized, and you can do all of that in ten minutes with an iPhone and YouTube, and watch the video anywhere you would like. These are the types of experiences that our employees are used to, plus the discoverability aspects we discussed a moment ago.”

“And these are the types of experiences that all employees—not just millenials—expect from their enterprise system. The bottom line is that we just can’t sit idly by and say our current tools are sufficient; that just doesn’t work anymore. We have to continue to invest to make our internal systems match the external experience, and the Qumu enterprise YouTube functionality is a significant piece of that investment.”

About Jan Ozer

I help companies train new technical hires in streaming media-related positions; I also help companies optimize their codec selections and encoding stacks, and evaluate new encoders and codecs.

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