I recently had my blog “Philly Sports Net” redesigned and intentionally created a premium spot above the fold for video highlights. At first, I figured I’d just edit the WordPress sidebar.php file with a new YouTube or Google Video embed file every time the writer for my site wanted to switch out a sports highlight.
But I knew there had to be better way. Rather than swapping out videos, wouldn’t it be nice to create something like a Video Channel that played the newest video first and then sequenced through subsequent videos in temporal order?
First, I tried using YouTube playlists, but found the process quite limited and not nearly as intuitive as I would have liked. Plus, the way YouTube playlists display in your blog “on page load” just doesn’t look good.
I figured there had to be some tool out there on the internet that made it easy to publish your own video channel pulling from a variety of video content sources (e.g. YouTube, Google Video, etc.) Finding such a tool wasn’t easy…the fact is after 20 minutes or so of searching, I only found one that actually does what I was looking for.
It’s called Feedbeat and it rocks. Feedbeat is an embedded flash player that allows you to 1) create video playlists from a variety of sources, 2) quickly reorder the videos with an easy to use drag and drop interface 3) add videos either by searching or by entering the URL of the original source 4) choose to have your playlist play back randomly or sequentially 5) choose whether to loop your playlist or not 6) choose whether your playlist begins playing “on page load” or whether the user needs to initiate playback 7) design the look and feel of the embedded player and 8) share the channel embed code with others for wider distribution.
These are great features which allow the user to build an expansive video playlist over time and make changes without having to go in, modify and upload files on the web server each time a video gets added. Just make the changes you need to make in your Feedbeat account and they show up on your site.
The embedded player is customizable and feature rich. If sequential playback is chosen, the video that appears first in the playlist gets played back first (A perfect fit for a sports highlight video channel!) The embedded player also features a skip button that allows the user to easily move back and forth between videos in your playlist.
While the developers claim that it’s still in ALPHA, Feedbeat has been virtually flawless in my experience so far. Once you’ve registered for an account, the process of creating and publishing a video channel is as simple as you could want it. The user interface is extremely visual + drag-and-drop which should make it easy for the average blogger to get up and started quickly. Its ease of use also makes it the perfect tool for group managed video channels – think about the possibilities of several bloggers joining forces to create their own video channel shared and published on each of their websites!
I have run into a few minor problems with Feedbeat so far. First of all, when entering a YouTube link, it only accepts “www” versions of the URL. So if you enter a non-www version of the URL, the system is not flexible enough to make the adjustment on its own. For someone like me who rarely navigates the web in “www” it’s a little annoying. Minor quibble. The other problem is that I’m currently not sure how robust the Feedbeat server infrastructure is. Only one day after signing up for my account, the service went offline for several hours. This will be something to monitor and is hopefully just one of those growing pains that free webapp services usually encounter as they move beyond the early adopter stage.
In the end, Bloggers who are looking to easily integrate video channels into their blogs should seriously consider giving Feedbeat a try. It’s one of the most exciting WebApps I’ve used in a really long time. And at this point in time, I think it’s the only viable solution (thankfully a good one at that!) for running multi-sourced self-created video channels on your blog.
To see Feedbeat in action, visit my blog Philly Sports Net.