ATG Original: A Veritable Tsunami of Streaming Videos (Part 2 of a 2 part series)

by | Sep 9, 2014 | 0 comments

By Nancy K. Herther

Today we can all be video producers—and many of us are. Take YouTube, for example. The company released its beta version in May 2005 and, little over a year later, Google bought the streaming video giant for $1.65 billion dollars. Today, YouTube boasts:

  • More than 1 billion unique users each month
  • More than 6 billion hours of video watched each month—almost an hour for every person on Earth
  • 100 hours of video are uploaded to YouTube every minute
  • 80% of YouTube traffic now comes from outside the U.S.
  • YouTube is localized in 61 countries and across 61 languages
  • According to Nielsen, YouTube reaches more U.S. adults ages 18-34 than any cable network
  • Millions of new subscriptions are added each day. The number of people subscribing daily is up more than 3x since last year, and the number of daily subscriptions is up more than 4x since last year

Youtube logo.svg

Even if your institution isn’t ready for a major investment, it’s probably time to explore some of the options available for learning and instruction so you can be ready when the time comes.

Wanting to Test the Streaming Waters?

All of the major vendors of library streaming videos offer demonstrations, trials, or webinars to help you better understand and evaluate how their services might work for you. This list of vendors is not exhaustive, but provides you with some good options to begin your evaluation:

  • Alexander Street Press  Company offers the largest catalog of individual titles as well as collections from publishing partners and their own products.


  • Ambrose Digital  Their 66 page catalog includes titles across the disciplines an is available to both individuals and organizations.


  • Films on Demand  Service provides access to titles from their four imprints “Films for the Humanities and Sciences, Cambridge Educational, Meridian Education, and Shopware.”


  • Kanopy  This service offers “both a powerful user interface and administrative dashboard whereKanopy logolibrarians can analyze live viewer behavior and better manage the ROI of their libraries” from a catalog that includes many titles exclusive to Kanopy.


  • Naxos Video Library  This well-known Performing Arts DVD distributor is now adding videos to their catalog of products, largely in the arts and humanities.


  • OverDrive Media Station  Targeted to public libraries and schools, OverDrive is building their streaming business from their successful ebook platform.


  • Swank Digital Campus  Offering “digital access to course-related films,” this service from “the world’s largest non-theatrical distributor of motion pictures” includes most major Hollywood studios and TV offerings.

A more complete listing of library streaming video providers is available from the American Library Association @


Some Basic Options for Curious Users on a Shoestring

Even if your institution isn’t ready for full-scale streaming services, there are a wide variety of excellent streaming video options that any library can offer to individuals at no cost. Here is a good set of free video sites that have significant academic content:

  • Academic Earth  In addition to MOOCs and other free courses from major universities, Academic Academic Earth logoEarth “features an ongoing series of original videos. These videos tap into our belief that a great deal of learning happens outside the classroom in those unstructured moments when provocative questions are raised, debated, and sometimes answered.”


  •  American Memory  American Memory is a multimedia web site of digitized historical documents, photographs, sound recordings, moving pictures, books, pamphlets, maps, and other resources from the Library of Congress’s vast holdings. A historic initiative in its own right, American Memory currently makes available more than 100 collections and more than 9 million individual items to users in the U.S. and throughout the world.’


  • American Rhetoric—Online Speech Bank  “Database of and index to 5000+ full text, audio andAmerrican Rhetoric logo video versions of public speeches, sermons, legal proceedings, lectures, debates, interviews, other recorded media events, and a declaration or two.” In text, audio or video, viewers can get a taste of some of the great moments as they occurred.


  •  Documentary Heaven  Rather than hosting independent documentaries, this site links to media embedded from other sites such as Vimeo and YouTube.


  •  Documentary Tube  This site allows anyone to “find documentaries on a variety of subjects. There are hundreds of movies available in full-length form to watch right on the computer. This website is user-friendly and allows people to navigate through its impressive collection. One of the best advantages of this site is that it is absolutely free.”


  • EVIA Digital Archive Project  EVIA—Ethnographic Video for Instruction & Analysis—“is a collaborative endeavor to create a digital archive of ethnographic field video for use by scholars and instructors…has also invested significantly in the creation of software and systems for the annotation, discovery, playback, peer review, and scholarly publication of video and accompanying descriptions.”

EVIA logo

  •  Folkstreams  “A National Preserve of Documentary Films about American Roots Cultures streamed with essays about the traditions and filmmaking. The site includes transcriptions, study and teaching guides, suggested readings, and links to related websites.”


  • International Monetary Fund Videos  Offers more than 1,800 short video presentations and speeches searchable by country, topic, and date with a focus on economic and political issues around the world.


  •  Khan Academy  The famous “not-for-profit with the goal of changing education for the better byKhan Academy logo providing a free world-class education for anyone anywhere” provides short tutorials on virtually any learning topic.


  •  National Film Board of Canada  A collection of nearly 2,000 documentaries and films from “Canada’s public producer and distributor, and this is our online Screening Room. We offer free streaming of documentary and animated films as well as interactive stories, all of which explore the world we live in from a Canadian point of view.”


  •  PBS Video  Videos from Frontline, POV, and Masterpiece Theatre are included, but many are available for only a period of time—still an excellent collection of well-produced, compelling viewing. NOVA, POV, American Experience, and other programming areas are also available for streaming from the PBS site.

TED logo

  •  TED Talks  TED is a nonprofit devoted to spreading ideas, usually in the form of short, powerful talks (18 minutes or less). TED began in 1984 as a conference where Technology, Entertainment and Design converged, and today covers almost all topics—from science to business to global issues—in more than 100 languages.” These short videos are provocative, well designed, and valuable for anyone.
  •  WGBH From the Vault  “From the Vault” is an ongoing collaboration with WGBH Radio and, bringing treasures from the archives to new audiences. This curated collection gives a sense of the range of the WGBH archives, highlighting rare or seldom-seen materials.”

WGBH logo (2)

  •  YouTube Education  YouTube EDU features some of our most popular educational videos across YouTube. This channel was generated automatically by YouTube’s video discovery system.”


Your Peers Look Toward the Future

“More and more vendors are selling rights for streaming,” notes University of Utah Media Librarian Joni Clayton, “though the cost is quite high per title averaging $300 – $500 per title for a 3-5 year license. Most of the titles we stream, we are required to digitize and provide on our authenticated server. Some of our titles are hosted by the vendor, which does at times cause problems of access since students must authenticate from off campus correctly to access the streams. The databases are nice, especially Films on Demand from Films for the Humanities and Sciences, though it is expensive, it has extensive offerings. Overall, the costs are high, and acceptable only because they are required to be in line with Copyright Guidelines.”

Finding great videos is still an issue—and finding them later, due to the number of take-downs and roving URLs, almost impossible—and a problem crying for some reasonable solution. YouTube has its channels to help with finding and linking to videos, and Google has announced an effort to build a separate “YouTube for MOOCs.” The site intends to be “open to everyone, including businesses, governments, and private individuals as well as professors at non-EdX colleges.”

With the development of user tools in the e-book arena, users are all the more expecting of productivity and networking tools to accompany streaming videos. University of British Columbia librarian Allan Cho is currently working with faculty “about the use of our webcast collection for the ‘flipped classroom’ approach that some have encouraged in their classes. Faculty are some of our biggest champions in fact, but the most common feedback we receive is the searchability of videos themselves, which turns out to the most critical aspect of the teaching and learning component. I am currently working with an Asian Studies faculty and History faculty member on a project titled, “Webcasting 2.0: Translating, Captioning, and Indexing for Flexible Learning” which uses transcription, annotation, captioning, production and indexing of webcast videos on YouTube to help online learners to conduct keyword searching of the text transcription of video webcasts.”

Virginia Tech Digital Media Specialist Liz McVoy notes that, “our users seem to enjoy the videos, especially because a lot of them are things they’ve never seen before at the library. The videos vary from very student-oriented and sometimes fun and silly films to instructional videos and films about our services. We mainly host our videos with YouTube and our Institutional Repository. The matter of which goes where really lies more with the team uploading to the repository.” Her Prezi guide on the basics of filmmaking for libraries is a useful place to get started on aiding faculty and students in their development of videos for coursework or research.

Another option is the ACRL-sponsored Jossey-Bass book, Interactive Open Educational resources: A Guide to Finding, Choosing, and Using What’s Out There to Transform College Teaching written by John D. Shank, Associate Instructional Design Librarian and Director of The Center for Learning & Teaching at Penn State Berks. The book is intended to help “decipher the best tools, resources and techniques for discovering, selecting, and integrating” these freely available resources.

Kaila Bussert of Cornell has a good online guide to searching Twitter, Facebook, blogs, videos, images that is quite useful for good tips in navigating these waters. These are all wonderful projects, but given the number of potentially useful videos being posted to sites every minute of each day, this tsunami may be too much for any traditional solution available today.

At the University of Buffalo Libraries “some professors have complained about the quality of the video when projecting it in the classroom, but those complaints are very minimal,” reports Lori Widzinski, Head of Multimedia Collections and Services. “The only other issue that seems to arise from a faculty perspective is the cost of licensing films. The service of providing access to streaming films for academic libraries is moving very rapidly. As services such as Netflix start adding social issue documentaries to the list of videos they offer, and as models for patron driven acquisitions of streaming video emerge, we may start to see different partnerships evolving.”

A recent study from the European Parliament’s Directorate-General for Internal Policies, Streaming and Online Access to Content and Services, noted that although “digital content escapes traditional economic assumptions,” streaming video—as compared to the production of physical DVDs—not only represents a “reduction of information costs—and thus transaction costs—through facilitated, immediate and ubiquitous access [that] improves the outcomes of transactions and leads to efficiency,” but that streaming provides a “reduced environmental footprint in delivering information and content, both for consumption and productive collaboration.” Earlier this year, American research published a similar study that encouraged designers and policy makers to move to “less energy intensive alternative[s] to the manufacturing and transportation of digital video discs” as a way to “curb future increases in energy use.” However, other research has pointed out that “higher movie quality not only affects the power consumption of the CPU but also the power consumption of the WiFi unit by up to 58% and up to 72% respectively on mobile networks.” I guess this balance of environmental issues involved still awaits resolution.

Until copyright/DRM is resolved by the industry, it is hard to believe we will see the demise of DVDs very soon. For streaming videos to truly become an essential educational tool, we need the confidence of industry-wide standards to know that we are consistently able to access these at a fair cost and over time. Today, that still seems to be more a dream than a reality.

Even streaming vendors see significant issues with the “very wide range of input standards,” as Jessica Kemp, Alexander Street Press Director of Marketing, asserts. “There’s still a very wide range of input standards. We have to deal with an extensive variety of physical media—film, professional tape formats like U-Matic, DVDs, hard disks, and FTP sites. There are also the many types of encodes and formats—mp4, PAL, NSTC, together with differing aspect ratios. We seek the best copy we can get, but on occasion the only copy left needs to be restored. We don’t do major restorations, but we do attempt to fix basic issues. Last and not least, there’s the question of how best to encode the video. Some compression algorithms do a very poor job with fast changing scenery—like dance—but a great job with talking heads. We have to make sure that the user experience is as good as the original media permits.”

“It’s tempting to believe that DVD is going to disappear,” Kemp continues, “but DVD still has functionality that makes it useful, much in the same way that print books still have. DVD is archival, it works even when you don’t have high-speed Internet, and many rights holders are comfortable with licensing their content for DVD. Alexander Street was, I believe, the first company to produce streaming collections of video for libraries—we embrace the future—but we need to remember that for some libraries the old medium remains important. At ALA, I heard that 30% of Seattle Public Library’s circulations are DVDs, and that DVD is orders of magnitude more used than streaming.” The next few years should be interesting indeed.

(Click here to view the first part of this series: Streaming Video’s Meteoric Rise in the Library/Education Market (Part 1 of a 2 part series))


Nancy HertherNancy K. Herther is librarian for American Studies, Anthropology, Asian American Studies and Sociology at the University of Minnesota Libraries, Twin Cities campus.


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