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Blog from July, 2010

Thank you to those of you who joined today's webinar. Search engine optimization (SEO) is a critical part of traffic growth for all web producers. Melanie Phung, our New Media Director, gave an excellent presentation that outlines key concepts and gives tactical advice to boost your site's SEO.

If you missed the webinar, or would like to share the deck with your colleagues, the materials are now available: attached is the presentation and the SEO checklist .

We'll look forward to continuing the SEO discussion with you!

Earlier this week, eMarketer released a new report on online video usage .  The report details findings related to audience and TV content viewing online. As new reports come along, we will continue to share them here.

Key Findings:

  • In 2010, two-thirds of US internet users are watching some form of online video content at least once per month. Continued growth will be driven by an expansion in content availability, technology advances and an increasing comfort level with the activity.
  • The bulk of the video-viewing audience is in the 18-to-44-year-old range, with the younger viewers in this group spending the most time watching online clips. Younger viewers are also most likely to watch full-length TV programs online. Over the next several years, however, the online video audience will gradually homogenize, with viewers outside this core age group carving out larger shares of the total audience.
  • The audience for online TV viewing will rise sharply in the coming years. Most people who watch full-length TV on the internet say their top motivator is catching up with missed shows, according to both Nielsen and comScore. This suggests that online video is more likely to affect timeshifting technologies such as TiVo than it is broadcast or cable TV.
  • Hulu has become the go-to site for TV online, while Facebook has emerged as a video powerhouse by virtue of its 500 million worldwide users and the ease with which the social network allows the embedding of video content, including short clips of select TV programs. And this is a two-way street, with news, media and entertainment sites that carry video often integrating Facebook and Twitter feeds alongside the video player.
  • Over the next year at least, the debate over how to monetize online video will be back in the foreground. This is partly because advertising support, which was assumed to be the silver bullet for the online video economy, has proved weaker than expected in a soft economy. Also, the cost of streaming video content is high and the medium does not scale. Unlike broadcast or cable, each stream has to be delivered individually from the source to the destination. Advertising alone has not been able to support these costs.

The root cause of this outage was a disk full error on the master database. We've set up automatic monitoring on this disk to prevent further problems.

As of 12:30pm the COVE Admin Tool is back up and working properly. Apologies for the inconvenience. We will follow up with details about what happened when we have them.

As of 11:50am the COVE portal is back up. The COVE Admin Tool is still down though.

The COVE portal and COVE Admin Tool have been down since approximately 10:50am this morning. Our team is currently looking into the issue. We will follow up with more information when we have it. Please check back to this blog post for details.

-Dan Haggerty

PBS is preparing to launch it’s “What’s on PBS?” application for iPhone later this summer, but we need your help!

For those who are unfamiliar with the product, the “What’s on PBS?” iPhone app to provide users with a direct answer to what is airing on their local PBS station. The app will transcend just TV schedules and include promotional clips for programs, as well as mobile exclusive and full-length content. The app will be the primary promotional tool for PBS general audience content on iPhones. [Learn More ]

How to participate
In order to launch the app later this summer, PBS is compiling a wide variety of content, particularly video content- clips, shorts, extra videos, full-length episodes and mobile exclusives. If you think your program has applicable video content that you want include, contact your program manager immediately so we can showcase your content in our first general audience iPhone app. [Note: Double check that your content does not have any rights issues that would preclude it from our mobile usage.]

There are plans down the line with the revamped COVE Admin Tool to allow users to designate content as “available” for mobile use. This option will allow PBS to automatically encode and prepare the video content ready for use within the iPhone app. This functionality is not available at this time yet, but stay tuned for continued updates on the planned improvements to the COVE Admin Tool.

We hope everybody is excited about this opportunity to give your programs mobile exposure, so please content your program manager as soon as possible if you feel you have potential content you want included.

Do you have an SEO strategy for your site? Have questions about what you can do to boost SEO? Bring them to our next webinar, on July 29, 3pm to 4pm EST.

In this webinar, we invite you to learn the basics of search engine optimization and some tips to boost your site’s profile. Melanie Phung, New Media Director here at PBS Interactive, will lead the webinar and extend her insights as an SEO strategist. Please join us on July 29, 2010, from 3pm to 4pm, for SEO best practices and helpful hints.

Date: July 29, 2010

Time: 3:00pm to 4pm EST

RSVP here: https://www2.gotomeeting.com/register/372194843

COVE ingestion problems

This issue has now been fixed. There was a problem with the Limelight streaming server that COVE assets are ingested to. The problem with that server has now been resolved and you can again ingest assets into COVE.

Please just re-Submit the Video URL if you've already created an asset in the system. There is no need to create a new asset.

In some cases you may see a red error message on the Episode Details page when you re-Submit the video URL. Please disregard this error message. It will disappear once you publish the asset.

Thank you for your patience.


COVE is experiencing problems with ingestion this evening, Friday, July 16th.

National producers have not been able to ingest new content into the system. The "Publish" button is not showing up after they fill out their metadata form and click "Submit". This is because the file is not getting ingested into COVE.

PBS is aware of the problem and has mobilized tech support to begin working on this.

We apologize for the inconvenience.

Please check back to this blog post for details about when this problem will be fixed and when you can again ingest content into COVE.

Last Wednesday the Washington Post’s technology blog “Post Tech” posted an article about the demographics of mobile web users that we thought you all might find interesting.

A report released by the Pew Research Center Wednesday concluded that the mobile population is becoming increasingly diverse since just last year, and a great amount of people depend upon their cellphones for wireless access. The Pew Internet & American Life Project found that African-Americans and Hispanics have remained among the most regular users of the mobile web.

Hispanics who use cellphones and laptops are also the most dominant users for data applications. The article said:

         “About 83 percent of Hispanics send or receive text messages, compared with 79 percent of Americans and 68 percent of whites. And 47 percent of Hispanics said they send or receive an e-mail, compared with 41 percent of blacks and 30 percent of whites surveyed. Also interesting was that 18 percent of Hispanics said they purchased a product over their mobile device compared with 13 percent of blacks and 10 percent of whites.”

The increased use of mobile web by low-income groups presents a likelihood to minimize the gap between wealthier and lower-income communities where the web has not been proportionately present since it’s immersion into American culture. The report stated that 46% of household who earn less than $30,000 per year reported wireless device use, which showed 11% increase from the previous year. This increase is notable as the cost of computer equipment and monthly fees for internet use were previously limited internet’s connectivity to lower-income homes.

All demographic groups regardless of income witnessed an increase of overall cellphone use, including youths. Notably, African-Americans climbed a seven percent increase for internet usage through laptops or cellphones- 57% of African Americans reported using internet via laptops or cellphones in 2009.

To read the full report from the Pew Research Center, visit the Mobile Access 2010 report on their website. You can also read the Post’s article here .

As we kick off the process of onboarding producers into the Merlin database, we wanted to clear up some questions about the difference between a PBS User account (required for Merlin) and the other accounts required for PBS products (COVE, JIRA, Producer Exchange.)

What is a PBS Account?

The Merlin Admin Tool will be the first time a PBS internal application will use the UUA (Universal User Authentication) service. In time, we plan to migrate all PBS websites and products to use this product.

The UUA creates a way for users to establish their own "PBS Account" that will allow them to maintain a singular identity across all PBS ecosystems -- PBS.org, stations, and producer websites. Therefore, if a user logs in to a producer website then visits the PBS homepage, they will still be logged in as the same user and won’t have to log in again once they reach a different PBS site. In addition to public users having a single account across the PBS ecosystem, our own internal products for producers and stations are also being migrated so that each time PBSi releases a new product you don’t have to receive a new account to try and remember.

As the UUA system is spread to PBS products and websites, producers particularly will find the system useful as creating an account will provide a breadth of information about our users. Currently the system only collects: first and last name, email address, and a nickname when registering. However, eventually we plan to add additional fields.

Do PBS Accounts work with COVE too?

The UUA system is different from COVE since each member in your team will have to create their own unique login. We need everyone to have their Merlin accounts created before your scheduled training session, so be sure to set them up and consult these instructions we created for specific help. There are plans to migrate the COVE admin tool over to utilize the UUA service in the future.

Do I still need a JIRA/Confluence account?

The UUA system is also different from JIRA/Confluence accounts so don’t assume having a JIRA/Confluence account will automatically double as a UUA account- you need to create PBS User account regardless. However, eventually the UUA system will be used on all websites and products, so down the road you will be able to use your PBS Account to log in to JIRA or any of the Confluence-based tools like the Producer Exchange.

Can I see the PBS Account system in action?

If you would like to preview an example of an active UUA system, Nightly Business Report (NBR) currently already uses the system and can be viewed here.

As you can see, log in creation is a simple but necessary step to not only onboarding our producers to Merlin, but also a future gateway to better know and reach our users where they are.

Throughout this past week PBS Interactive has continued to closely monitor and isolate the COVE CDN streaming problems outlined in a previous blog post.

Here are some details we'd like to share with you about our progress.

  1. Our CDN provider Limelight deployed some fixes to their system on Wednesday night (7/7) that they think will address the situation.  
  2. In parallel we have been testing an alternative CDN provider on selective episodes in COVE.

We are closely observing  the effects of these changes on COVE performance and as soon as we have more data we will be sure to share it with you.

Please continue to monitor your content and report any reoccurrence you see of this issue. We are encouraged by the progress that has been made this week and look forward to resolving this situation as soon as possible.

-Dan Haggerty

As you know, PBS Interactive has been planning an update to the StoryBoard UGC application. We’ve taken your feedback on what existing features need improvement as well as what new features you’d like to see. We then prioritized all the requests to determine what changes will have the biggest short-term impact on the application and, as a result, make StoryBoard more useful to you.

At this time, the following functionality changes are considered to be the highest priority:

  • Direct uploading of video clips by users
  • Creation of a search & browse page module for submitted stories
  • Additional customization options for page modules
  • Enhanced moderation and configuration controls for administrators

I anticipate development taking approximately three months from the start of the project. Given tight development resources and other priorities, our hope is to release this major update to StoryBoard in Q4 of this year. Once we have more details on the project’s timeline, we’ll let you know and update the StoryBoard page here in Producer Exchange: StoryBoard

Please contact me and your program manager if this will affect your project plans this fall and winter.

Jonathan

PBS has updated its Web policies with changes to three areas:

  • The first group ensures that your Amazon sites can be easily migrated between servers and restored.
  • The second group makes a slight change to the required “Support provided by" text for future production based on producer feedback. It also provides a clearer requirement for ad unit placement, stating that it must appear entirely within the first 600 pixels of the Web page.
  • The third clarifies the existing requirement that detailed production credits live on a dedicated page as opposed to a site’s homepage.

Details below:

For policies at: http://docs.pbs.org/display/PX/Technical+Policies+and+Specifications:

Added:

IP Address

Sites may not assume that their IP addresses will not change. That is, if the IP address changes, the site must still function properly.

Domain Name
Sites should not assume that their domain names are fixed. That is, if the domain name needs to change, the site should still function.

Repeatable Amazon-hosted sites
Site should be “repeatable” on Amazon. That is, PBS should be able to back up the producers application directory and database, create a new machine, and the site should come up without any human intervention. All customizations must be automated using the boot.sh file which is run once upon server provisioning.

For policies at: http://docs.pbs.org/display/PX/Sponsorship+Acknowledgment

Changed

Support for pbs.org provided by:

to

Support provided by:

And changed

The unit must appear completely above the fold, per the required resolution defined in this Manual.

to

The unit must appear entirely within the first 600 vertical pixels of the Web page.

For policies at: http://docs.pbs.org/display/PX/Editorial+Policies+and+Specifications in the Production Credits section:

Changed

If your site includes site or program credits, they must be presented on a separate page and not on the homepage or section index pages. Proprietary credits (such as “A film by…”) established in the program producer’s contract are the only exception.

to

If your site includes site or program credits, they must be presented on a separate page and not on the homepage or section index pages. The only exceptions are proprietary credits (such as “A film by…”), host and narrator credits as approved by your program manager.


Please click here for new details on this issue

Recently we have received many reports of intermittent problems with users accessing videos on the PBS Video portal and COVE Partner Player on producer sites. The symptoms are that the user clicks the play button and gets an error message in the video window that says. “The video you requested is not available at this time.” Subsequent attempts to reload the page and play the video may or may not be successful. In many instances the video will play successfully if the page is reloaded.

PBS takes this issue very seriously and has completed several steps to isolate and identify the problem. We have confirmed that this is a problem with our Content Delivery Network, Limelight. Limelight has been notified and we are in regular contact with them demanding that this resolved and fixed immediately.

Limelight has admitted that this problem has been exacerbated in the past couple of days. They have also confirmed that this problem is across their entire network and therefore is being experienced by all of their customers.

It is important that we hear from you if you or your users experience this problem so we can continue to quantify the breadth of the issue. If you see this message please file a “Video” JIRA ticket with the URL of the video you are trying to play and the time you attempted to access it. If possible, it is also helpful for our troubleshooting if you can provide your IP address by going to the following site: http://www.whatismyip.com . Lastly, for those who are able to do so, please ping Limelight servers at pbs.fcod.llnwd.net and record that IP, this should point to a failing Limelight edge server.

We apologize for the inconvenience to you and your users. Please know that we are taking this issue extremely seriously and are pursuing all means at our disposal to push Limelight to resolve this problem as soon as possible. We will be sure to let you know as soon as this issue has been fixed.

Yesterday evening (6/30/10) problems were reported with publishing in the COVE Admin Tool.

Typical symptoms of this problem included the "Publish" button not showing up on the "Episode Details" page after a video had been ingested (clicking the "Submit" button) into the system and the "Duration" field on that same page was not being populated. There were also reports of the "Publish" button not working on pages where it did show up.

Our team worked quickly to isolate this issue and found that it was a problem with Limelight server videos were attempting to publish to.

This was not a problem with the actual ingestion process. Videos were being properly ingested into the system. They just couldn't be properly published.

This issue was resolved late last night when publishing was moved to our backup Limelight server.

Please publish any video you were not able to last night and file a video JIRA ticket if you experience any further problems.

We apologize for the inconvenience and are working to ensure this issue is not repeated.

-Dan Haggerty