Blog from October, 2011

Are you interested in upping your SEO with guidance from our resident expert, Melanie Phung? We are seeking one Producer and one Station who would be willing to experiment with our new SEO worksheet, get some hands-on help, and then present the findings at an upcoming SEO webinar. Find out what you can rank for, what you rank for now, and prioritize your SEO terms. Interested? Contact Nik Eley at  Webinar details below.


Keyword Research Workshop

Words matter. And when it comes to attracting more visitors to your website, using the right words can make all the difference.  So what's key to your site? 

Analytics have shown that if you invest in keyword research upfront you can attract new visitors for many months or even years without additional marketing. Join us for our next featured webinar/ online workshop on Keyword Research November 15th, 2011 from 2 - 3pm ET.  This is great precursor to the SEO Workshop in December. Limited seats are available. And we will cap this workshop to about 20 people to allow for  hands on practice of concepts introduced by PBS New Media Director, Melanie Phung.  

All participants should come ready to answer the following questions:

  1. What can I rank for? What kind of unique content does your site offer? What types of phrases describe what your content is about? (Focus on nouns as your core terms, not adjectives; be specific) 
  2. What do I rank for now? Based on your analytics data, what phrases are visitors already typing into search engines to discover your content, aside from purely branded terms (brand terms = name of your station, exact name of your program, etc)?
  3. What’s my priority? Are you trying to improve rankings for terms you already have some visibility for? Or are you pursuing new terms? Using these questions, we'll move through a worksheet that outlines the steps for selecting the best keywords for your site and stand out examples from PBS Producers & Stations. 

RSVP your Webinar seat now. There are only 20 seats available.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

2-3pm ET

See you there!

We are excited to announce that the launch of COVE 2.0 is near. The exact details are still evolving but we are relatively confident that the new system will launch sometime in the next few weeks.

The launch of COVE 2.0 will consist of the roll-out of 2 new products:

  1. The API-powered PBS Video portal going live and replacing the old portal at
  2. The new COVE Admin Tool launching

When these 2 new products go live producers will not have to change their workflow at all. This is because you will be able to publish videos to the new API-powered portal through the current (legacy) Admin Tool. So you can continue to publish and manage your videos in the legacy system until you are on-boarded into the new COVE Admin Tool; with one important exception.

Our developers need to lock down producer Program Pages in the PBS Video portal so they can migrate the data. So they would like any necessary changes to be made to producer Program Pages before this coming Wednesday, October 24th. Any changes made after that date will not appear in the new API-powered portal when it goes live.

Then, after COVE 2.0 (portal + admin) goes live the only way to update Program Pages will be through the new COVE Admin Tool. You will not be able to update your program page in the legacy Admin Tool. This means producers won't be able to make any changes to those pages until they're on-boarded into the new system.

So, we need all producers to make sure their Program Pages are in order before this coming Wednesday. If you need to make a change to the description, background image or logo please do it before that date. You can access all of this by clicking the "Edit/Manage" Program Page button in the legacy COVE Admin Tool.

If you have an urgent change that needs to happen after that date and before you are on-boarded into the new COVE Admin Tool you can contact Dan Haggerty ( Dan will have the ability to make the changes on your behalf.

Program Page management will be the only thing you will not be able to do in the legacy COVE Admin Tool after COVE 2.0 goes live.  At launch the legacy Admin Tool and the new COVE Admin Tool will exist in parallel while PBS migrates producers from the old system to the new one.

On-boarding will occur in the months follow launch and PBS will be contacting you to schedule a time to move your program into the new system and get you trained on how to use it.

We will be posting further details to this blog as soon as we have them. Until then please make sure you get those Program Pages in a state you're comfortable with.

As always, please don't hesitate to contact your program manager if you have any questions or concerns.
We look forward to working with you on this exciting roll-out.

Entries are now being accepted for the 16th Annual Webby Awards.  The early entry deadline is Friday, October 28th.  These awards honor the best of the web – including Websites, Interactive Advertising & Media, Online Film & Video, Apps and the Mobile Web.  Learn More.

Please visit to apply and find further application information and entry fees.
Last year, PBS was honored with two Webby Awards, two People's Voice awards and six webby nominations for the 15th Annual  Webby Awards

Nominate away! 

Part of the rollout of the new PBS Video players is an improvement to how the embedded links appear underneath the player.

Previously, the first link underneath the player said, generically, “Watch full episode.” This created user confusion  since the links always pointed to that respective video’s location on the portal, and that meant that the links underneath promos and clips did not go to full episodes. The link's text, therefore, was misleading.

Now, the linked text (i.e, the “anchor text”) says “Watch [name of video] on PBS”, which properly sets the correct expectation about what video the users see when they click on the link.

In addition, this link has much better SEO value because the anchor text is descriptive.

(Unless you’re trying to rank for the two-word phrase “full episode”, you don’t want the links pointing to all your video pages to all use “full episode” as the anchor text. Assuming the video’s name contains the terms for which you’re trying to rank – which it generally would, especially if Merlin meta data guidelines are being followed – using the name of the video as the anchor text is a big improvement.)

Couple of notes on how to make sure you’re leveraging the full SEO value of the viral player and its embedded links:

  • Promote the viral player by encouraging your viewers and fans to embed your videos on your sites. The more your clips, segments and full episodes are embedded around the open web, the more people will see your videos AND the more SEO value you’ll get from the inbound links those embeds generate.
  • Whenever you submit links for your program in PBS admin tools (e.g., the Program Website field for your program page in COVE 1.0 or the Homepage field in your Content Channel in Merlin/COVE 2.0) make sure you use the canonical URL of your website or episode homepage. In other words, use the final URL that you want users to land on, not a vanity URL that has to go through redirects. For example, embedded links for the show Frontline should always point to and not . Vanity URLs are fine for on-air or in display ads, but are not ideal for SEO and don’t serve a purpose when the URLs are masked by anchor text anyway.
  • Tip: Make sure you’re following the Merlin video titling guidelines. Don’t put calls to action in the title, because it’s inconsistent and causes weird syntax.

Figure 2: Note how adding “watch” to the video title causes the text underneath the player to be incorrect. In some cases, a badly titled video might cause the embedding site to simply strip out/delete the links, in which case you won't derive SEO value from the embed.

The viral player offers tremendous growth opportunity for reaching new audiences and increasing video views. It’s also a great, scalable way to build new inbound links to help drive visibility of your content in search engines.

For more ways to leverage link opportunities to improve your search engine rankings, also see 5 Easy, Must-Do Link Building Tactics for SEO .

Curious to know what pages your visitors are looking at right this minute and where they came from? Google Analytics will soon give its users access to this information.

For those of you familiar with ChartBeat, this has very similar functionality, with the added benefit that you don’t need to install any new code. If you have Google Analytics on your site, you’ll have access to this information without any additional work on your end.

Google Analytics says it will roll out its real-time reporting soon, but you can request advanced access to this functionality.

If you want to get an early look at this data, request access here:

After you get access, you'll see real-time info in the new Google Analytics Beta dashboard. To get there, follow these steps:

  1. Log into Google Analytics with your account.
  2. Click on "New Version" link if that’s not already your default (top right corner of screen, next to your username)
  3. Pick the unfiltered profile (11 No Filters) from your site from your account options. (You generally can see the real-time data in other profiles, but no filters are being applied.)
  4. Click on the “Home" icon (upper left, in the horizontal orange nav bar)
  5. Click on "Real-Time (beta)" (at the top left of the left nav)
  6. Select "overview", "traffic sources" or "content" for data

Note: this is not "up to date" data (I.e., it doesn't address data processing lags), this is data in real-time as it's happening. It can tell you things like how much traffic a FB post is sending right now, but not how popular something is over any period of time. There's going to be a lot of noise (just because 10 people are looking at something right now doesn't necessarily mean that it indicates a trend that will hold up over the next hour)

Couple of additional notes:

  1. Everyone should have access shortly without having to request access. Google said a couple weeks at launch, which is just about now.
  2. If you do request access, you may not receive any confirmation that you were approved. Just check your account in a few days (follow instructions above) to see if you have the report.
  3. This report is only available in the new version of Google Analytics (Google Analytics Beta).
  4. This is raw data. Filters are applied to data when it’s processed (overnight) not when it’s collected. So draw conclusions cautiously. (Unfiltered data includes, among other things, visits from staff from our IPs and, depending on your account/profiles setups, data from parts of the site other than yours.)
  5. Real-time won’t work well in IE8 or below. If you use those browsers, you will see the “You need a modern browser to use Real-Time Analytics” message.

On Wednesday, Oct. 19th, PBS will perform server upgrades impacting the PIGS and OpenPBS services. The upgrades include downtime from 3-4am ET. Please reach out to your program manager if you have any questions.

On Monday October 17th starting at 2AM ET the PBS Operations team will preform upgrades on the following Amazon hosted services:

  1. UUA 
  2. Cove API
  3. Global Chrome 

The server upgrade procedure does not involve downtime for any of the services above.  All producer sites hosted on Amazon Servers should not be affected.  

Please let us know if you have any questions in the comments space below or by contacting your program manager. Thank you! 

UPDATE 10/13/11. The new COVE video player was released early this morning. You’ll notice the new look is reflected across the national and local video portals, the partner player and all new instances of the viral player. Details about the release and its improvements can be found below. Enjoy! 

We are excited to announce the impending release of a new video player design for COVE. The PBSi Products team estimates that they will be able to roll this player out to production some time early next week; likely on Tuesday (10/11/11).

This new player will have a significantly improved user interface that we think will help further achieve our collective goals around video viewing.

The Big Differences

The biggest difference will be the removal of the top control bar (with “Embed”, “Share”, “Email” and “Buy It” buttons). The “Email” and “Buy It” buttons will move into the main control bar at the bottom and the “Buy” button will be changed to a DVD icon.



The “Share” button will be removed completely and with it the Share screen you see below.

In its place we have added a Facebook and Twitter button to the main controls. Users will be able to share videos through those services much more easily with just a single click.

We have also improved the paused state of the player. Currently if a user pauses a video on a producer site the player controls will eventually disappear. This leaves the player looking like just an image on the page.

In the new player when a user pauses a video, this is what they see.

And that interface remains until the user un-pauses the video or navigates away from the page.

Improvements to Mid-roll/Pre-roll

Another big improve has been the addition of markers where mid-roll sponsorship messaging will play in the video.  These appear as white dots in the timeline. (circled in red below)
The addition of these markers is part of our continuing commitment to improve the mid-roll experience. They should give our users a much better sense for when and how often mid-roll will play.
This new player will also make it so users cannot skip mid-roll. In the current player a user can just scrub past a mid-roll point. This will not be possible in the new player. In the new player when a user scrubs past a mid-roll point the video will pause and play the nearest mid-roll sponsorship video. After that the user will be able to scrub anywhere in the timeline and not see any further mid-roll.

The pre-roll experience will also be improved. Currently if a user clicks in the video window when pre-roll is playing a new tab will open to the funder’s website. In the new player though instead of pausing, the pre-roll and then video will continue to play.

Additional Changes

The new player will also feature the following improvements:

  • The timeline will feature an improved chapter interface that doesn't overlap with the scrubber bar in fullscreen mode and displays markers that give the user a better sense of where chapters are. For text the new pop-up window will display the chapter title only. (see screenshot below) 
  • Hitting the spacebar will now pause and un-pause a video.
  • A much smoother scrubbing action in the timeline that shows the user what timecode and chapter they’re scrubbing to.
  • Instead of having to click to open the volume control button it will just appear on cursor roll-over.
  • The fullscreen button will display the text “Fullscreen” when the cursor rolls over it. This will also be the case for the “Email”, “Embed” and “Buy It” (DVD icon) buttons.
  • An improved error message that appears when a video fails. Previously the message users saw just told them that the video was “unavailable”. Now if a video fails the user gets a message that tells them to try again soon (see below). This will hopefully prompt our users to access the video later.  

Improvements specific to the Viral Player

The COVE Viral Player will retain the “Share”, “Details”, “Buy” and “Email” buttons it currently in its header. (circled in red below)

Only the bottom control panel will change for that player and it will not feature the new Facebook, Twitter, Email and DVD buttons.

If a user clicks on the “Share” button in the Viral Player a screen will appear featuring the Facebook, Twitter and Email buttons. 


We are working through the final details now and anticipate that this player will launch some time next week. It is likely the roll-out will occur early Tuesday morning, October 11, 2011.

An update will be added to this blog post on the day the new player goes live.

When the new interface goes live all of the players in the COVE-powered portals (national and local) as well as all the COVE-powered Partner Players on your producer websites will update.

Because they are outside the ecosystem though existing Viral Player instances will not update. All new instances of the Viral Player that are embedded after the launch will get the new player.

We are excited to bring our users this update. We think it will be a significant improvement over the current experience and will help us achieve our shared goals for video traffic on

Please feel free to post your questions in the comments section below or send them to Dan Haggerty at

We look forward to a great launch!

COVE Publishing is down

Video publishing in COVE is currently experiencing some issues which are preventing published videos from being available. 

Any videos published after 11:10am today are currently not available for playback. 

Our producers have also been unable to access the metadata form for these assets in the COVE Admin Tool.

It appears that all videos published prior to 11:10am are working properly and are accessible in the COVE Admin Tool.

We are working to correct the issue, and any video published after 11:10am should become available as soon as we repair the problem.

We apologize for this inconvenience and will post updates to this blog post as soon as we have them.

UPDATE at 6:15 pm on 10/4/11. The PBSi Operations Team says that publishing capabilities have been restored. Unfortunately the videos that were published earlier today before the fix went live are still not appearing in the front-end and producers still cannot access the metadata forms for those videos. We will continue to work on the issue and keep you updated via this blog post.

UPDATE at 10:45 am on 10/5/11. Video publishing in COVE remains unavailable. The fix that went in yesterday afternoon did not solve the issue. However our our operations team is now confident they have identified the core cause of the problem and are in the process of putting a fix into place.  Our current estimate is that the service will remain unavailable for the rest of the day. It is recommended that users abstain from video publishing while we complete the fixes.

It appears that videos that were published yesterday did show up in COVE players over night when the system cache reset.

Producers continue to report a related issue where the metadata form for their videos is showing up blank when they go in to edit it in the COVE Admin Tool. This is making it impossible for producer to make any metadata changes to their videos. We are looking into this issue as well. In the mean time rest assured that your video metadata is intact and remains in our database. For some reason it is just not appearing in the COVE Admin Tool.

Again, we apologize for the inconvenience. Please contact your program manager or Dan Haggerty ( if you have any questions or concerns.

UPDATE at 4:30pm on 10/5/11. We have made a number of changes that now allow for the publishing of video content. There is however an important caveat.  While you can create and publish, you can NOT edit any content that has been created.  So while you are now able to bring new content online, you should take great care as it's not possible to modify anything if you make a mistake with the metadata

UPDATE at 4:00pm on 10/5/11. COVE publishing has been completely restored. You should be able to submit new videos, publish them and edit their metadata.

All videos that were published during this outage should be working fine. If you have a video that is not playing, please check back tomorrow morning after the system cache has cleared  before reporting the issue (if not urgent).

We are seeing some intermittent issues where the COVE Admin Tool throws an error when you submit changes to an existing asset. Initial reports indicate this may be happening when a user attempts to ingest a .sami file (Close Captioning). This is very infrequent though and the changes you submit will go through no problem. Please report this issue in a JIRA ticket if it does happen to you.

UPDATE at 3:30pm on 10/7/11. Stack editing is not working in the COVE Admin Tool for new videos ingested this week. The system will allow the user to create the stack release, but the link to the video will be incorrect and fail when clicked on. 
Until this issue is fixed, it is recommended that you do not update any stacks. This is a fairly complex problem so a resolution is not expected until late next week.

We apologize for the additional inconvenience.

UPDATE at 4:15pm on 10/7/11. Through exceptional skill our products team has fixed the Stack editing issue in just half an hour. You should now be able to update your stacks and be confident that the links to the video will be correct.

Have a great holiday weekend!

Over the weekend a number of COVE videos disappeared from the PBS Video portal and stopped working in the Partner Player on producer websites. This error was the result of a bug in the back-end media management system of COVE ( also known as "thePlatform"). We believe this bug arose some time on Saturday afternoon.

The videos were not erased/deleted. Only the metadata about what program each video is assigned to was lost.

Without this data the videos cannot be played in either the PBS Video portal or the COVE Partner Player on your website and they will not show up in your COVE Admin Tool account. They are in the system though and there is no need to re-ingest them or republish them.

We are working on reassigning these videos to their respective programs and we hope to have that work completed by the end of today. This will ensure that  your videos will play again in the Partner Player and the PBS Video portal and appear in your list of videos in the COVE Admin Tool.

The programs affected were:

  • Masterpiece
  • Frontline
  • Antiques Roadshow
  • NOVA
  • Austin City Limits
  • Great Performances
  • History Detectives
  • POV
  • Nature
  • Tavis Smiley

In most cases only a few videos from each program lost their data. This outage did not affect large amounts of content from any one program.

Unfortunately the program categories each of these videos were assigned to were also lost. We will be reassigning for you as well and hope to have that work completed by the end of this week.

It does not appear that any other data (e.g. title, description, ect.) was lost for these videos.

This was a particularly bad occurrence of an issue that we have seen crop up occasionally in recent months. We are disappointed with our vendor's performance and are working closely with them to ensure it doesn't happen again.

If in the unlikely event that it does occur again we could use your help documenting it. If you notice that any of your videos stop playing in your website, while simultaneously disappearing from your COVE Admin Account and portal Program Page it is likely this same issue and we would greatly appreciate it if you would let us know through a JIRA ticket.

We apologize for this inconvenience. Please let your program manager or your COVE liaison, Dan Haggerty (, know if you have any questions, concern or would like a list of your videos that were affected.

UPDATE at 5:15pm on 10/3/11. All videos should be working in the Partner Player and in the PBS Video portal. All of the affected videos have had their program data reassigned. The team will now begin work on reassigning the program categories for all of these videos.

UPDATE at 4:00pm on 10/31/11. All missing program categories have now been reassigned by our team.