Even in 2012, people still want to set up their own niche video streaming websites to compete with YouTube. However, too many run into too many issues. This post attempts to cover the basics in what’s required to run a fully functional social video website.
Having a strong, as-bug-free-as-possible script is key. The script ideally should be set up in a modular, clean manner that can be extended. Building it in an object-oriented manner and, if possible, utilizing a framework like Zend or CodeIgniter is important as the work can go from one programmer to another. You do not want to be held hostage by your coder which unfortunately is all too common.
2. Fast, Powerful Web Server
This cannot be emphasized enough. One of the reasons why YouTube is famous is because, no matter how many visitors go onto YouTube, YouTube never seems to crash. Google has arguably the most powerful servers in the world and therefore they can afford to run YouTube in a manner where it won’t crash. That said, somebody starting out a non-revenue-generating website needs to realize that a powerful web server starting out will cost some nice dineros. On the other hand, starting out with a shared web server will lead to site slowness and frequent crashes, which in turn will alienate your user base. I honestly don’t have a middle-ground solution here.
What I will recommend though is that the web server for the video website uses Lighty rather than Apache. It lacks the ability to dynamically generate SEO-friendly URLs via an .htaccess file, but it’s wicked fast in processing.
3. Video Streaming/Storage Server
You need storage space to host your videos, so why use your web server to not only process the script but hold all those files? Having files stored on a cloud server (think Amazon Cloud) will help reduce lags in server processing, and it also makes things easier if/when you decide to switch to a more powerful web server (you don’t need to move ALL the files over in the process).
Another option for storing video files is on an RTMP server. If you are super-smart, you can either rent an additional server and set it up by yourself, or, hire a third-party stream service to do the hard work for you.
A third option is to have a server where the video is split up into thousands of 10 second clips, each successive clip loading after the previous one. This is how many streaming sites are able to load videos quickly rather than wait for the entire video to load at once.
Let’s be honest here: Any time you need something, where is the first place you go to? That’s right, Google. Google this, Google that. Google, Google, Google! Get the point? To reach one of the largest audiences in the world already asking for information (and not the annoyed types), you need to be on the front page of such a platform. This is where SEO comes in.
While SEO-friendly URLs might pose an issue if you’re using Lighttpd for wicked-fast processing, you can still optimize things like auto-Title and H1 tags, as well as an auto-meta keywords and description tags areas. Video transcripts are also popular as it adds content to the page. If the content is SEO-able, that helps your video pages tremendously.
5. Social Interaction
For users to stay beyond the first time around, there needs to be some form of social interaction on the site. This includes comments, sharing on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest, and email updates whenever new comments are posted on your videos.
6. Ways to generate revenue
In the end of the day, to be a somewhat-successful website you need a way to generate revenue to at least pay the bills. If the website is somewhat successful you can start to leverage Google Ads. Alternatively, you can also charge separately for custom Ads which people would pay monthly.
Another way to generate revenue is to create a “donate” button with “top donators” showing who donated the most to the website. That way there is an incentive to give more.
7. An alternate source of income starting out
Last but not least, you need to have an alternate source of income to start out, at least to feed your videos habit. Sorry to splash cold water on your face, but you will have a VERY hard time finding an investor trying to invest in another YouTube, a platform which has already matured. And yes, the excuse of “YouTube got $1.5 Billion” worked in 2005 when few others were doing it and it was “new.” It will not work in 2012 or beyond. If you’re really vested in this, fund it yourself somehow.