Should you build or buy your interactive video platform? 5 things to consider before making the call


In a recent story written by TechCrunch about Rapt Media’s latest funding announcement, one comment in particular caught our eye. The commenter was curious about what makes our product worth a total funding of $7.5 million when, in his mind, it’s something that a custom development shop can build for a lot less.

After three years in the interactive video business, this type of question still comes up from time to time – often when talking to a prospective customer who’s evaluating interactive video vendors versus building a custom one-off video experience in-house. In the era of YouTube, it’s understandable for consumers to look at online video and think it’s cheap, easy, and straightforward – and with the right tools, it can be.

But there’s more to online video than the end product the viewer sees and shares with their friends on Facebook. How the video works behind the scenes is a whole other story, and the reality of video delivery on the internet is anything but simple. If you want to build a top-notch interactive video experience, you first need to decide whether to build or buy the platform. Here are the five key pieces to take into account before making that decision…



Your tech team probably knows how to build an HTML5 video player and how to optimize websites across all the modern browsers your customers use, so naturally they’ll be accounting for which video encodings are required for each.

But we’re talking interactive video here, so your tech team has to consider how to keep the experience as seamless as possible when responding to viewer interactions. That requires tuning the player’s javascript to successfully manage large media files quickly.



rapt-media-interactive-video-content-deliveryIf you’re building your videos for high availability (or want your European users to have a good experience as well), you’re going to want to set up a content delivery network to make sure the video assets you’re delivering are ready when and where your users are, adding yet another piece of infrastructure for the overburdened IT staff to manage.

Without this, your interactive video may harken back to the Bad Old Days of online video… buffering… buffering… and if you think viewers accustomed to snappy playback from YouTube, Vimeo, and Hulu are going to sit around and wait, you’re sorely mistaken. Obviously this issue is compounded with interactive video, where a viewer’s actions impact the video’s outcome, since you might need a media asset for any choice at any time.



So now you’ve got a sweet video player, and you’re finally ready for your creative team to start work. Is the creative team using a visual editor that operates in ways like Final Cut or Premier that they’re used to, or are they delivering text files with lists of video clips, cut points, and descriptions of interactions to your development team, which then have to be manually programmed into the player? Is this video campaign a one-time thing, or are the marketers going to have to come back and ask dev for content changes every time they want to iterate on messaging?

Your interactive video platform is only as powerful as the editor your creative team will be using. If it’s too difficult or unintuitive for them, it’ll either be a huge time suck, or a creative tool they won’t want to use after the first painful editing project.



The next thing to take into account is where you’re reaching your audience. With one in five pageviews happening on mobile devices, you’re losing at least 20 percent of views if your interactive video doesn’t work on mobile. Not only that, but Americans spend 33 minutes a day watching video on their smartphones, so reaching users on their smartphones is critical. And while I love my iPhone, interactive video on it is a feat. In fact, we’ve cracked that nut better than anyone else. Android playback ends up being a little simpler, but market fragmentation with hardware and operating systems will keep your QA team up at night.

You could always create your own walled garden and build an OS-specific app where you’ve eliminated variables that could stymie playback. But how many viewers will actually be willing to plumb the depths of their app store to download your custom video app? Statistics in this area are thin, but based on rates of e-commerce drop-off versus clicks-to-completion, the odds aren’t in your favor. The truth is it’ll likely not be worth the trouble it takes to create the interactive video experience and the app in which it lives.



icon_measure_yellow@2xYes, the analytics side of video is another factor to take into account when thinking of building your own in-house interactive video project. And if you think you’ll be fine with a simple view counter, then you’re making a mistake that will cost you valuable insight into your customers and their behavior patterns. Linear video is a black box of information, taking up space on a web page but not allowing the creator to see what kinds of actions the viewer is taking aside from hitting play and how much of the video he or she watches.

When your sales and marketing teams see what creative is putting together, they’re going to want it reporting to their marketing automation suite so they can monitor what actions viewers take throughout the video. Which paths through the experience drive clicks to a call-to-action most frequently? Which parts of the video have the highest drop-off rates? With this type of intel, marketers can figure out what’s working in the video and what isn’t, and can iterate on the video, making changes that will lead the user to the call-to-action or to the video’s overall desired result.


Here at Rapt Media, we’ve tackled all these aspects of interactive video and built it into a scalable platform so you don’t have to. When your marketing, advertising, or creative teams want to execute their interactive video vision, let them!

And, with a little help from your dev team and our Site Pairing API technology, they’ll be able to take part in the creative process and make your video experience into so much more when it integrates with your sites. Site Pairing is also great at hooking up your video to your existing marketing automation system (say… Eloqua) and analytics package.

Why wait? Sign up for a free account and try it out, or reach out to our talented customer success team. Or, if you’re a developer, and tackling all of those challenges sounds like your idea of a good time, we’re hiring!

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