Planning a membership site is like building a house. There are many aspects that go into building your membership site. A growing number of membership and course sites are utilizing video to share with their members for learning information as they build their site. Today, we’re going to talk about video hosting recommendations for membership or course sites.

There are many ways you could go about building a membership site, but for the most part it really breaks down into a few key areas: foundation, key systems, outside design and content. With a course or membership site, content is vitally important to the success of the site. And if you are doing video content, having your videos up is crucial to the success of your site.

What is Video Content

Video content is a form of multimedia content. It can contain video of your screen, animated Gifs, live videos, customer testimonials, webinars and more. At iThemes we run a WordPress Training Service that provides a wide range of webinars for free. An 5 year old article even talks about how 60% of people would prefer video content to standard text content.

As a marketing strategist I can attest to these interesting stats. 43% of video marketers say video reduced the number of support inquiry calls they’ve received. And a staggering 89% of video marketers say video, in general, gives them a good amount of return on their investment. It makes sense given the world we’re living in today, one that a majority of people are working from their homes and look at creative avenues to keep them from going stir crazy.

What Should I Consider for Video Hosting?

I think most people understand or at least know of several players mentioned below in this article. But before we start looking at that, we should consider putting together some sort of a rubric that helps us to define some parameters for what we should look for with a video hosting solution.

Content Protection

Membership and course sites have unique needs for their video content. The biggest one is that we need to protect our video content at all costs. It’s what generates our revenue. There are a few different ways to think about protecting our content, so let’s look at those now.

1. Restricting Videos from being accessed directly

This might sound straight forward, but I think it’s worth mentioning so we’re clear. When we’re selling access (either membership or course) to content, we want to make sure that someone can’t view the source on the page, grab the URL of the video and access it directly.

2. Restricting videos from being downloaded

There are different ways for someone to try and download your videos. The biggest piece you want to make sure you do is prevent them from downloading them at all costs.

3. Restricting videos from being embedded on other pages

If someone can find your video through previously mentioned means, they may also have the ability to embed it on their own site and thus either consume it freely or they can resell it as their own work.

Content Approval

Another facet you should consider with a video hosting platform is if there is any type of approval process. Now I’m not talking about an official approval process, but one that is about setting the appropriate age level that a video would be made for.

Think YouTube Kids. If you’ve ever uploaded a video to YouTube, you have to answer a specific question on whether your content is suitable for kids.

This is just one example though. If you are looking at a video hosting platform outside of the ones mentioned below, you should consider whether or not you want to deal with an approval process.

Content Ownership

Any time you are uploading content to a site, you want to make sure you understand the terms of service you are agreeing to. For example, take a look at Facebook’s photos. Have you ever seen how when you upload a photo to Facebook, it tries to detect other faces in the photos? And if it finds someone that’s on Facebook, it will automatically recommend that you tag them?

That all happens because in Facebook’s terms of service you are giving them permission to use your photos for their purposes as well. Facebook uses them to train their AI code. (total digression here, but I think you get the point).

When you upload your course or membership content to a video hosting platform, you want to make sure that you own the content. You don’t want your content to be used for this type of AI training.

Content Fits in Terms of Service

Over the last couple of years you’ve likely heard about websites or content getting shut down because the site owner was using services that goes against someone’s terms of service.

You want to be careful that you don’t build a course or membership site on a video hosting service that has a difficult TOS to work with. You want to make sure that you are building in an environment where you can freely make decisions to your business model without it effecting where you hosted your video content.

Where Do I Host Video Content for My Membership Site?

When you select to go the the route of self-hosting your site, hosting video content can be a bit of a challenge to understand what options you might have. Video content isn’t the same as your images and written content. Video content is typically large file sizes and requires different types of hosting considerations to make sure you don’t upset your members.

Self-Hosted

I’ll be honest and say that I’m adding this option here because I’m sure someone will ask about it. Self-hosting your video content is an all-around bad idea. At least when you don’t think it through. 

One might think that hosting self-hosted content is about hosting your videos right within WordPress or at least on the same server that you are running your site for. And on the surface it seems like a good idea. I mean you aren’t paying for an additional service. Your videos are easy to find just by looking at the media folder of your WordPress site. You don’t have to go out to another service, so grabbing a link to embed your video may seem easy. 

But videos are larger in file sizes. That means that you are going to have issues with serving them to hundreds of thousands of users when your courses take off. Your web server isn’t designed to be able to serve video files, so you’ll run the risk of playback issues and even lower web site performance because of the taxing nature of video playback.

YouTube

Restrict Content Pro's YouTube Page

Someone would say that it makes total sense to host your video on YouTube. And while that is true for free videos, I wouldn’t suggest using it for your paid content. Adding videos to YouTube makes total sense when you have free video content because it’s the number 2 search engine in the world. But when you run a paid membership or course site, putting your premium content on a video hosting platform like YouTube can become a real issue because of the number of tools out there to circumvent your content restriction. 

We use YouTube as a marketing channel for Restrict Content Pro. Our channel is quickly growing with free video tutorials and how-tos around using RCP.

YouTube does give you the ability to make videos private on your channel so you can embed them on your site, but I’ve known people who will read through the page’s source code to get the URL of the YouTube video so they can share the videos out to people that didn’t pay for your course.

YouTube is free though, so it’s sometimes an easy option when you are trying a project out.

Vimeo

Vimeo.com home page

Vimeo is a solid option for hosting your membership or course site. It’s what we use for iThemes Training and have since very early on. It gives you features like being able to lock down your embedded options to specific domains, which gives you more finite control over where and how your videos can be played. You don’t get a ton of controls over the player, but you are able to control some display options and the color.

You are going to want to use a paid plan to protect your videos from being downloaded or accessed on other sites other than your own. For that I recommend that you get the pro plan at minimum. It’s going to cost you $20/month and they charge you annually.

Wistia

Wistia.com home page

Wistia is a more powerful video player and hosting solution that a lot of course and membership site owners use. They have more powerful analytics features that give site owners the ability to see how much of a video someone has watched along with a gated feature that allows you to even grow your email list.

In my opinion Wistia has a weird pricing model. They’ve started branching out into podcasts and channel subscribers which means that you get into other modes of uses. But getting back to the price, you are looking at $99/month for 10 videos or podcast episodes and then $0.25 per extra video per month.

How do I Embed Videos in WordPress Membership Site?

Once you have selected a video hosting solution you can embed it into WordPress. Thankfully, every option I’ve presented gives you easy ways to embed the video into your site, with the exception of Self-hosted, as you have to use specific html tags to make it work well.

The new WordPress block editor has a number of video blocks available to you to simply copy the link of the video and embed it on a page. It works like this.

WordPress is great for being able to make things like dropping in video simpler. But I want to show you an all in one solution that gives you more control over you videos.

Introducing PrestoPlayer

I was recently introduced to PrestoPlayer as what I would call the “All-in-One” video player for WordPress. PrestoPlayer is a WordPress block plugin that allows you to customize the look and feel of your videos once they are embedded on your site. But that’s not all.

This plugin is great if you are a content producer, marketer, course creator or even a membership site owner. You can get some powerful features in a simple to use plugin.

Lets talk briefly about the features:

  • Private Video – You can protect your video content by requiring users to be logged in to see it.
  • Multiple Sources – You can use multiple video hosting providers to server your videos.
  • Deep Integrations – WordPress block editor and page builders can rejoice! It’s a breeze to add videos to all your favorite editors!
  • Video Chapters – Get easy in-video navigation to ANY video. This is great for longer videos (which I have a tendency to do!)
  • Integrated Analytics – See view time, watch time, and more right within your WP install
  • Playback Speed – Allow your users to speed up through parts of your video that does not apply to them.
Bunny.net Hosting Page

An interesting addition to the feature set is that PrestoPlayer integrates with a hosting solution, Bunny.net. Bunny.net is an easy-to-use hosting solution for large files (like videos). This means you could save your money by self-hosting your videos with PrestoPlayer’s Bunny.net integration.

The setup for Bunny.net is pretty straightforward. Follow the included documentation to get it running correctly.

I’m in conversations where membership site owners or course creators are looking for an all-in-one solution to hosting videos. I think PrestoPlayer and Bunny.net gives you that. You get the combination of ease-of-use within WordPress and the ability to own your video content, PrestoPlayer + Bunny.net hits the nail on the head.

AJ Morris

About the author: AJ brings over two decades of experience working on and developing membership sites with a wide range of clients.

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