2012 marked the year of the biggest shift in the history of the web. Although it has been happening for a while, the shift from text-based websites to online video is now accelerating at full throttle. To capitalize on this growing trend, several companies have provided alternatives to popular video hosting sites like YouTube and Vimeo.

While sites like YouTube & Vimeo offer a larger selection of online videos, and nearly free unlimited bandwidth for content creators, they lack features that serious online marketers need. In the past year, 5 companies have stepped up to fill this gap in the marketplace for customizable, feature rich online video players. Once you see some of these features, you’ll agree that these video players make YouTube look like an ancient artifact.

1. VooPlayer

VooPlayer is a free online video player.

VooPlayer is an online video player that allows marketers to analyze and optimize their videos to increase leads and sales. Unlike it’s competitors, VooPlayer is comes with free hosting and requires no installation at all. This makes it extremely user-friendly for people who lack technical knowledge or experience. Adding embedded buy buttons or clickable call to action overlays at any specific point in your video can be easily done with just a few clicks.

On top of that, it gives you the ability to split test your videos and collect data on their overall performance, view times, and average drop off rates. These features make this one powerful video player. One feature in particular that makes this especially attractive for businesses who create video training products, is its ability to mask the hosting URL inside the embed code.

Simply put, VooPlayer automatically encrypts the embed code so that even if people look at your HTML source code, they will not be able to find the direct link to your video and download it. Best of all, it’s compatible with HTML 5 and plays flawlessly on both iPhone and Android platforms.

2. LeadPlayer

LeadPlayer is a wordpress plugin that let's you easily embed videos.

LeadPlayer is a unique video player. Instead of hosting videos on your website, or using a service like Amazon S3, LeadPlayer let’s you use YouTube for hosting. The player strips all the extra features that come with YouTube’s player, like sharing, related videos, and more info, and overlays a very simple, elegant player on top.

Out of all the video players online, LeadPlayer is probably the easiest to use. It works as a simple WordPress plugin. All you have to do it take the URL of your YouTube video, not the embed code, and paste it into a box that says Add Video, and LeadPlayer handles the rest.

This simplicity and ease of use caught the attention of Andrew Warner from Mixergy, stating: “Dude, LeadPlayer is freakin’ hot. Someone just showed it to me. Simple to use and looks good.” Keep in mind, that Warner does not hand out testimonials on a silver platter.

LeadPlayer boasts the ability to add email subscription forms inside your video. Yes, inside your video. It can be setup to force users to optin to continue watching, or ask for an optin at the end of the video. On top of that, it also has the ability to add calls to action inside your video that redirect your visitor wherever you want them to go. With no hosting fees and deep Google Analytics integration, LeadPlayer easily earns it’s spot in this top 5 list.

3. Wistia

Wistia offers video hosting for small to large online businesses.

Wistia is a professional video marketing solution that provides both hosting and a customizable player. The downside is, hosting is not free. Although plans start at relatively low prices, for heavy video users who require lots of bandwidth, it can become expensive, topping out at $299/month for the unlimited plan.

Enough about the price. Let’s talk about the features. Wistia has a ton of them. Clickable call to actions, custom video thumbnails, and full control over the look and feel of the player are just the beginning. Wistia automatically creates video sitemaps, which allow your videos show up in Google’s search results. This is especially helpful for video marketers that focus on SEO as a primary traffic source.

Out of all the features I’ve already discussed, my favorite is video analytics. When it comes to analytics for video, Wistia may be the best. Aside from showing you how long users watch and when they skip on a second by second basis, they also offer a feature called identity tagging. This feature tags your most active viewers so you can easily study their behavior separately from less active viewers. This makes Wistia the perfect software for video marketers who require accurate metrics to custom tailor their marketing strategy to their audience.

4. Easy Video Suite

Easy Video Suite is an all in one video solution for recording, editing, publishing and tracking your online videos.

After 2 years and several hundred thousand dollars in development costs, Easy Video Suite finally hit the market on January 15, 2012. Its predecessor, Easy Video Player, could have easily made it on this list as well. However, the creator, Josh Bartlett decided that a completely new player designed from the ground up was needed to meet today’s demands.

Easy Video Suite certainly lives up to its name. It requires zero installation. It’s PC and Mac friendly. And all that is required is your Amazon S3 account details. Once S3 is set up, you can begin uploading and publishing videos online with just a few clicks. To explain all of the features this suite has to offer would take longer than this entire post. However, I will say this. If you currently use screen recording software such as ScreenFlow or CamTasia, then you will definitely want to take a look at this software.

In short, Easy Video Suite lets you record videos on your desktop, WebCam, or even your mobile phone (iPhone or Android), edit out the mistakes, upload them with one click to YouTube or Amazon S3, and publish them in web and mobile ready format inside beautiful, customizable players, all in one piece of software. Phew, that was a mouthful. Not to mention, it also has all the features every other player in this list has. Yes, all of them.

A unique and useful feature it has is called Gateways. Gateways give you the ability to force your viewers to take an action in order to keep watching the video. These actions can include subscribing to your email list or sharing your video on Facebook, Twitter, or Google+. This is more than just a video player folks. It is like a complete online video marketing solution. Of course, so many features and capabilities come with a price. Easy Video Suite starts at $297 for a branded personal license, and $397 for a non-branded commercial license. It’s not exactly cheap, but you do get what you pay for.

5. ViewBix

ViewBix is a professional video player that comes with many different apps.

ViewBix is the most interesting player out of them all. It supports sites like YouTube, Facebook, and Vimeo Pro. It has all of the popular features from the players above like social sharing, call to action overlays, and embedded optin forms. Yet what makes ViewBix unique, is the ability to customize the player with a wide variety of apps.

The ability to add photos from your computer or Facebook, custom descriptions, lists, coupons, and even QR codes makes this video player stand completely on its own. In addition to that, features like branding and detailed video analytics make ViewBix a suitable option for any video marketing professional.

ViewBix also attracts a wide variety of users outside of the marketing space. Music groups, education, and nonprofit organizations use this player to get their message to their audience in a interactive and compelling way. Best of all, with both free plans, and paid plans starting at just $10/month, ViewBix makes it easy to get started.

Implementing Online Video Into Your Business

In today’s crowded online marketplace, every business needs a better way to connect with their audience. The good news is, by using any of the 5 video players above, you can easily publish, market, and analyze your online video performance and get the competitive advantage you need.

The bad news is, this window of opportunity is closing fast. Just look at this data. It’s obvious that 2013 is going to be the year of online video. With video being 56% of consumer web traffic with a predicted ad spend of $9 billion dollars by 2017, there is no better time to get started than now. The train is leaving the station. Are you getting on board?