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Lessons learned from the industry on creating Original Online Video, Part 2

December 2, 2009

lessons learned, create online videoPart 1 looked at understanding your target audience, and some things to think about as content creators.  This week production quality.

Content quality

In some cases you don’t want to overproduce, for example, a home movie clip that’s put up on YouTube shouldn’t be perfect and produced, it’s the imperfections that make the video authentic and connect with the viewer.

With the popularity of professionally produced media, e.g. TV shows now being available on the web – these videos have the eyeballs because they bring with them a built-in audience, and to protect their brand they have to supply high quality video online.

ESPN provides the same production value as they do on TV, but there are times where they may do things differently. “One size does not fit all.”  For instance, when they increased the production value of fantasy sport shows their eyeballs increased as well.  To the audience it meant that ESPN was treating fantasy sport shows more seriously like their NFL Countdown.

Major media companies have a distinct advantage – they really already have all the right “tools” – the production crew, the equipment.  These companies have realized that producing for online shouldn’t be any different than television.

Revision3 CEO, Jim Louderback contends that high quality isn’t important just to these major media companies.  If you want to create episodic programming and want to continually draw in viewers you need to maintain high quality.  If you’re a one-off video, then quality isn’t so important.

Richard Glosser, executive director of emerging media for CondéNet says it’s important to think about the shelf life of the video you’re producing.  Daily updates of what’s going on in the stock market are generally only useful for a certain amount of time vs. a How-To video which has a much longer shelf life.  So the key is balancing quality and cost, you want to produce the best quality you can at a reasonable cost.

Another thing to balance or think about in some cases is – some video is better than no video – this is particularly true for streaming live events such as a sporting event, a concert etc.  MTV had great success with the Jonas Brothers concert – they handed out a bunch of mobile phones including to the Jonas Brothers, and then streamed all the backstage mobile videos, and concert footage they got from these phones.

Louderback believes what’s even more important than high quality video is audio.  If the audio is crappy, no one will want to watch it.  So having good mics is very important as well as knowing or understanding the acoustics of your studio or shooting location.

Steve Garfield, a well respected video blogger agrees and lists:

  1. Think about audio
  2. Think about framing
  3. Think about holding the camera steady

Be it an expensive camera or a mobile phone camera – he puts a lot of consideration into video production.

Oh the flip side, Kevin Nalty, marketer and YouTuber, thinks differently -

“I try to work on my production quality, but it’s not a high priority,” says Nalty. “I don’t give a crap about lighting, and I’ll put my camera on a tissue box to get a shot. Where I work hard is on the editing and timing because that’s what can harm videos. I probably spend zero time planning a video, 10 minutes shooting it, and an hour or so editing it. And I think that’s kind of right, though maybe I should spend less time planning. I’m not like Hitchcock, drawing up a storyboard. I’d never start if I did it that way.”

HD or not

This too is a matter of shooting the highest quality possible as it’s easier to compress from high quality, but you can’t get HD out of standard definition.  For major media companies it’s easy for them to do HD for everything; for the rest of us, it’s a matter of where you plan to distribute.  Many sites do not yet support HD so if you have no plans to ever distribute to an HD site then it’s not particularly necessary to shoot in HD.

Video length

One thing’s for certain – the shorter videos have a better likelihood of going viral.  These are the ones that get shared, get blogged about, and put on social networks.  These are also the videos we would watch in our extended viewing hours, e.g. in the office during lunch, or for a brain break during the day, or even on our mobile phones.

Long form has its case as well.  Events definitely keep viewer attention.

New media is not the same is traditional TV, so don’t expect the TV format to necessarily work – 22 minutes of content with several ad blocks.  Louderback states –

On the internet you can be 2 minutes, 5 minutes, 10 minutes, whatever. Just do enough for what you’re trying to do and the story you’re trying to tell. People say it’s got to be short-form, but we’ve found that if it’s the right content and the right host, people will watch for half an hour and even longer.”

This is what it all really comes down to.  The Internet is not television.  So it does give us the freedom to do so much more than what is done on television currently.  If all we need is 8 minutes for a storyline, new media can do that.  We should be happy that the Internet allows us that freedom.

Formulalessons learned, create online video

Well, there is no formula for success in this space, not yet anyway.  Major media or not – everyone is faced with the same issues – providing content that draw in viewers, keeping abreast of viewer feedback to assist with production decisions.

This is a new frontier that we’re in, and it’s great!  It can be daunting, but look how exciting it is, the creative freedom we have by not being boxed in to a 22-minute slot.  Interestingly enough, it almost puts us on even standing with the major media companies.  Yes, they have mucho budget, equipment and crew, but for those of us just emerging into this business, we’ve put out some pretty amazing content and have had to be more creative about it because of lack of funds.  We also have the flexibility of not following traditional rules…major media has to be pretty sure of something before they decide to move forward.

In the end…

For the major media companies – quality is of utmost importance because they need to protect the brand, also they have the manpower to be sure their videos meet their network minimum standards and requirements.  It’s also important that they put out content regularly so they can build a following, have people subscribe or bookmark it, and then it must be distributed so that viewers can access it when they want it.

For the emerging new media companies – I couldn’t have said it better than Revision3 CEO, Jim Louderback

To new media startups: “Here’s the thing—we all think we’re really smart, but we’re not,” says Louderback. “We create a lot of stuff, and we think it’s really good. But the audience is really smart, and you’ve got to listen to them. Some stuff we’ve done and [we] think, ‘Oh we’re brilliant.’ Other stuff, we think that, but we put it out there and say, ‘Oh, we’re so stupid.’ The important thing is to not sit around and tweak and hone and make it the best it can be. If you’ve got a good idea, put together a pilot and get it out there. In the end, it doesn’t matter how smart you think it is—the audience is going to tell you what they like.”

In Part 3, a few tips to get your videos found on the net.

Blog post by Juliette Tai, Director of Research & Competitive Intelligence, Greenlight360

Resources: paidcontent.org, streamingmedia.com, mashable.com, blogs.forrester.com

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