A Deep Dive into Online Video


originally posted on Concept Hub

Yesterday I was trying to decide if my corporate blog post should be a deep dive into video or a post the explains how the value of social media is about relevant connections – getting the right message to the right people at the right time.

Instead of flipping a coin, I asked the opinion of my Twitter friends. It was a unanimous vote for a deep dive into video.

History of Video

“The Wheel of Life” also know as the zoopraxiscope was first patented in 1867 by William Lincoln. In 1895 Louis Lumiere created the first portable motion picture camera. In 1896 Edison launched the first commercially successful projector called the VitaScope.

These inventions brought stories to life in a way that a person could experience the same story over and over again. Whereas plays, dramas,  demonstrations and speeches were fleeting moments that could only be experienced at the time and place they were happening, video-enabled people to share their story with others at a different time and place than the last time the story was experienced, with consistency and reduced time, cost and effort than what it would take to re-enact the experience.

The first World War began not long after the Cinema and people flocked to watch the latest news from around the world. During Vietnam, people watched in-depth coverage of what the lives were like of soldiers fighting in a foreign land. These films touched the hearts of many and forever changed the mainstream view of war.

In 1969, when the first man took the first step on the moon, most American’s had a television which enabled them to watch this historic event.

Yesterday I watched Hillary Clinton’s speech over a site called UStream while sitting in a coffee shop. Not only did I watch her speech, but I also watched the community reactions via the UStream text messages and twitter.

According to Pew Internet Research, more than 1/3 of Internet users have logged on using a wireless Internet connection either around their home or from somewhere else. Also according to Pew Internet Research, 57% of Internet users have watched videos online and most of them share what they find with others.

How big of a deal is this?

More than 75% of American Adults are online.

The 2007 population estimate for the United States is  301,621,157.

75% would be 226,215,868 Americans online.

Which means online video is reaching approximately 128,943,045 American Adults and 74,651,236 are connected from a wireless connection.

It seems online video has become our “Wheel of Life.”

Benefits of Video

Why was the adoption of video so rapid from the time it was invented to the time it introduced sound, to the time when practically every American had a television in their home to now, when we can easily capture and view video wherever we go?

The reason is in everyday life the average person experiences their world visually. We are visual by nature. When we were, or are, bound to listening as opposed to watching we expect the sounds to “create a visual” for us.  This is why NPR is so successful because over the radio they are able to create sounds that help us visualize the scene.

When it comes to behavior modification, whether it is marketing or training or campaigning, the more senses we can touch the more likely we are to get our message across. A well-produced video can reach those who learn by watching, listening, and even those who learn by reading. The advantage that online video has over past generations of video is we can now include interactive elements with the video to reach those tactical learners who learn by doing. We can also enable an immediate call to action.

In many ways, online video seems to be the holy grail of mass communications.

Barriers to Reaching Your Audience Through Video

But there are barriers to obtaining the benefits of this “holy grail of mass communications.”

  1. Messaging – The biggest obstacle to producing a video is deciding what is the right message at the right time for the right audience and who should develop it. There was a time when it was quite expensive to produce a video. Even the best-produced video by the most expensive production company in town would be money down the drain if the right message was not captured. Today capturing video and posting it online is incredibly cost effective. However now, more than ever, messaging has to be considered. Whereas there was the risk of spending too much money for the wrong message to be produced, now there is the risk of creating shortcuts that actually harm the reputation and brand image of an organization.
  2. Technology – Have you seen the latest Mac commercials about how Macs are gaining more and more market share. It’s true. I see Macs every day in increasing numbers. Almost every day when I am sitting in a coffee shop with my Mac, someone asks me how I like it, and I rave about how I have had it for 2 + years without a single problem as opposed to my new Dell which I was ready to get rid of in the first 6 months – and is currently useless until I call someone to come out and fix it. I also was an early adopter of Firefox – which is now the browser of choice for more than 40% of the Internet users. I have very few disruptions when trying to watch most videos – which means I can get very upset when I am prepared to invest my time on a video – ready to give it my full attention and I receive a message that I need to download something different to my computer – or the video simply will not play. I believe we have reached the point that most people expect all videos to play on all platforms. We know it is possible – we are watching videos on all platforms – so when a video will not play it is the fault of the organization distributing the video – and that hurts.
  3. Distribution – We all are aware of YouTube. The advantage is that when you create a YouTube channel you create a video community. You also enable people to distribute your video through a well define URL or by embedding a bit of code on their site. However, YouTube may not be the right community, the right image, or provide you with the right “control” over your content. There are many other video sharing sites available. You can also distribute your video through a branded interactive video player or create your own video social media site. And then there are services such as Video Submission who will distribute your video to over 50 sites and optimize the content for search engines. However, just like the considerations you make over messaging and production, your distribution decisions can either strengthen or weaken your efforts to tell your story and create the right image.

Key Considerations When Communicating with Video

1. Message

Unlike a podcast where your audience can listen while they perform other activities or text where people can scan a page to find the key topics they are interested in, Video request the full attention of their audience. With Online Video you do not have a long time to get your message across. 2 minutes tops.

Even if you have reason to produce a longer video you have to capture your audience’s interest and convince them to invest their time and attention to you within the first 2 minutes.

There are three tools that will help you identify the right message (assuming market research has been completed).

Script – What do you want to communicate? What value will your audience get from your video? What should the audience do or feel after they watch the video? All of this needs to be communicated in the first two minutes of the video. After that, every aspect of the video needs to deliver on the promises made in the first two minutes. A well-formed script is a tool that ties the message together from beginning to end.

Storyboard –  You have several choices of how to deliver your message. Will it be;

  • Talking head – One person on camera delivers a straightforward presentation. The camera can either occasionally cut to simple visuals such as charts, lists, or graphs or the video can be in a player with synchronized slides.
  • Spontaneous interview – One person equipped with points to cover or questions interviews an expert on the topic. What are the questions? What are the expected answers? Who should be the interviewees? How should we handle the unexpected?
  • Staged interview – Both participants have scripted parts. The interviewer asks prepared questions, and the interviewee responds with prepared answers. Should you have visuals?
  • Documentary –A narrator, usually off camera, takes the audience on a visual tour, reporting on the program topic. Should the narrator have an on-camera personality – or should it be more of a voice over?
  • Voice-over narration. Visuals are accompanied by narration from someone off camera. This can be done for documentaries, demonstrations or training videos. What is the value of not having an on-camera personality? What are the drawbacks?
  • Demonstration. The person on camera describes while demonstrating. How should the personality interact with the product they are demonstrating in order to get the right message across?
  • Dramatization – Actors play roles in a scripted story. How should the personalities interact with each other? What personalities will the target audience most identify with? What emotions can the dramatization evoke?
  • Animation – Cartoon characters provide instruction. What is the benefit of a character vs a real personality? What type of character will elicit the most appropriate response from the target audience?

Your video is not limited to any one of these choices. You can choose one option or a variety of many different options. The key is to storyboard your ideas, see how the message flows, test how it will make people feel, see the production as it will come together before you invest in a piece that ends up falling apart.

Supporting Elements – The biggest advantage of online video over all other types of videos through history is that the Internet enables us to provide branded supporting elements with the video. It could be a branded player, a synchronized slide show, a poll, a test, a downloadable pdf, a game, or a link to “buy now.” These elements may add to the bottom line of production, but without them, your video may not receive the reactions you were trying to get and therefore your investment would not generate the right return. It would be like booking a hotel room for an overseas vacation but choosing not to get the airline tickets.

2. Technology

Technology is just as important as messaging. It is the difference between who will see your video and the quality of the experience they will receive.

Format – What is the priority here? I would say that the format should allow all users on all platforms to play your video without any hassle whatsoever is the priority. If you choose to stick with Windows Media Player, one Mac user in the group could ruin the whole barrel.

If you choose to go with a different Flash format that gives me this pop-up – I will move on and not bother unless there is a requirement to watch the video.

Quality is important. I do not want to invest in a video that gives me static, that is blurry or distorted in any way. I want to hear crisp audio. Basically, it should play on any format with the quality of a basic television set. This is not only possible but is the norm with most videos. It is simply silly to compromise these conditions to achieve a High Def quality that alienates a percentage of the audience.

Hosting – consider hosting as your waterpipe. You want water to flow from your faucet without interruption and you want it clean. You want that water to flow with the same strength whether you are the only one tapping into the well or if the whole household is tapping into the well. You would need a big strong pipe to maintain that kind of consistency.

Whoever is hosting your video should have the bandwidth to serve your video to one or a million with the same consistency, whether they are sitting in your office or somewhere across the globe. Here is a list of online hosting options, which have varying degrees of advantages. There are also services like Akamai that can deliver your video in any form you chose, providing a bit more control over the experience your audience has when watching a video. They also provide you backend stats of views.

Database Design – Besides the interactive element, online video has yet another advantage over past generations of video. The interactivity enables the organization to capture key data as each video is being served. By designing the right campaign and an appropriately structured back-end database, we can capture who watched the video, for how long, what did they click on, did they forward it, did the right message get across and overall how did the audience feel about the message?

3. Distribution

Who are you trying to reach? Are you sure video is the right medium for the message?

How will they find you? How are you going to push the content out? Will you enable them to pull content in? How are you going to encourage others to send the video to others?

Where will they find your video? If you distribute the video through the various online communities, where will it end up? Will it be next to the most inappropriate content possible? How will the place the video is being served affect the user’s experience?

These are very important questions with a variety of answers that are unique to each organization’s circumstances.

Future of Video

Citizen Journalism – We Media discusses how the Internet has put the ability to tell the news in the hands of the citizens. The reality is ever since we have had handheld video recorders citizens have been contributing news videos to the media.  The Internet now gives everyone the ability to distribute content. CNN has embraced this with their iReport which has been successful. I suspect more and more media will be looking for ways to include their audience in the production and storytelling of the news. Everything from video town hall meetings to video uploads of hyperlocal content such as neighborhood reports or high school football games.

Network Shows online – Last year I stumbled onto a channel that was showing network shows online. It was the greatest find ever for my husband and I. He loves the show House, I never watch it with him because the time it is on is not when I want to watch TV. We don’t Tivo because we are not big TV fans. But this online network was showing House and we were able to watch as many episodes as we wanted to together on my laptop before going to bed. It was perfect. But the site was shut down and the owner was arrested. Within hours bloggers were posting links to sites where we could find the same content. Just like the music industry had to find ways to embrace online peer to peer sharing, networks are going to have to start embracing that their audience wants to watch their favorite TV shows online. A few have. NBC has a select number of shows you can watch online and they have also taken advantage of the other opportunities that the Internet provides by also offering online games as well as blogs, wiki, groups, and forums.

Video Ads – Who is going to CHOOSE to watch an Ad? Well, oftentimes we see an ad in our favorite show or movie via product placement.  User-Generated Content provides a twist most ad execs would never dare to think of such as the famous Diet Coke and Mentos video and PointRoll has caught my attention several times with their teaser ads.

Video Meetings will only continue to expand with tools like WebEx that allow you to see each participant in the meeting from around the globe, to a video being streamed into a virtual environment such as Second Life.

Entertainment – This is where some of the really fun stuff will happen. Recently I saw a “re-edit/MashUp” of two summer hit movies. Sex and the Strangers

Anytime an organization gives people control of their content, the end result has the potential to be more than we ever hoped for.

Which leads me to VideoGames. Online gaming is looking more and more like videos every day, and not only that, games have become more than just gaming, they have become breeding grounds for budding producers who script out roles for each player and capture and produce the action to share throughout the web. This is known as Machinima and will only gain in popularity. When you consider the various uses there are for games in learning, training, and marketing and then add the video layer on top of that – the possibilities are endless.

Although I feel we have taken a deep dive into online video, each point I touched on can be considered an underwater cave that deserves further exploration. Just because video has become easier to produce and distribute throughout the web, and although online video seems to have become the holy grail of mass communications, there can be more negative consequences than benefits if all the elements involved are not given proper and careful consideration.