Teaching Examples

Video ‘even less interactive than print’
October 29, 2006, 1:25 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

Sure, it’s a no-brainer when you pause to consider … but Paul Bradshaw made a good point about this:

… executives are missing a unique opportunity and picking the lazy option in opting for video instead of more innovative and engaging journalism forms.

… Video is, if anything, even less interactive than print. You cannot scan-read a video, you cannot skip to the last paragraph, or look for the intriguing subheading.

Part of the rush to video lies, I think, in the thrill of seeing the video you shot. It’s ridiculously satisfying to press the Play button and replay reality right there in that tiny window and think “I made this!”

But you know, you didn’t really make anything.

The camera made that.

After you put in a few hours of thoughtful editing, THEN you will have made something.

Video storytelling is hard work. For me, it’s a lot harder than writing. And it sure does take longer. If this were a video blog, I’d be proud if I could manage to make one post a week.

Sure, it’s easier for editors and storytellers who have been working in video for a couple of years. They work much, much faster than I do. But you know what? All but the best of them serve up Web video that would be 100 times better if it were shorter.

This goes back to what Bradshaw wrote about scanning and skipping. If you give me a 10-minute video on the Web, the only way I will ever watch it to the end is if I am tied down and forced to. I can’t keep my finger off the mouse button that long!

There are a few great tips related to this in the textbook I assign to my online journalism students, Online Journalism, by James C. Foust (from page 199):

  • Does the addition of video help tell the story to such an extent that it’s really worth the user’s time to wait for it to download and also spend the time to watch it?
  • Does it help them understand this story better than any other medium?
  • Does it add emotion or successfully convey an emotional element?
  • Is it unique — something the users have not seen before?

If you’re answering no to any of these questions, then I probably won’t watch your video online.

Update: Steve Yelvington commented: “The real revolution will be in video produced by the people formerly known as consumers.”

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4 Comments so far
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I try to stay aware of the ADHD attention spans of Internet users during production. One way I’ve tried to make my presentations more interactive is to take a complex video story and split it into topics. Each topic gets a 2-3 min. video. The user gets to choose which topic interests them, and only watch that video if they want. Also, if they choose one and then think it’s boring, they don’t have to just drop my story like a hot potato. They may choose another video instead.

Comment by Angela Grant

Angela, I think that’s the perfect approach. Send me some links. I love to see short videos in packages.

Comment by Mindy McAdams

GREAT POINT!!! I can’t even stand to watch my own videos for more than (at most) 2 minutes. Most video players cannot even “scan,” they can only jump to a different point and then they have to buffer. Especially with news video, people want the immediacy – get to the point!

And in response to Angela’s comment… breaking videos up into topics helps. But I still think we need to edit carefully. Our users are commiting their time to our video and unless we offer them something worthwhile, they are not going to come back.

WashingtonPost.com had a good video on the same-sex marriage amendment in Virginia yesterday that frustrated me because you couldn’t skip to the different “nodes” of the story. It was a great video and I watched the whole thing…but I had NO interaction. What a shame to have such great content available and not find a way to build in any interactivity…

Comment by Kristen N

One of the hardest things to learn in editing video or audio is discipline. Sometimes — many times — shorter is better. Just because you really love a shot or a quote doesn’t mean it’s the best thing for the story.

And excellent points from the textbook. Let’s not do video just because we can…

Comment by Regina

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