It was three years ago this week when I began an experiment in
producing a new form of IT product reviews, using video screencasting
technology, combined with my years of testing thousands of products.
Since then, I have done more than 65 reviews, which works out to about
two a month. After putting a product through its paces, I write and
record the script and then publish the video far and wide.
Certainly, online video has come a long way in the past three years:
streaming sites have come and gone, YouTube has gotten more powerful,
and social networking now plays a key part of how anybody’s videos
find an audience. And the consumer side seems to be leading the way:
Now we are talking about “cutting the cord” of cable TV and how more
people are going online to get their content. Netflix and Hulu have a
robust streaming business. And Centris has found that approximately
56% of households are using a combination of traditional pay TV and PC
or mobile-based Internet consumption approaches to view video.
The reviews are paid for by the vendors themselves and have been a big
hit, if I do say so myself. I have repeat business from some of the
major computer vendors, including McAfee, Symantec, Blue Coat and Dell
as well as smaller niche players such as Hytrust and TuneUp. They
really help explain the product and provide a potential IT purchaser
the basic context of how the product works, or won’t work, in their
particular environment. Several VARs have called my vendor clients
wanting to bring their customers to the table because of something
they saw on one of my videos. And they continue to collect views
months after they have been posted, including on sites such as Tom’s
ITPro.com, InfoSecIsland.com and ITExpertVoice.com. My YouTube channel
(davidstrom2007) has done very nicely, with several videos getting
more than 5,000 views (Symantec’s videos are the most popular there).
So here are some lessons learned from the experience.
1. YouTube isn’t the only game in town. There are other sites,
particularly for how-to and business audiences, where videos are
watched. 5Min.com, which is now part of AOL, is one of the best.
VideoJug.com and Metacafe.com are also up there in terms of my stats.
But that is just me, and who knows why these sites connect and others
don’t – your mileage may vary. But what is clear is that one site’s
popular post is another site’s dog. For example, a video I did for
McAfee’s Trusted Source has more than 40,000 views on 5Min, but is
going nowhere on YouTube with less than 200 views. So if you are going
to post, post everywhere you can to garner an audience.
2. Length matters. And the shorter the better. I use a hosting service
called Wistia.com that can track how many people tune out over the
length of time for the video, and about half tune out before the
ending slide pops up. When I started I aimed at five minutes or less.
Now I try for three minutes. We are all ADD. Wistia did a survey a few
years ago across their hosting site and agreed with me. The key is
having dialog supporting action: just don’t spew platitudes but back
up the action you have on the screen with something important to say.
For most of the videos, I talk quickly because I want my viewers to
really listen. I can see places where they have stopped and rewound
the stream and think that is a Good Thing because they are more
engaged with my content.
3. Formats are still painful and plentiful. Every streaming site has a
different collection of which video codecs and formats it will accept.
Flash (FLV) files used to be best, now I produce MP4s, which seem to
be accepted in most places. Make the biggest size video that can fit
your site, but realize that a lot of the streaming sites will downcode
it to 640×480 or something less than optimal. But this presents a
problem to show many computer products that like to sprawl across a
2000-pixel wide display.
4. Get the best quality mic and record your soundtrack first. I don’t
use any special music or effects; it is just me narrating the video.
But I get this track nailed down first; always keeping in mind the
action that is going on the screen. This is the reverse of traditional
movie making, but you don’t see me on screen – it is just the computer
app that I am reviewing. It is a lot easier to synchronize the video
to a fixed audio track than the other way around. Some screencasters
record the audio while they are clicking around for the video capture
at the same time: I don’t think that works as well.
5. Put a call to action at the end. Do you want a viewer to download a
free trial or get a white paper or register for something on your
site? Include a URL in the video where they can go do these tasks. If
you are using the video for lead gen, do you have a trackable URL
reserved for this purpose?
Thanks to all my video clients for helping make this series so
spectacular. And if you would like me to produce a video for you, or
teach you how I have done it, you know where to find me. The videos
by the way are all posted on Webinformant.tv.
Direct link: http://strom.wordpress.com/2011/08/23/video-lessons/