Video on the web is personal communication

I’ve written a bit about TimesCast, the vLog. Regular readers know I’m a fan. I haven’t written so much about the DelawareOnline news casts, which really pioneered video news updates from newspapers.

I’ve struggled with finding the language to explain why TimesCast is good, while newspaper efforts to be more TV-news-like is bad. I’ve used words like “more real” and “authentic,” which are really vague concepts.

This morning, doing a little training with one of our editors, it struck me as we bounced between the two videos. TimesCast speaks directly to me (to you, and you, and you, and you). TV news is broadcast and speaks to an audience, the mass of humanity who has access to the particular signal. Vlogs speak to one person, which is as it should be, because the web, and web video, is about one-to-one communication. You are viewing this content — be it vlogs or blogs — on a personal computer. There is more of an implicit sense for the user that this is something on his or her personal machine, not the box in the living room pulling stuff off the airwaves that lots of people are watching simultaneously. When you’re watching a video on the web, you may be, and probably are, the only person in the world watching that exact byte of video at that exact moment.

Video, all web communications, really, works best when it is personal and direct. That’s one reason, blogs continue to grow in popularity.

Here is the essensence of the web: one-to-one communication, even as your drop your content onto a server that can potentially be accessed by billions of people.

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8 thoughts on “Video on the web is personal communication

  1. I just watched today’s TimesCast and liked it. But I thought it was too long. How long is too long for a newspaper video? After the first few minutes, I’m bored. But maybe it’s just that I don’t live near Roanoke…?

  2. What was your expectation before you started watching the video — that it would be something short, or that you were going to get entertained for a period of time?

    I think user expectations plays a big role in the length of video — exceed their expectations/tolerance, and you’ll lose them.

    I don’t think there is a “no video should be longer than N minutes” rule.

  3. Okay, now tell me how to convince editors and publishers that video should be more like Roanoke and less like Delaware.

    I can make the YouTube argument (i.e. – it’s more popular than some religions and has more traffic than 101 on a bad day), but they’re more interested in production values than personal communication.

    Maybe I just need to wait until we produce a piece of video that goes a little viral, then explain to them why it worked…

  4. Ryan, see my post about “take a blogger to lunch.” Tell your editors to take a blogger to lunch.

    If your bosses/editors don’t get it, they either need to get it, or you need to stsrt looking for another job … we’ll have more openings in 2007.

  5. Here’s my issue with long online videos.

    I’m an online editor for an alt. weekly in Burlington, Vermont. I have a blog, and basically use it to highlight good and/or interesting online content related to Vermont. One of my features is a “Vermont YouTube of the Day.” This means that I watch a lot of online videos.

    I’ve found that I just can’t sit through anything for more than 4 minutes or so. Even good videos. I just don’t have time. I can count on two hands the number of times I’ve spent more than 5 minutes watching something online–and I think at least half of those long clips featured Jon Stewart.

    I hear what you’re saying about how users’ expectations are the important thing in determining the length of the video clip, but I wonder how many people will actually sit through 8 minutes of online video. That seems like too much, especially given the fact that most folks are watching at work. It just seems too ambitious.

    I guess I should contact the Roanoke folks and see what the response has been…

  6. Sounds like you’ve got a good blog going …

    Here’s my guess … if you had 8 to 15 minutes of a segmented show on a specific topic (like what’s happening in town, or sports, or what not), and it was good enough, people would watch it, just like they timeshift their favorite shows on TV. It doesn’t need to be technically as good as broadcast/cable TV, but it needs to be good enough.

    I think it’s too early to say that model won’t work, and I think those newspapers experimenting with that kind of video now have a leg up.

    On the other hand, a video “story” of two minutes or longer needs to be damn good, and you better be producing that kind of quality on a regular basis, if you want to grow the audience for that kind of video.

    But just about anybody will click play on a short clip embedded in a story that is quick, relevant and good enough.

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