One trend I’ve noticed lately is the increased use of video and podcasting by marketers and bloggers. One consultant I follow sends out videos as the meat of their newsletter, and another uses podcasts. While videos and podcasts can be a great medium to educate and build a personal brand, it does raise the question whether it’s the most effective medium for every type of content.
This article highlights some of the negatives of videos & podcasts, where they tend to work best, and what you can do to improve any video or podcast presentation.
What’s wrong with videos and podcasts?
I have a disclosure to make: I usually hate video & podcast tutorials, even if they’re recorded relatively well.
- They waste time – especially for something that could be quickly read in an article or blog post.
- They make noise – they’re impossible to watch if you need to keep quiet (e.g. work, or in bed with your spouse asleep beside you)
- They can’t be searched – you can’t CTRL-F to find something in a video. You have to watch it or fumble through the timeline to try to find what you need.
- They often have too much filler – videos often contain a lot of useless filler (like the speaker explaining why the lighting is so bad. Get on with it already...)
- They have ads – some videos contain ads you can’t skip over, which brings together the previous four points in the worst way.
Where video & podcasts work
Video is ideal when you need to show motion or activities that involve working with your hands or body. For example, it’s a golden medium for tutorials on music, cooking, repairs, or woodworking. They can show you things that would be nearly impossible to explain with words or even pictures. I’m leaving entertainment out of this as this article is primarily focused on educational content.
Podcasts, on the other hand, are useless for something that needs visuals to explain. But they are ideal for travelling, particularly in a car when you want to be hands-free. It’s a great way to relax and take something in without requiring your complete focus.
How to improve your videos & podcasts
There are a few things you can do to make the experience better for your viewers (or listeners) and to accommodate a wider audience:
1. Provide transcripts
Post a transcript below the video/podcast on your website. This way, a visitor can still get the information if they’re unable to watch the video, and you don’t lose the opportunity to get your message out.
One of the best examples I’ve seen of transcripts for online video is on Lynda.com. Every video on the site has a full transcript. But what makes theirs extra special is the video & transcript are linked together in real-time. While watching a video, the transcript scrolls and highlights the words that are being said on video as they are being said. Further, if you click on any words in the transcript, the video jumps to that exact position. It’s brilliant.
2. Provide hyperlinks to key points in the video / podcast
Videos: You can create hyperlinks to specific points in a YouTube video. Using this feature, you could add links to your transcript to allow people to jump to that point in the video. This gives you the best of both worlds—the ability to search & quickly scan using the transcript, and the ability to watch where it makes sense to. If you do this, however, be keen on providing links to all of the key facts and points in the video.
Podcasts: Podcasts based on MP3 files are a little trickier to link to this way. One blog I follow usually just writes out the times, and you have to jump there manually using the playhead. Developers can use a library for deep linking podcasts. It also looks like SoundCloud provides a way to link to a specific point in the timeline. But like I mentioned above, the best way to listen to a podcast is when you have time (e.g. a long highway drive), so in these scenarios it doesn’t matter. But consider this when you build your podcast—how & when will your audience most likely consume this info?
3. Skip the ads
If you’re you’re already selling some kind of service or product (even though the information in the video/podcast is free), you might consider skipping the ads. Ads you can’t skip in video are really annoying, and one of the #1 reasons I don’t bother watching it at all. You’re more likely to make revenues from a converted lead from your video than the small pittance you will make with ads (unless you’re a YouTube celebrity with hundreds of thousands of subscribers, that is…)
4. Get to the point
Take all the time you want filming your video, but be brutal in the editing room. This is the #1 skill you need to learn to become a successful video or sound editor. The simpler and more concise you can make your media, the more likely your audience is to consume it, and keep coming back for more.
- Skip the long intros
- Shorten your fades, or turn them into cuts altogether
- Don’t talk about making the video on the video
- Keep the anecdotes and side stories to a minimum
- Skip the boring parts (a.k.a. cut out the cake rising or computer loading)
5. Highlight key points with graphics
When you want to communicate a specific set of points, lace your video with title graphics that summarize the key points. Bullet lists and the like are great in a video, and easier to spot if you want to scan the video. This way, you don’t necessarily need to watch every single bit to get the info you need, or find the spot you want.
Bonus: This also makes it easier to re-purpose the content of your video to a deck for SlideShare or a seminar later on.