Today, I watched a web video excerpt of a panel discussion from the recent Streaming Media East conference on “How Old Media Is Embracing Online Video and New Media,” as presented on the ScribeMedia.org website.
It is fascinating to see that these old media companies are continuing to try to borrow principally from the television industry, perhaps driven by the recognition that they need to have something familiar to offer the web audience. It could also be a tacit acknowledgement that television still matters as the most important crossover platform for web-driven video.
Some conversation topics also made me realize how little we’ve advanced in the past decade. Concepts like integrating a video player with text article on the article page as a means of boosting video traffic numbers, or getting video promotion on the home page as the principal way to drive traffic, as part of a day-parting strategy, don’t strike me as exciting, new discoveries.
That part of the conversation still strikes me as missing the point about the possibilities of creating a transformative paradigm that moves the needle of audience engagement. I don’t think web journalism teams should settle for visual display that is so tethered to space-based presentation styles with their inherent limitations.
I was pleased to hear them talk about the “show, don’t tell” strategy as being crucial to making strong video. “Additive not parallel” was touted as a description of what works best for news video, but Christine Cook, the strategic vice president for digital media at Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia took a contrarian view with respect to the use of video as illustrative for cooking show segments. She touted the value of search as the best way to get a sense of what the legion of fans actually want from a web-based expansions of the cable video show Martha Stewart presents daily.
All decried the value of an organization of video in a specific section as a “silo”. They all also talked about the value of Flash-united multimedia interactives as a good web presentation for the audience, but acknowledged the need to merchandise such presentations and make them accessible through search as key challenges.
Craig Duff, Multimedia director at Time.com, touted the mantra “webby, wiki, and sticky,” as the mantra for his successful video. He also affirmed that good writing, good character, and good story matters. Amen to that.
Other panelists emphasized the value of short, punchy videos as a necessity. While I don’t disagree with that assessment, I continue to think it is a function of the environment in which video is being consumed (i.e. a work environment where the viewer is attention-deficited due to distraction and time pressure) and fact that the web design paradigm continues to be so clunky and awkward as a mechanism for presenting video.
I don’t think those factors change until web designers adopt and work with the concept of presentation as time-based, rather than principally space-based. Of course the challenge with time-based design will be enabling the control of story “flow” so a user can interact with the design and pause or alter the movement of narration to ensure the right learning comes from the piece.
Caleb Silver, the Executive Producer for Video, CNNMoney.com, was articulate in talking about the value of cross-promotion and the use of the web to present full video “outtakes” that extend the value of initial reporting. He also talked about audience expectations for the brand such as “video ubiquity, presentation quality” etc.
He also touted “autoplay” as an essential part of the presentation strategy. His colleague, James Leone, Multimedia Director at BusinessWeek.com, also said that his experience was that no one objected in the audience. Both said a quieter, more elegant intro teaser was crucial though for audience acceptance, rather than the blaring lead-ins that typically exist on network or local television shows.
I found that part of the discussion ironic in light of the passionate debates that often occurred in my last corporate job about this topic. I think it was likely that our unwillingness to experiment with autoplay probably cost us viewers and traffic.
At least these old media representatives hinted that their organizations are beginning to recognize the value of video as a critical mechanism of emotional engagement with the audience. That’s a start.
And maybe if multimedia’s definition is enlarged beyond meaning just “web video”, some of these companies will actually contribute to the evolution of visual journalism too.
Now if ScribeMedia would just offer embed code for their video player consistently ….