4 Tips for Creating Videos That Don’t Put Your Audience to Sleep

It’s no secret that online video is booming. According to a recent comScore report, more than 85 percent of Americans watch digital content, and more than 48 billion online videos were viewed by 183 million Americans in January alone. And right now, YouTube is launching a full-scale ad assault in hopes of becoming a mainstream rival to cable.

Those numbers are only going to rise. But—get ready for some tough love—just because videos are popular doesn’t mean your videos will be popular.

At the Midwest Journalism Conference, photographers, videographers, and news anchors shared some of their top tips for reeling in a loyal audience. Here are the most compelling strategies for making the most of your video content.

1. Show and tell

Who knew your kindergarten teacher could’ve been a video content mastermind? The show-and-tell format is one of the simplest ways to create compelling content about an object or gadget: Let the interview subject interact with the product while talking rather than just splicing in B-roll of the object afterward.

Jennifer Austin, a multimedia journalist at KBJR-TV in Duluth, Minn., shoots and edits all her videos, and when reporting on scrapbooks used by patients with short-term memory loss, she included footage of a woman flipping through the memory book, explaining it to the viewer. The tactic led to a much more dynamic story than your typical talking-head interview.

Memory Books from Jennifer Austin on Vimeo

2. Pretend the camera isn’t there

A great way to make a video interview appear less scripted is to add activity. Some videographers rack their brain to come up with something that looks natural. Instead, WQOW-TV photojournalist Steve Betchkal recommends asking interviewees what they’d be doing at that very moment if you weren’t there. Whether they’d be cooking dinner or filling up a flat tire, record that, even if it doesn’t tie directly into your story.

3. Scene it

Austin gets her studio production inspiration from Joe Little, a multimedia journalist at 10News in San Diego. Instead of prolonged panning, Little places himself in front of the camera to introduce a story. Conversational interviews transition seamlessly from these introductions.

4. Work the crowd

If you’re reporting reactions to an event, it can be tempting to only interview the friendliest people around. Taking the easy route can take the spark out of an otherwise colorful story. Instead of interviewing the first agreeable person, feel out the crowd, and look for different personality types, curmudgeons included. That’s what Ben Garvin, an award-winning photojournalist for the St. Paul (Minn.) Pioneer Press, did when reporting on a late Midwest snowstorm.

Above all, if you combine colorful characters, creative scenes, and dynamic activity into your footage, you’ll be able to showcase your material in an engaging way.

What’s the deal with The Content Strategist? At Contently, storytelling is the only marketing we do, and it works wonders. It could for you, too. Learn more.

Image by ANDR3W A
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