Is video your future? Let your audience answer that question

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A few years ago, video exploded. It got so big, magazine powerhouses like Conde Nast launched branded digital channels to open their titles to new audiences. Pop stars from freshly minted bad-boy Justin Bieber to The Voice alum Christina Grimmie got their start posting song covers on YouTube. Talk and morning television shows such as The Ellen DeGeneres Show and Today promote user-generated videos of cats chasing down attack dogs and babies dancing in front of the tube. They’re catering to their audiences—and in some cases, it’s working. Just because it works for them, though, doesn’t mean you should leap onto the video bandwagon. Here’s the question you need to answer: What type of content does your readership want to see?

Case Study

I worked for seven years as a web editor, with three and three-quarter years of that at a national magazine. I dislike video content. In most cases—such as reporting a typical news story—it’s irrelevant. If I wanted to watch the news, I would turn on CNN. As a professional 20-something working in an office, it was impossible to press play and watch an embedded clip whenever a website pushed it in front of my face. And for me to go to the trouble to get out headphones, double check that I’ve plugged them into the correct slot, adjust the volume and wait for the darn thing to load, it had better be a darn good video. It frequently wasn’t.

Let’s move on to the numbers. According to DMR: Digital Marketing Ramblings, YouTube’s growth in web traffic referrals has increased over 50% from 2012 to 2013. Only 14.4% of Americans use YouTube during work hours, though. And as for demographics, there’s a huge jump in usership from Generation Z (late ‘90s to mid-2000s babies) to the Golden Age (those born prior to the Baby Boomers). Eighty-three percent of teens visit YouTube at least monthly. The numbers fall from there: 70% of Millenials, 58% of Generation X, 49% of younger Baby Boomers and 40% of older Baby Boomers, and 30% of the Golden Generation visit the site monthly.

The Bottom Line

Video isn’t bad. Video is, in and of itself, an incredibly diverse medium that can tell stories the written word couldn’t even begin to. Consider the difference between Michael Crichton’s Jurassic Park and Steven Spielberg’s trio of films. The books are incomparable to the movies in terms of richness and realization of the imagined scenes. Indeed, sometimes, 10 seconds of film can summarize a point you would have spent paragraphs trying to relate. But often, that’s simply not the case. And to compound the issue, if your audience comprises professionals who tend to read your blog or website during standard office hours, or is an older demographic that isn’t used to hitting that ubiquitous arrow, video as a medium might not pay off.

The Experiment

Wondering which way to go? First, consider financials. To produce a good video, you need decent equipment and, most importantly, someone who knows what they’re doing. The time and money involved is not inconsequential. Second, consider your competition. If you’re going up against a big-time producer with the resources to make top-quality content in huge numbers, you’ll want to find a niche that might not be video inclusive in order to make a significant impact. Third, consider what you already know. Take a look at your analytics and study your audience. Answer questions like…

  • What age range is my target demographic, and what age range is my audience? (Note the subtle difference between the two)
  • When do they visit my website? (Real-time analytics software like Chartbeat can be useful here)
  • What is their purpose in visiting my website? (To answer this, try looking at keywords)
  • What type of content best tells my story and supports my mission? (Look back at your business plan to help you answer this)

Your turn! Tell me your experiences with video—what pitfalls and pluses have you observed?

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