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Novelty trumps production values - for a while (the maturation of new media and video)

Video Camera

A few weeks back, Mitch Joel wrote a great post on his blog called "Online Video Can Kill Your Credibility" that really asked those of us involved with video online to step up our game a bit and really look at how to make better videos.  Mitch, who admittedly does not create video himself, pointed out that with the sheer volume of videos being uploaded daily we need to look at how to improve the production so that our videos stand out.  He offered several suggestions, of which I'll point out:

  • AUDIO - It has always amazed me how incredibly important audio is to video. Mitch has a number of good pointers here.

  • LIGHTING - This may be obvious, but it's a point that people so often don't pay enough attention to - make sure you have good lighting!

  • BACKGROUNDS - It does matter what is behind you. Does it support your story? Or does it at least not detract from your story? (i.e. do people watching your video spend their time trying to figure out what the big orange thing on your shelf is?)

I agree with Mitch on the value in Steve Garfield's great book, Getting Seen - and I in fact recorded a video review about the book.

However, I'm not sure I entirely agree with Mitch's overall view that without improving production values your videos are doomed to die.

It all depends upon your audience.

It may be that the format for your videos may be perfectly fine as the "man-in-the-street" form with quick interviews taken with a Flip camera and rapidly posted. It may be that your video shot in your messy office fits in with the theme of the show.

Or not.

Mitch's post is a great reminder of the natural evolution that occurs in every "new media" as it matures into just "media". Go back to the mid-80s when the Macintosh first came out and brought everyone into the world of "desktop publishing". Do you remember the "ransom note publishing" that ensued when everyone started throwing a zillion fonts on a page just because they could? Do you remember how many horrid looking documents were created? Over time, though, people learned to use the tools better and expectations were raised for a higher level of document.

Similarly, back in the early '90s when the Web was brand new, pretty much everyone had to connect in to a server and edit HTML files by hand. The fact that you HAD a web site was the huge deal - so people didn't care as much about what it looked like. Over time, expectations have been raised and (thankfully!) many of the atrocious sites have been left back in the 90's.

Ditto podcasting... back in the early 2000's when podcasting first appeared it was perfectly fine if someone just turned on the microphone and pressed record. It was a new, joint experiment and any podcast was cool... ditto video podcasts...

Novelty trumps production values.

To Mitch's point, though, there comes a point in time when the "new media" is so commoditized that higher quality content does rise and get greater visibility. It is up to all of us who create video to take a look and ask ourselves - what will we do to stand out from the competition? How will you improve the quality of what you are doing?

I know what I want to do with my show - what are you going to do with yours?

P.S. And yes, we're in this funny state where you don't want to improve your quality too much or people see it as "too commercial" and "not authentic" - there's a balance in there somewhere... that will undoubtedly change over time as well.

Note: Photo courtesy of pursuethepassion on Flickr.

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