The Three Keys to Effective Video Use

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If you just scroll down a little bit on the New York Times’ website, on the left hand side there is a box specifically for video clips.  Since I doubt most people who visit the website are going to go searching for videos, I thought it was interesting to look at what videos the chose to put somewhere prominent, how they are, and how they are done. 

There were four videos, three in the style category and one in the science.  The first two were a little bit longer, they were about five and half minutes each, while the second two were just a little over two minutes.  None of these video clips were breaking news; they were instead evergreen stories which could be newsworthy for some time.  This makes sense, since more effort must go into making this video clips so the paper would want them to last longer. 

Most notably though, all four of the videos focused on subject matter that without pictures/audio would not have had as much of an impact on the viewer.  The first video, “Crossing the Concourse”, capitalized on both the use of music and of visuals.  It was the story of pianist Sara Buechner who was once David Buechner.  The use of video clips helped make the story more relatable to the audience and helped make her challenges seem more real.  The second clip, “Saving Sea Turtles, On Nest at a Time,” chronicled the continuing struggle of sea turtles against such forces as global warming and continued development of land.  The video made the story more effective since it could actually show clips of the baby sea turtles, thereby pulling at the viewers heartstrings.  The third video, “On the Street: Colors,” was basically a series of pictures with audio commentary.  Without the pictures, this video would have been almost impossible.  Describing what people are wearing and then commenting on it, would take twice as long and be much less effective than just showing a picture of it.  And the last clip, "Vows: Melissa & Adam", was the story of how two people met and fell in love.  Again this video was more effective as a video than it would have been as a story, since seeing the two sit with each other and talk about their story gets the emotions across better than simply quoting their words. 

So essentially, it seems that there are three important considerations for video use:

1. Keep them short; none of them were longer than five minutes.  People don’t have the time of the attention spans to watch long videos.

2. More effort is put into a video, so make sure you can get more mileage out of your time, by making it evergreen.

3. Make sure that what you pick to make a video of will be more effectively expressed by being video.  Don’t just make a video, so you have a video.  Pick something which will have greater effect on the reader because it is video and not just words. 

Return home.


Jennifer Prex said:

I agree that videos can definitely be more effective. While much can be conveyed with words, some things can get lost in translation--especially in news writing since the writing has to remain objective. The viewer will get more out of the experience of watching the video than he or she would have gotten out of reading an article about the same thing.

Greta Carroll said:

Exactly. It is very hard for journalists to truly get across what emotions a person may be feeling or the passion they may have for a subject, since they need to be careful not to lead the readers toward one side or the other. For example, you can't say, "She blinked away tears of joy," in an article, but if you have a video, the audience can see for themselves. It's the perfect example of show versus tell.

Aja Hannah said:

With the videos, it seems "Vows" could be an ongoing section that attracts people again and again. At least, the people who got engaged and their families and friends would watch it. Everyone likes to have their five minutes of fame.

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