Personalization and Pre-Production are Two Important Paths for Video

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On a Thursday a few weeks ago, Brian Malone, president of new SIPA member Malone Media, was telling me about an important shoot that he had the following Monday morning. (I love saying "shoot" with video people and "gig" with my music-performing friends.)

The session was with Mark Ragan, CEO of another SIPA member, Ragan Communications, where Malone used to work. Mark Ragan would be speaking in individual videos to send directly to customers in "autoplay" emails: "Hey Mary, I see that you live in Atlanta. You might be interested in attending our event there next month..."

"It's a test on our part," Malone said. "A video message 'just to me' for maybe 20-30 seconds."

I will follow up to see how these videos perform. Meanwhile, there has been a lot written of late on companies pivoting to video. Mic, a news site aimed at millennials, just laid off many editorial people to prepare an all-out assault on video.

"Visual journalism already makes up 75% of the time that our audiences spend with Mic," cofounder and CEO, Chris Altchek, wrote in a memo to staff. "As new platforms emerge and existing platforms continue to grow, we believe this will become a dominant form of news consumption."

Some lessons as video moves forward:

More video consumption is happening on mobile. In an excellent article by Access Intelligence's min that looked at mobile usage patterns, they found that mobile growth in the magazine sector is totally flat, desktop declined 11.3%, but "video audience growth continues at a pace (+40.7%) that mirrors mobile two years ago..."

Know your audience. In min's chart of video platform growth of B2C magazines from the first half of 2016 to the first half of 2017, the top five show growth of 629% (Marie Claire) to 1,622% (Conde Nast Traveler). Wow! No wonder Malone sounds so busy these days. "It's all about bringing stories to life," he said. "But you have to have a real strategy, and you have to ask, 'Is that where my customers live?'"

Planning is essential. "The biggest mistake I see is not enough pre-production or planning goes into video," Malone said. "Nobody has read a script, rehearsed anything; it's just an on-the-fly table read. You can't just start rolling." Strong editing is also needed. "You have to go through footage and make sense of it sometimes. People may think they're saving time by skipping pre-production," but then you're really wasting time if you don't do that.

Effective video takes various skills. Malone called video a technical process "but you also need a creative person... Recognize what other companies are doing online [with video]. It might be training, webinars, webcasts..."

There is "no excuse for bad audio," Malone said. Nothing else matters much if you can't hear things clearly.. Invest in a good mic, he recommended. "Audio should be considered paramount," agreed Nelson Cuellar, ASAE's learning specialist for educational video and multimedia, on AssociationsNow. He also recommended buying dedicated equipment for recording audio.

Data is showing that users will spend longer spans on smaller screens. According to the min article, "The Atlantic's widely-read June cover story 'My Family's Slave' saw 72% of its traffic coming from mobile devices." But...

If you are aiming for a general audience, go with shorter videos. If the content is more narrowly aimed, you can do a longer clip. "The video should be as long as it needs to be, and not a second longer," said Jim Wacksman, CEO of Association Studios. However, you will see people dropping off the video at some point, probably about a minute and a half in. Keep that length in mind if your video includes a call to action.

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Ronn Levine began his career as a reporter for The Washington Post and has won numerous writing and publications awards since. Most recently, he spent 12 years at the Newspaper Association of America covering a variety of topics before joining SIPA in 2009 and SIIA in 2013 as editorial director…