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Something to think about... / blog
Can You Give a Non-Video Example?

Written by on July 21, 2017

This is one question that I keep getting from my readers. You want me to give you more examples that don't involve video.

For instance, one reader recently emailed me this:

Reading your last article, I had the feeling that you rely too much on video for your examples of good practices. The examples are valid and top notch, but I miss some examples of good content in other formats, text articles especially. After all, magazines or news agencies are not just YouTube channels.

This is a very good point, and in many ways I agree.

I'm very aware that many of the examples that I use in my articles come in the form of video, and from that, most of them are from YouTube.

There are, however, a number of good reasons for this.

Let's start with why I use YouTube video more than any other form of video.

The simple answer to that is that they are so easily embedded into an article. And I have designed my CMS to handle it very efficiently. If I want to embed a video from YouTube, I simply write "youtube:[video id]" in my article, and my CMS will automatically convert that into an embedded video that matches the (responsive) format of my site.

I can't do this for most other video sources, because here, either it's impossible for me to embed it, or... worse... when I do embed it, it breaks the layout (because many video embeds force a fixed width).

It's also very easy to find good examples to use on YouTube, because YouTube is built around discovery.

You can't easily find good examples on Facebook, because Facebook Search is terrible, there is no good way to discover things on Facebook pages. Similarly, trying to find something on a traditional media site is usually impossible, and trying to do any form of discovery on Snapchat (or Instagram) is just a joke.

But these are just the technical reasons for why I use a lot of YouTube videos, another has to do with the trends.

As I have said before, YouTube is wonderful in that it's often the place where new long-term media trends start (or at least mature). This is because YouTube is a platform for creators. So every single day, we see all these wonderful examples of creators exploring new ways of connecting, engaging and creating long-term audiences.

This makes YouTube very different from, say, Facebook. Because Facebook is mainly focused on 'at-the-moment' engagement.

So trends that we see on YouTube often have a much longer impact, and are much closer aligned with the bigger macro-trends of the media (all the trends that are important). Trends we see on Facebook are flimsy and short-term.

More to the point, when we compare this to what we see in traditional media, we find traditional media are often five years out of date. So when a publisher is doing something new, the trend that made that possible often happened five years before on YouTube.

This is not always the case, of course, and YouTube is still just a video site. But think about things like the focus on influencers, on how to connect with people, how to think about journalists as those who drive the success, how niche verticals are growing in importance, the atomization of media, etc. ...all of those happened on YouTube five years before we started seeing it in traditional media.

So the reason I often don't give examples from traditional publishers is because I can often give you an even better example from a YouTuber.

Then we have the need to make the articles flow.

My Plus articles are very long (compared with what you normally see online). The average length is about 30-35 pages, and it takes about 15-20 minutes to read each one.

This means that I have to write my articles in such a way that you get 'drawn in' for a lengthy period of time, and the only way to do that is to focus on the momentum of the story.

You can see this in every article I write (even this one). I don't do listicles or '7 ways to do blah'... because the tone and style of those articles forces shallow reading. And with those, there is no way that I can keep people engaged while explaining a complex issue with them.

This is a problem we see all the time online. Most people write short articles because they are optimizing for snacking, but at the same time that also leads to content that is incapable of really explaining the nuances of, for instance, a trend.

What does this have to do with video?

Well, video is the perfect companion to long form content, because if you need to keep people interested for 20 minutes, your worst enemy is any form of interruption or lack of focus.

So, when I want to show you a good example of something, I don't want to interrupt your flow of reading by telling you to go somewhere else.

Imagine that I wanted to show you a great example of how a journalist made a story more compelling to her readers. I could do this in several ways:

  • I could add a link and tell you to click on it, while also asking you to come back here to continue the story. But doing that would interrupt the flow.
  • I could take screenshots and quotes and bring those into my story, explaining each part.
  • Or, I could embed a video that illustrates this to you all in one go.

Obviously, video is the better option, because it's the perfect match to my text. It doesn't interrupt the flow, and it's much better at illustrating the point of what I'm trying to say, than to add a bunch of screenshots.

The downside of doing this, of course, is that this does make it look like most examples I give are about the video. But they aren't.

In the example above where I added a video by Joss Fong from VOX, the point wasn't that you should do this as video, but instead to look at her and the way she made the story feel more personal. You could do that with text as well.

One amazing example of this is what I see from my friend Avinash Kaushik. His articles about marketing and analytics strategy have the same very engaging and personally inspired tone of voice. But it's more efficient for me to illustrate this with Joss Fong's video than to ask you to read an article.

So this is why I use so many video examples in my articles, and also why almost all of them are coming from YouTube.

But not everything should be video

Of course, the reason why people write to me and ask for less video is because many publishers don't do video. And in many ways they are right.

In the media industry, we are generally over-emphasizing the importance of video. Study after study clearly shows that young people often prefer content as text.

For instance, PEW got this result when they asked different age groups how they prefered to consume news.

As you can see, young people prefer reading news, while it's the older demographics who really prefer just watching it.

So, video is not as important as we make it seem.

When we hear executives on Facebook say that everything will be video in the future, that is only really true because they are placing Facebook in that role.

For many publishers, video isn't really the best format, which is particularly relevant if what you focus on isn't visual.

It's the same thing here on this site. The media analysis that I provide with Baekdal Plus often isn't visual, because we are talking about strategy and trends. Sure, I use video for a lot of examples for the reasons I explained above, but the main format is text.

This is also true for the massive trend that we see around newsletters. They are all text focused, and they are often better because of it (although sometimes I wish I could add a video example to my newsletter).

However, there is also another side to this. Because the problem we see with traditional media is that they are still based solely on text-journalism.

One example is from one of the big newspapers in my country. Here is an article they posted about a new car (I blocked out the text because I don't want to get in trouble with copyright).

This is the traditional way of doing journalism. Just have a random journalist write a short text-based article, and then dump that into a standard template with a picture at the top.

Just look at how crappy this is. Any reader who is truly interested in this car can't really use this article. They are just dumping content.

Presenting this car in the form of a video would be a much better way to cover this. Because, with a video, you can really show people what the car is like.

You could also do this with images, of course. But traditional publishers are so far behind.

This is a constant dilemma for me as a media analyst. I'm very aware that many examples are too focused on video, and that I should spend more time finding other examples. But at the same time, I also need to push traditional publishers to change.

Think about it like this:

While we might focus too much on video, traditional publishers are not even close to where they need to be.

So another reason to use video as an example is because I'm trying to push traditional publishers to change. If you are doing car reviews for a newspaper or a magazine, your competition isn't all the other magazines, but how digital natives are redefining how that's done.

So, going forward, I will still use a lot of videos as examples, but I'm also mindful of the feedback I get from you. And I have several topics planned for 2017 that aren't video related at all.

For instance, in "The Future for Publishers in an Automated World of Machine Learning" we explored how automation is changing the world of publishing, and I have much more coming about that.

This article does include three videos (with a link to a fourth), but those are just extras and not the focus of the trend.

My next article (if everything goes as planned) is about the challenge of distribution. That article will also likely include videos, but video is only a very small part of that story.

If you have any concerns or challenges, please let me know, I always appreciate feedback (my email is thomas@baekdal.com). Most of my Plus articles are based on feedback that I get either directly or indirectly through the conversation I have with editors and publishers.

So get in touch.

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Thomas Baekdal

Thomas Baekdal

Founder of Baekdal, author, writer, strategic consultant, and new media advocate.

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