Questioning conventional wisdom is often a good thing, so let’s thank Peter Ralph for his recent posts at Shooting by Numbers challenging some basic assumptions about Web video. Here’s his list of seven “myths” that he’d like to see ignored:
- Shorter is better.
- Content is king.
- Connect emotionally.
- Avoid talking heads.
- Never shoot with a tripod.
- Always shoot with a tripod.
- Lots of close-ups.
I agree that several of these “truisms” are entirely bogus. Shorter isn’t always better. PBS has had great success with long-form video online. As former Disney CEO Michael Eisner told a recent Web video conference:
Sex seems to work. User-gen, sports, news, anything with Sarah Palin works. At the end of the day, like in all the other industries from movies to TV, long-form, story-driven content is what ultimately works. But it’s still in the experimental stage.
So what about myth #2? Eisner appears to be saying content really is king, and I agree. Ralph says it’s context that matters when it comes to generating value, but if the content isn’t any good to start with, who cares about the context?
Ralph says flatly that people don’t click on emotional videos. Is there evidence to support that? I’d like to see it. On the other hand, I do agree with Ralph that talking heads “work just fine on the Web.” This year’s winner of the best online video presentation award from the Online News Association, the Oregonian’s Living to the End, is basically just a series of talking head videos. But they’re full of emotion, which may be one reason they’re so compelling.
Tripod rules that include the word “always” or “never” are just silly, so I’m in agreement on those myths as well but for different reasons. Ralph says you should “just go with whatever improves your confidence, flexibility, confidence, efficiency and confidence.” I’d argue you should do what works best for the story.
As for close-ups, even Ralph admits they create visual impact, but he says they’re overused online. Why? Because videographers are lazy, he says, and close-ups are easy to shoot and edit. Not at all, says Angela Grant at News Videographer:
Even though some organizations have massive video players now, the majority do not. So closeups are still important if you want to make sure your audience sees the details of your story. In addition, online video is more personal than TV or movies because it’s usually just one person in front of the computer monitor. Closeups make a story feel intimate.
Are there other “rules” of Web video that should be discarded as myths?