YouTube’s been around for years, and it’s one of the most popular sites on the internet. Sites like Hulu and Boxee are making American cable companies nervous (in Canada, Hulu’s blocked). Certainly, the move from broadcasting on the tube, to broadcasting over the web is coming, but we have yet to see any groundbreaking made-for-web content. Last week, Rev3 put out a tongue-in-cheek open letter to Conan O’Brien, encouraging him to move his show to the web. While the letter was a joke, is that so far off?]
The big question around broadcasting content on the web, however, is what’s the revenue model? Network television makes its money through advertising – raising the same kind of advertising revenue on the web could prove to be problematic. Cable networks make money through subscription. This could be a possibility, but I think we’ll truly see if this is feasible this year if Hulu begins charging for content.
Where does this leave the advertisers? Advertisers have used 30-second television spots with great success for half a century, but what happens when (not if, when) network television dies? The logical answer is that advertisers will move these dollars to the web. Some marketers are touting video as the next generation of advertising on the web. Some marketers go so far as to imply that video will become the dominant content on the web, replacing text and static images.
This is where I get skeptical.
We have seen a number of success stories of people who have used video for business purposes to great success (the name Gary Vaynerchuk comes to mind, for one). However, a few examples of success doesn’t mean that video is going to replace all content.
4 Reasons Why Video Won’t Replace Text
1. History Tells Us Otherwise
The web’s great value is that it’s a resource in addition to an entertainment source. People go to the web to find information. That’s where there’s value for advertisers, because they can find consumers who are looking for answers. Just as documentaries did not replace books as the way we do research, so too, will videos not become the definitive resource for a person searching for information.
2. People’s attention spans are too short
The web has nurtured an environment of people who have an 8-second attention span. You might think this is an argument in favour of video, but it’s not. How often can a person be hooked by the first 8 seconds of a video? Not often. Video as a medium needs time to develop, and it can’t easily be scanned. Text on the other hand is inherently scannable. I scan tens of thousands of words of text on the internet every day. I do it because scanning text is easy. I can’t scan hundreds of hours of video every day.
3. Look at usage patterns
When does a huge portion of web traffic occur? While people are at work. People will happily read/scan through multiple articles during spare moments at work, but very few people have the kind of job where stopping and watching a full video is acceptable or feasible.
4. The right way to use video hasn’t been discovered yet
The 30-second commercial spot on television worked because of the nature of the medium. People had to watch it while they waited for their regular programming to come back. There is a small trend of companies trying to reproduce this same format on the web. That simply won’t work work on the web, because no one will actively seek out a commercial. In fact, people watching television are actively looking for ways to avoid commercials. What makes these companies think that just because you put them on the web now, people will want to watch them?
A Few of the Right Ways to Use Video
As mentioned earlier, there have been some success stories for using video, and as such, there are some lessons we’ve been able to glean from these about how to use video.
1. Promotional tool. Use video content as yet another avenue to guide people back to your web HQ. This can be accomplished by posting something of interest on YouTube, and pointing people back to the HQ for more info. This is about creating valuable content, not selling.
2. Do something different. A lot of people, especially in the world of blogging, are experimenting with video. Unfortunately, most of them are simply taking the blogposts they would have normally written and reciting them into a webcam. If your video doesn’t add anything, just write it. Video allows you to demonstrate and visualize things in a way text doesn’t. Take advantage of that, or risk creating some of the dullest videos on the web.
3. Add personality. The social web has demonstrated to us all that consumers like it when the brands they buy from have personality. Video allows consumers to see who they’re buying from. If you can create video that allows your customers to feel like they know you better, you’ve succeeded.
4. Create a viral hit. The holy grail of internet marketing is going viral. It costs next to nothing, and all of a sudden everyone and their cat has seen your video and passed it along. The problem with creating a viral hit is that there’s really no way to predict what will go viral. The first viral hit of 2010 has been the American Idol rendition of “Pants on the Ground.” Not sure that was intentional…
Experiment with video and add it to your marketing mix, but make no mistake, it is not a replacement, it is a supplement.
While you’re playing with video, you might also want to check out Get Seen, as recommended by Chris Brogan. I haven’t looked at this yet, but Chris usually gives good recommendations.
Oh, and don’t expect many videos from me in the near future. I know my strengths and my weaknesses, and I know that for the sake of anyone reading this, I should stick to writing.