In case you hadn’t noticed, video is kind of a big deal on the interwebs, now. It may have put the thought in your mind to do a video blog or start adding videos to your current blog. I’ve already written about how to get started video blogging, so what I want to do with this post is cover what great video blogs have in common with each other, so you can get started thinking of your own ideas.
Seven qualities of great video blogs
- Original content
- High production quality
- Plays to the strengths of video
- People in the videos are photogenic
- Frequent updates
Original video content that you produced yourself is going to get more attention and attract a following moreso than a link blog. While it’s possible to have some success with a video link blog (I’ve done it), it’s just not as compelling, shareable, and linkworthy as original content is. If you want to have a chance at video blogging stardom, you must create your own content.
It always seems to me that the most successful video blogs have a clear and unique sense of humor to their videos. Maybe it’s something about how both the sight and sound of another person laughing makes us laugh, too. Maybe it’s the greater possibilities for nuanced humor due to the combination of vocal tone, facial expression, and physical movement. I don’t know for sure, but I think it’s people simply love to laugh. So if you can make ‘em laugh, you will increase your chances of gathering a loyal audience.
This is one area where I struggle, personally. My sense of humor is quite cerebral, verbal, and sarcastic. It doesn’t want to come out consistently even when I write. For some reason, it just switches off when I hit the record button. Maybe I’m afraid to let it loose. I don’t know, but it’s something I’ve been thinking about. And by “thinking” I mean “sitting and staring into space with this dumb look on my face.” See, there it goes. I’d like to improve in this area; we’ll see how that goes.
When people like your videos, they will want to share them. DO NOT GET IN THEIR WAY. Allow for embedding and downloading if your video service allows it (if it doesn’t, find one that does). Do not force people to visit your blog just to see the videos. Do not tell people not to upload your videos to YouTube. The greatest threat to your success isn’t some outdated notion of ownership, it’s being unknown and ignored. Being shareable is the best way to prevent that, other than producing great content. Use a service like YouTube or others that will distribute your videos for you. Multiple entry points to your content means more traffic.
High production quality
This can mean several things:
- Quality camera (over 1 megapixel)
- Decent editing
- Professional-looking titles and effects, used sparingly
- Good lighting and sound
- Clear, sharp video quality in the embedded player
I definitely have a ways to go in some of these areas. In an effort to save time, I haven’t been editing or adding titles to my videos (because it makes the entire process take at least 3 times as long). I don’t have a separate audio track. I don’t have any decent editing/effects software (yet).
Plays to the strengths of video
One reason to use media on a blog other than text is that different people have different preferred learning modalities. I know that for myself, I prefer video with sound and some text titles over anything else for good retention. Pure audio puts me to sleep. Most content I consume online is still text, but the percentage of video is increasing.
Video can do things that the written word cannot, such as provide context to words through vocal tone, inflection, facial expressions, and body language. In the humor department, the possibilities are endless, from funny effects to old-skool slapstick. The “talking head” style of video is the least creative thing you can do (note to self: STOP DOING THEM, THEN) unless you’re Ze Frank and have mad editing skills and are willing to do 5 or 6 takes.
The main point here is this: take advantage of what’s unique about video. If you could have just written it, then maybe you should have. I’m not dissing on writing. I write as well as I can, but this isn’t about some misguided notion that video is better than other media. No. It’s just that great video blogs take advantage of the medium. Great video blogs maximize the medium.
People in the videos are photogenic
Let me be absolutely clear that photogenic does not mean good-looking, and that if you’re not pretty, then don’t bother. Nothing could be further from the truth! Photogenic does not equal pretty or handsome. Think charisma, instead. Think personality. Other than that, you need to have readable facial expressions and you need to speak clearly. Enhance your personal branding by adopting a unique appearance through clothing, makeup, hair, or mannerisms. I don’t mean be fake. Accentuate what is real about you so that it stands out strongly. Be real, don’t try to be something you’re not. But remember you are performing. It’s hard to explain the fine line between performing and being fake or just acting. I hope you know what I’m getting at.
If you want your blog to be known as a video blog, you will have to update it frequently with new videos. If the mix of media is such that no single one dominates, or if text is the dominant media, your blog will still just be a blog. Nothing wrong with that, but you need to decide what you want to be and then be that with a vengeance. Although I’ve been doing more video, I don’t consider Remarkablogger to be a video blog.
Great video blogs to learn from
Internet celeb/writer/programmer/designer/performer Ze Frank (pronounced “Zay”) made a video every weekday for a year. The man never blinks. His commentary on politics and culture is dry, witty, and sharp enough to make you gasp but never sharp enough to draw real blood. My kinda guy. The masterful editing and high-quality production values make what would otherwise be a “talking head” style of work into a masterpiece of the craft. Some adult language.
Qualities found: all seven (although at the beginning, Ze didn’t want them downloaded then uploaded to YouTube — now he shares)
Justine is one of my favorite combinations: cute girl + loves tech. She’s great at creating the kind of content that takes advantage of the medium’s strengths. If you watch the clip above, you’ll see what I mean. There’s no way that would have ever had that much funny in it if she had just written about her first WoW experience. She does write on her blog, and there are the occasional “other” forms of media, but really it’s all about the video.
Qualities found: all seven.
The cool deal with Pop17 is that Sarah Meyers is essentially presenting it as a far brainier, far techier version of E.T. It’s about internet celebrity and the people and tools for it. This video has the best effects I’ve seen in a while — very pro! This could outright be on television.
Qualities found: All but funny
Mark Wielgus of 45n5.com is committed to doing a video every single day for a year, a noteworthy goal! I wouldn’t be surprised if he smashes his camera with a big rock afterwards (as long as he records it on another one so we can see it!). Mark’s got a very approachable style. He’s just shootin’ the breeze with us, talking shop regarding making money online. He can be pretty opinionated sometimes (which I like about him, even though I don’t agree with everything he says) and that’s always good for traffic and comments.
He’s doing a lot of things right: the URL and site name is continuously displayed. The videos are decently edited. He mixes it up in terms of location, effects, and some humor once in a while. The video above is also a great example of how you don’t always need high production values to make highly entertaining and informative video content. They guy’s got pieces of paper taped to canned air and a stuffed animal, fer cryin’ out loud! But you know what? It’s great stuff! It works.
Qualities found: all but high production quality, which in Mark’s case is almost a trademark, so it’s no strike against him if you ask me
Jim Kukral is doing some great work. There is so much cool stuff going on here that it needs to be broken down to be understood. Okay, check this out: The guy’s show is called The Daily Flip. The Flip video camera is a rockin’ little machine that goes for about $150 or so. Jim makes these great videos that are not the highest production values (in fact that’s the topic of the clip above — he’s of the “just do it” school like I am) but he could use a bit of lighting at least. Wouldn’t kill him. Anyhoo, get this: Jim also sells the Flip Video cameras. He can’t make a damn video without pushing the camera! It’s a great marketing combo! Really, really smart, Jim!
Qualities found: all but high production quality and funny
Gary Vaynerchuk has been receiving a lot of attention, lately. This man is all about vino with a vengeance! He practically explodes off the screen and spills wine on your keyboard with passion and knowledge about the wines he sells.
Qualities found: all
I hope you have been inspired by what these folks are doing when it comes to your own video blogging. Remember, you don’t have to start out like these guys–they’ve been doing it for a while. Some of them have made hundreds of videos. If you haven’t yet started your video oddysey, do not be intimidated. Just grab a camera and start. You certainly will never get anywhere if you don’t even start! And you start at the same place everyone does: at the beginning. I hope to improve my own video-making as well. I’ve learned a lot in researching this and taken a tough look at my own video work with an eye to making it remarkable.
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