A large motivator for this en masse pivot to video is the pursuit of ad dollars, which makes sense as eMarketer estimates digital video ad spend will exceed $18bn by 2020 (it hit $10bn last year). But the biggest concern the advertisers supplying those ad dollars should have is that this drastic shift is resulting in sub-par video.
Some pieces of content don’t work as video. ‘You can’t just shoehorn one story into the wrong medium,’ says Quartz’s visual culture editor Caitlin Hu. ‘When we do them, we do them because they’re the perfect way to tell that story. It’s a question of what fits best, and in the future of content, that is going to be the question.’
But that hasn’t dissuaded publishers from trying. And forcing content into a video format, when it just isn’t meant to be there, leads to what The Awl’s Silvia Killingsworth calls: ‘a glorified PowerPoint presentation – slides, essentially, with words and pictures that flash... around the screen, sometimes with a shaded overlay.’ She wasn’t impressed, and the unwitting Facebook browsers who click the tempting play button won’t be either.
If a video isn’t good, the viewer isn’t going to stick around through the advert to watch the next bit of it. So, the lesson – you guessed it – is to prioritise quality content over any old video.
‘Kevin Delaney, [Quartz’s] editor and chief, said in an interview recently that when people say that they’re pivoting to video it’s because they don’t know what their business model is,’ says Quartz’s special projects editor Lauren Brown, explaining why Quartz has chosen to publish a hardback book amidst all this video pivoting malarkey. ‘We’ve been doing video for the past two years, it started off as an experiment, and it’s something that’s still important – just like telling stories through written words and photos and email newsletters are important. But none of that has been born out of a desperation for finding new revenue streams.’
So, by all means, make video. Make long video, make short video, make live video – but make sure it’s good video, not video that causes the viewer’s eyes to immediately glaze over.