Growing With Web Video

Getting stories placed in newspapers, radio and TV continues to be a tough challenge as the traditional media confronts shrinking resources. Definitions of newsworthiness change. Don’t give up on the media, but increase the chances for success by telling your own story via web-based video, going as directly as possible to targeted audiences.

It is getting easier all the time to get video on a homepage. Even digital cave persons can do it. Even cash-strapped local governments and nonprofits. CFM has worked with many different groups, particularly nonprofits, in coordinating video production. Here are a few pointers.

The audience is growing: The good news is the number of consumers viewing web-based videos as sources of news and entertainment continues to surge. Two-thirds of US Internet users – that’s almost 150 million viewers – are watching online videos each month, according to the website eMarketer. The number will grow to 77 percent, or more than 190 million per month, by 2014.

Its quality of audience, not quantity: Don’t reach out to the world. Be focused on delivering a tightly packaged message to specific audiences. If the message is meaningful, word of it will get around without much help from you.

Short form is best: Keep it short. There are varying opinions as to what “short” means. Four-minutes seems long. Thirty seconds to one-minute works. Consider a suite of short features. There are technical reasons for being brief, but we can skip the bandwidth and downloading time discussion.

Forget the facts, ma’am: Minimize the use of factoids. Instead, tell a personal story. Use sound bites from real people with personal stories illustrating the benefits of your point of view or product. Government agencies: control the urge to give face time to elected officials.

Create a content-oriented culture: The goal is to make sure your website has fresh content. This is a continuous process. Create a team that has the responsibility to plan and produce a series of videos by either learning to manage vendors or creating the feature stories in-house.

Who’s your production team: I prefer to serve as a production coordinator, working with third-party video storytellers. In addition to technical excellence, they help shape the messages.

Sometimes budgets just don’t allow that, so internal resources must be developed. If that is the case, a Flip camera works well under certain circumstances. Consider these production tips courtesy of John Earnhardt, director of social media at Cisco Systems Inc:

1. Stabilize the Flip camera with a tripod or support.

2. Place your camera as close as possible to the speaker. The interview subject should speak slowly and clearly.

3. Select a quiet recording location.

4. The speaker should maintain eye contact with the camera.

5. Position the speaker so there is more light on the face and less on the background.

6. Backgrounds are important. Don’t position the speakers in front of a window or other distracting backgrounds.

Platforms aplenty: Not having a robust website should not be an excuse for avoiding video. Try YouTube. There are other Video-sharing sites – such as Blip, Screencast, Viddler, to name a few – but they may not be usable for commercial purposes. Do your research.

We’ve worked with a variety of clients under different circumstances. No matter what the budget is, or the resources, get into the production habit and interact with your audience.


  • Oregon Psychological Association: We used a vendor, the Wave One Group, to capture the story of an Oregon National Guard Iraq war veteran struggle with post-traumatic stress disorder. We showed the story to Oregon legislators and posted on YouTube and on CFM’s Website (2009).
  • Clackamas County sewer issues: CFM helped coordinate production working with county staff. A suite of stories was posted on a video-friendly, stand-alone Website (2008).
  • Portland Water Bureau: We wished to see if we could do it in-house at CFM for a client with a limited budget. Here’s a very low-cost production telling the story of a bridge on the move (2010), posted last week on YouTube.