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We produced 1,000 videos in one year and this is what I learned

In order to succeed we had to create a “social video handbook” that I would like to share with you

I have always been hooked on videos. Since the time when I spent my days watching MTV, until I had the chance to work for them, to the moment when social networks and YouTube converted everything into videos, and the obsession became an occupation. In the past year, though, I have been assisting a major Italian broadcaster to formulate a digital video strategy. This required an increased commitment in order to diversify production, due to the potential volume of viewers but mainly because the volume of required ideas, procedures and solutions were of a magnitude never faced before.

What then is the format of an editor’s digital video content? And specifically those of a television editor?

What is the difference between video and textual content? The question might seem unnecessary, but it is not. With journalism, as with content creation, for years we have been used to discussing “articles”, so much so that today it is counterintuitive to think of a video as something completely different. However, a video is not really based on one piece of information, nor on a complex plot. When compared to an article, the added value of a video lies in its ability to depict an action or a movement, even if as a statement made by
the characters themselves.

We can classify all online videos into two main types

Social Videos: micro content, usually made by re-edits or existing footage or archive material.

Social Videos: online videos are watched alone, in silence

Here we will discuss so-called “videos with text”, those with 16:9 or, more frequently, square format that almost all broadcasters have started producing and distributing in the last few months. Such videos last from 30 to 90 seconds and all feature a prominent written component comprising text in the video or captions. It is essential that such clips can be enjoyed without audio: according to the video content analysis company Tubular Labs, 46% of all videos that producers post directly on Facebook have no audio or just some basic background music. We see those videos everywhere: in the underground, in the doctor’s waiting room or during a lunch break. They are the ultimate filler content.

Types of Social Video: are you a piece of news or a list?

By watching hundreds or even thousands of social videos produced by a wide range of Italian or world publishers, I realised that any content of this type can be reduced to a short list of categories:

Viral videos: news, curiosities or statements

Whether the video deals with news, a curiosity or a statement, all these types are strongly based on an action. In all three cases, the basic element is hinted at, then titled and then its origin is revealed and is finally contextualised in a wider manner.

Lists: profile, evolution, things to know

What are a character’s profile, his evolution, or a video based on a list of things you should know, if not a list of items placed in a particular order, either by date or by relevance? Often, in the following additional three cases there is no basic action to hint at for the viewer, who is attracted by the title (and by the preview image, but more of this later) followed by a list that can be explicit (numbered) or implicit (the phases of someone’s life); obviously the added value is the study that we will carry out for each and every phase.

Platforms: fishing in a river or in the sea?

Regarding online videos, we must not forget to package the end result with a suitable preview image. The choice of the latter is linked to the platform that we choose for uploading the content. Until now, we have assumed that we upload the videos we are dealing with as “native” within a social network but many major Italian publishers are founding their own businesses on the market for pre-roll advertising and hence it is paramount to be able to attract viewers to their own proprietary platforms.

Productions: an idea and a colourful background

After the long section dedicated to “social videos” (according to the Tubular Labs agency, 25% of the videos posted on Facebook belong to this category) let us deal with actual productions. These formats are not a reinterpretation of archive or agency video footage, but produce something new from scratch, though always with a limited budget.

What will happen tomorrow? A third level

The future of online videos will be ever more associated with social platforms and mobile devices. Not only YouTube, but mainly new emerging platforms like the Facebook video Watch extension and Instagram IGTV, both aiming to undermine the territory of longer, more complex and expensive productions which, to date, feature more traditional television formats.

Ora Mediaset Digital Content Factory. Prima Wired Italia e MTV http://nonsischerzapiu.com

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