How to Hone Writers Into On-Camera Hosts

In 2011, there were 2.7 billion online video ad views. In 2012, online audiences watched video ads 4.6 billion times.

Online video is the new normal.
Online video is the new normal.

With online videos in general, there’s an overall and generational shift away from television, with around one-third of Millennials watching either less television than online video, or no television at all. Half of 18- to 34-year-olds watch online video at least once a day, and the reasons they give are obvious: they can watch what they want immediately, can watch multiple episodes quickly, and can watch on mobile devices that go anywhere.

Adding video to your news or trade publication website can address both traffic and revenue development, but how do you start? Here’s what you need to do.

What Video Can Do for Your Website

Videos are terrific for engaging your audience, whether you’re covering a local community college basketball victory or teaching them how to unclog a sink. And building a portfolio of videos for your website improves your site’s credibility. When people look, for example, for information on a specific topic in their trade, and your website offers several relevant video resources, you are seen as experts in your field.

Furthermore, you can easily track video views using Google Analytics YouTube Tracking. It’s free and helps you learn what works best in terms of video content on your site. There are countless types of videos you can use on your site: Promotional videos, virtual tours, how-tos, and product demonstrations are just a few. Videos that establish expertise can drive both short-term and long-term traffic, particularly coupled with video SEO. And ads or sponsorships allow your site to monetize your videos.

Finally, videos put a human face on your site, giving your audience a more personal stake in your content. It doesn’t mean all your content has to be video, because people enjoy articles by writers they know from videos.

The Elements of an Effective Online Video

Effective online videos have the following characteristics:

  1. They’re simple. Your video should have a clear message, and you should keep graphics, props, and lengthy animations to a minimum.
  2. They’re brief. Two to five minutes long is best unless you’re specifically creating a long-form video.
  3. They use up-to-date techniques. You don’t need an expensive studio or equipment, but it shouldn’t look like it was shot in 1986 on VHS.
  4. The content should have substance. Your video should entertain, inform, educate, or some combination of these.
  5. Videos should address your audience. This is the video version of the old writers’ adage that ”You don’t send a cat article to a dog magazine.”

Tools and Techniques for Making Effective Videos

A mini tripod is a small investment that can make a big difference in video quality.
A mini tripod is a small investment that can make a big difference in video quality.

The basic equipment you need includes a smartphone or other video camera, tripod, decent lighting, and a setting without a lot of background noise if possible. Obviously, if you’re covering breaking news, you’re going to break a lot of the following ”rules,” but that’s OK because breaking news has a different function.

  • First, choose your message: report a story, teach a technique, or demonstrate a product.
  • Choose a quiet, well-lit, comfortable place to shoot.
  • Make a five- or ten-second test video to check for lighting, sound, framing, ”wardrobe malfunctions,” etc.
  • Some writers find it helpful to write two or three key points on a sticky note and place it within view, but out of the viewer’s vision.
  • Review the footage, and crop if necessary using your camera or phone’s trimming function. Then take care of any further editing with Windows Moviemaker or other software to add intro frames, credits, etc.
  • When you upload video, add an SEO-friendly title, and tags with relevant keywords to improve your video’s standing in search results.
  • Make sure your site’s social media coordinator knows about the video and can include it in your social media strategy as appropriate.

Practice Is Essential

You may be unimpressed by your site’s first videos. Like anything, it gets better with practice. Don’t worry about trying to curb reporters’ accents unless they’re impenetrable. There are plenty of terrific online tutorials about improving video quality and video presence. For example, here is a very informative video by Heather Hansen on speaking English clearly. It’s designed for Asian people learning English as a second language, but it applies to native English speakers as well. And here is another helpful video by Hansen on dealing with (and embracing) regional accents. You can even find free online speech lessons to help reporters come across professionally on video.

Adding video to your site is a terrific way to develop your audience and your site’s revenue. At RealMatch, we offer recruitment advertising solutions for digital publishers and media companies with powerful revenue sharing that lets you draw new traffic, bring back existing traffic, and develop an exciting new revenue stream for your site.

Photo Credits: stockimages /, John Kasawa /

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