Trends in digital media come and go, but recently, one of the more noticeable trends in digital media has been the gradual shift in emphasis toward video content.
From major mainstream outlets like Mashable, MTV News, and Vice to smaller operations, more and more publishers are “pivoting to video” from text-based content. In this post, we’ll be taking a look at why some publishers are betting big on video, as well as examining the pros and cons of video content marketing, with examples of video content that can perform strongly.
Before we begin, we need to take a look at how we ended up here.
Why Are So Many Media Companies Pivoting to Video?
The most prevalent theory about the “pivot to video” trend is that it’s merely a response to changing media consumption habits.
The theory is that more and more people are shying away from actually reading written words (so much hassle!) in favor of watching more video content.
Image/data via Business Insider
There is evidence that video is being perceived differently. In a recent study, video analytics software company Vidyard found that many marketers are seeing video as a much more important element in their wider content strategies:
Image via Vidyard
However, some people think the reason for the shift is that video ads are harder to ignore than banner ads.
A third theory gaining traction is that pivoting to video is a ploy to curry favor with Facebook. Some see the emerging trend of shifting toward more video content as aligning with Facebook's own stated goal of publishing more video content - and it's a compelling theory.
"Facebook really, really wants native videos—which is to say, videos viewed on the Facebook platform—to take off," John West wrote in a recent article on the trend for Quartz. "And publishers know an edict when they hear one."
Why Should Marketers Care About What Big Media Companies Do?
Major media companies exert tremendous influence; not only over what people buy, but how people behave. Content marketing as a discipline may have grown from the world of SEO, but today, trends in B2B content are often strongly influenced and shaped by mainstream media consumption habits. If major media brands say that video is The Future, you can bet your last dollar that marketers won’t take long to follow suit.
Image via Medium
It’s the same principle that we saw in written content a few years ago. As newspapers and magazines shifted their focus from shorter, shallower content to longer, reported features and long-form articles, it didn’t take long before marketers and B2B companies also began to pay more attention to long-form. Similarly, as professional video has proliferated across the web, more and more marketers are prioritizing video content.
The Pros of Video Content Marketing
There are definitely several upsides to producing more video content, but there are also several drawbacks. Let’s take a look at three of each.
Pro #1: Video Content Has Strong Engagement
The first pro of video content is the fact that it boasts incredibly strong engagement compared to other content formats.
According to the Content Marketing Institute, audiences are roughly 10 times more likely to engage with and share video content than any other content type. With engagement stats like this, it’s not hard to see why video remains a very alluring proposition to publishers and marketers.
In addition to boasting strong engagement generally, video performs extraordinarily well on social media – Facebook in particular. As Buffer observed in an exhaustive study of social media engagement last year, video is by far the most popular content format on Facebook by a considerable margin, proving twice as popular as links as the most popular type of Facebook post:
Image/data via Buffer
Of course, while video engagement is broadly very strong, it does vary quite widely by video type. We’ll get to this (and some examples) in a moment.
Video content can also be extremely “sticky” when it comes to metrics such as time-on-page. According to Wistia, people spend more than two and a half times as long on pages with videos than pages without:
Image/data via Wistia
Pro #2: Video Content Improves Conversion Rates
Video content not only boasts impressive engagement rates, but also potentially high conversion rates. Adding video to specific pages can be incredibly effective at increasing conversion rates – particularly landing pages.
In a case study featured at the Unbounce blog, Vidyard experimented with adding a video to one of its landing pages. The baseline conversion rate of the landing page was an average of 6.5%. Vidyard tested two variants of the same video on this landing page: one in a lightbox modal pop-up and one embedded in the page itself.
The results were amazing.
Image via Unbounce/Vidyard
The figure above shows conversion rates for each of the three tests. The blue line (“Challenger D”) represents the video displayed in a modal lightbox pop-up. The orange line (“Challenger H”) represents the embedded video. The third line (“Challenger J”) represents the page without any video.
Challenger H – the video embedded in the page – had an average conversion rate of 11%, an impressive lift of 69%. However, the real star of this test was Challenger D, the lightbox pop-up video, which boasted an average conversion rate of 13%, a lift in conversions of 100%!
Pro #3: Video Content Is Easily Repurposed
While video may not be as easy to produce as written content (more on this momentarily), once it has been made, it’s easy to reuse and repurpose content for future projects.
Elements such as title cards, images, and even footage can all be reused
in future video projects, as we do here at WordStream
Elements such as title cards, animations, music and sound effects, voice-over audio, B-roll footage, and virtually every other aspect of an individual video can be easily reused in future projects. This can offset the initial investment of time necessary to create them in the first place, and also serves to ensure continuity across various video properties.
It’s important to bear this in mind if you hire a third-party production company to produce your videos. Before signing any contracts, be sure to understand exactly who owns the assets once production has wrapped and whether you have legal permission to use them without paying additional fees to the production company.
The Cons of Video Content
So now we’re done talking about how great video is, let’s put the “con” back into “content.” See what I did there?
Con #1: Video Can Have High Production Overheads
Although not everybody is comfortable writing, actually producing written content is just about as easy as can be. All you need is a computer and a word processor or even basic text editor and you’re on your way.
Not so with video.
Even a modest office-based studio setup can cost thousands of dollars in upfront equipment costs, regardless of whether you rent or buy your gear. Without training or experience, actually making videos can be tricky, and newcomers to video production often end up making costly mistakes or screwing up entire shoots.
Even low-end video production equipment can cost several thousands of dollars.
Image via Wistia.
You could always hire a production company to make your videos, but this can be very expensive and also demands that you take precious time to evaluate the reels and portfolios of various production companies before you even receive your first estimate.
The barriers to entry for video production are falling all the time, but it’s still beyond the means of some small businesses and marketers. If you're committed to creating a video culture at your company, check out Margot's recent guide.
Con #2: Not All Audiences Enjoy Video Content
Major media brands and social evangelists might be completely in love with video, but the same cannot be said for all audiences - particularly when it comes to news content.
According to data from the Reuters Institute and Oxford University, 41% of Millennial media consumers prefer reading news content to watching video, claiming it's faster and more convenient.
Image/data via Reuters Institute/Oxford University
Interestingly, a further 19% of respondents said they felt video content added little or no value to a text-based news story. Considering how often news sites will embed or include accompanying video content alongside text-based content, this is a particularly striking statistic.
This data also raises questions about how a visitor's personal preferences play into media consumption habits. In a fascinating article for Entrepreneur, website analytics software provider ClickTale's Customer Experience Psychologist Liraz Margalit wrote that reading and watching content aren't just two different ways of consuming media; they actually use two completely different thought processes and appeal to two distinct mindsets.
Margalit explained that visitors' state of mind plays a large role in media consumption preferences. Visitors who are "just browsing"—exploring a site with no clearly defined goal—are more likely to prefer video-based content, as they're primarily in a passive state of mind and more willing to engage with visual content. Visitors who have a defined objective—say, to learn more about a particular topic—are more likely to prefer text-based content according to Margalit, as they're in a much more focused, active state of mind and are more likely to be willing to expend the cognitive resources necessary to read and parse text-based content.
It's worth remembering that the data above is primarily focused on news-based content. It does, however, reveal another side of video content marketing that often gets overlooked in the excitement and buzz about the growth of online video.
Con #3: Hardware Limitations Can Limit Reach
Even the best videos in the world won’t hit the mark if your audience can’t watch them.
Advances in mobile and internet video technology have made video content more accessible than ever, but there are still vast swathes of the world’s population that simply can’t watch videos online. People with unreliable or poor-quality internet connections, lower-end mobile devices or computers, or who live in areas lacking internet access altogether are all unlikely to favor video over lightweight text-based content.
It’s also worth noting that, as recently as two years ago, more than 2 million Americans still accessed the web primarily through AOL dial-up (yes, really), highlighting the disparities in broadband access observed throughout much of the world.
Global internet access statistics by region in 2012.
Image/data via Statista.
There’s also the issue of accessibility to consider. While many sites have made great progress in accessibility and ease of use for individuals with impaired vision and other disabilities, not everyone can or wants to watch video online.
What Kinds of Content Works Well as Video?
If you’re still thinking of following Mashable’s lead by pivoting to video yourself, I suppose there isn’t much I can do to dissuade you. I can, however, offer some examples of content that works very well as video.
If you’re planning your content calendar and find yourself in need of these content types, it may be worthwhile considering a pivot of your own.
Instructional & Tutorial Videos
Need to explain how your product works? If so, instructional tutorial and explainer videos are an excellent way to help your customers.
Explainer videos work exceptionally well for topics that are dense or complex. What might take several thousand words to describe in writing may only need a minute or so of well-produced video to accomplish the same goal. Similarly, tutorials on highly specific or technical tasks can often be much more effective as step-by-step videos rather than lengthy written guides.
Vox’s explainer videos are a great example of this content type done right. The content itself may be a little lightweight, but in terms of production values and structure, they’re hard to beat.
Screenshot taken from a Vox explainer video on climate change and extreme
weather events, via Vox Media
While we’re talking about explainer videos, it’s worth mentioning video duration. As you can see, the duration of the Vox explainer video above is 3:22. Generally speaking, this is pretty long for an online video, and it’s highly unlikely that many people will watch all the way to the end.
Our pals at video hosting service Wistia found that the duration of a video has a direct impact on its engagement, specifically how engagement drops off beyond a certain point. In the figure below, we can see that viewers begin to lose interest after just 30 seconds, with consistent drops in engagement observed afterward:
Image via Wistia
Interviewing thought leaders in your industry is an excellent way to forge valuable connections with influential people in your field and further establish your site as a source of original content.
Search Engine Journal’s video coverage of marketing conferences and events is a great example of how video can capture things even the best write-up cannot. Check out Kelsey Jones’ interview with Larry from Pubcon 2015 below. Do you think this is a more engaging way of interviewing someone, or would you prefer to read a transcript?
If you use Facebook, you’ve probably seen those gif recipe videos that recap making an entire meal into a 30-second video. Of course, time-lapse videos aren’t restricted solely to food gifs; you could make a time-lapse video of just about anything, from a house being built to a before-and-after makeover.
This type of video content is not only very popular, it’s also ideal for social media, as these videos don’t require audio (many Facebook users have sound disabled on videos by default), are short enough to be watched in their entirety with minimal commitment from the viewer, and encourage sharing – perfect.
Every time WordStream reaches another major milestone or achieves a particularly noteworthy accomplishment, we send out a press release. We do this because, as hard as it might be to believe, press releases are still a pretty effective way of getting the word out about developments at your company. However, when it comes to highlighting specific aspects of your business – such as your warm, welcoming culture or brand values – video can be immensely effective.
Promotional video is an excellent way to show, not tell, people why your company matters. You could create videos highlighting anything from receiving a major award or announcing your company’s latest acquisition, to showcasing your office perks or recapping fun events like company picnics. This type of video is also particularly well-suited for sharing on social media.
Remember when liveblogging was a thing? These days, liveblogging hasn’t quite gone the way of the dinosaurs, but it’s much more common for publishers and even individual content producers to stream video live from major events.
One of the benefits of livestreaming video is that, if you’re in the right place at the right time, you could attract absolutely monstrous traffic to your site. A distinct drawback of live video, however, is that it doesn’t tend to age well (unless you manage to capture a truly iconic moment) and has a very short shelf life, meaning it’s crucial to view live broadcasts as just one element in a wider video strategy.
ALWAYS Include a Text-Based Alternative to Videos
Video has become incredibly popular, particularly on social media. That said, not everyone is enamored with video, and failing to cater to people who don’t prefer watching videos is a surefire way to alienate a potentially sizable portion of your audience.
Regardless of what kinds of content you’re producing, ALWAYS include either a transcription of the video or a standalone text-based accompaniment. This ensures that people who don’t enjoy video – or don’t have the means to watch it through their connection or on their device – aren’t excluded. This is particularly important when it comes to explainer videos and how-to tutorials. Oftentimes, watching a video as you try to accomplish something is just as difficult (if not more so) than following along a written tutorial, so be sure to give your audience the content they want in multiple formats.
As we mentioned above, accessibility is another important reason to provide alternatives to video content. More than 8 million people in the U.S. alone have some sort of visual impairment or disability, so it’s crucial to ensure your content can serve all visitors.
Think Before You Pivot
Digital marketers of all stripes have to be ready to embrace and adapt to emerging trends in content marketing, but that doesn’t mean that reflexively investing heavily in video content is the right thing to do for your site and your business.
If you’re considering a shift in focus to emphasize video content, be sure to look at all the data at your disposal to ensure that your audience wants more video. It’s all well and good for major brands like Vice and Mashable to pivot to video, but if you look before you leap, you could be in for a nasty surprise.
What are your plans for video content marketing in the coming year? Have you already begun producing more video content, or are you scaling back?