Video’s Role in the Econtent Future

Article ImageVideo holds significant potential for ebooks and digital editions of magazines. After all, there's probably not a better way to illustrate a hard-to-explain concept--or gain buzz around a new novel or textbook--than the proper use of video. The only problem is, video can be a bit hard to publish, and even harder to consume, given the various devices on the marketplace.

At EContent's sister publication, Streaming Media, the editors spend hours thinking about how video can be acquired, edited, streamed, and consumed. In addition, contributing editors such as myself also spend even more time working with companies that need assistance in all of the above.

Based on experience with key clients, and 15 years in the streaming world, here are few pointers to consider when it comes to augmenting your econtent with video.

Target a platform before choosing the video content: This sounds like a no-brainer, but consider your readers' painful attempts to view video of a professor writing on a chalkboard on their 3.5" iPhone screen. Fine-detail video that works for the Apple iPad or Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 doesn't automatically work for the Apple iPhone 4S or Samsung Galaxy S III.

Yes, a talking head will work for both the handset and tablet form factors, but even with this type of simple content, the aspect ratio and orientation of the device needs to be thought through before choosing appropriate video content. If you think it's difficult to flow content for epublications in both landscape and portrait mode, it's even more difficult to view video content intended for only one orientation.

At any one time, publish as little video as possible: I'm not suggesting that you only publish one or two video links. What I am suggesting, though, is that you only publish the pertinent piece of video for any one illustration. There's a tendency in all of us-perhaps due to laziness, or maybe just to a limited knowledge of the tools available-to just toss an hour-long video into an electronic edition, without paring the video content down to manageable chunks.

When it comes to nonfiction works, especially those that might have streaming audio or video embedded in the publication, it's easy to just embed an hour-long piece of content and tell the user-via the text-how far down the video content she needs to scroll to watch the pertinent video clip. Yet there's a simpler way: even YouTube videos have the ability to embed a link, within a second's accuracy, to the pertinent point of the video. Until we achieve a sophistication level in publishing that allows us to search directly to a point in the video, please consider using this granular approach to embedding content. Your readers, especially those on mobile devices, will have a much more seamless and fulfilling experience.

Use teaser videos to drive sales: A trend that started in the offline book world, teaser videos have been successful in driving sales of print books in niche markets. From religious thrillers to "dry" history books, the use of a teaser video brings the story alive.

The same can be true for econtent, with even better results, as the viewer of an ebook teaser video can take immediate action, purchasing and reading the book in just a few clicks. If it works to drive sales for those who, well, have to drive to a local bookstore to get the hardback, it certainly can work for ebook sales.

My background's in motion picture and visual storytelling, at least before I ended up with an M.B.A., and I like to think of teaser videos for books as the visual equivalent of movie trailers or even the teaser videos you'd view at the beginning of a video game: Both can be used to set the backstory to the content that follows.

Use video search to your advantage: In several recent guest lectures, I've asked college students how they search for content. Turns out that many of them don't even start with a Google search; instead, they start with a YouTube search. In other words, they're looking for videos that give them knowledge, first and foremost, rather than looking for text-based content that might also contain a video.

Use this trend to your advantage, and not just for the teaser videos mentioned previously. After all, the adage goes, if the movie version of a book is good, the book must be even better.

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