Lively Roundtable Discussion on Making Compelling Online Video

    by Mark Glaser
    March 6, 2009

    When I launched MediaShift in early 2006, I wanted to go beyond writing about all the trends in online media — blogging, podcasting, online video, etc. — and actually do those things myself. Walk my talk. I recently launched the 4-Minute Roundup audio podcast, and today I’m launching a new monthly video roundtable called 5Across that will include 5 people (plus me) in discussion, face to face, about one big topic related to new media.

    My goal is to create a comfortable setting for the roundtable, in a spacious place in San Francisco, giving participants the drinks (alcoholic or non) of their choice. The first show was taped last Monday, and the topic was how to make compelling online video. Not so ironically, my goal was to make 5Across compelling video, so there are some interesting moments when people talked about B-roll video (which was used in the edits here), or talked about high-end or low-end video productions. I think 5Across lands somewhere in between those.

    Here’s quick rundown of the guests on the first show — kind of a “beta show” — of 5Across:


    Veronica Belmont: Co-host of Revision3’s tech-centric show, Tekzilla, and Qore on the PlayStation Network. She hosted several other online video shows and podcasts, including Mahalo Daily, Buzz Out Loud, MP3 Insider, and Crave. She also created tech video content for CNET TV, including the popular series Prizefight. You can follow her exploits on her blog.

    Mark Day: He’s the Comedy Content Manager at YouTube. He is responsible for supporting the comedy community on YouTube by tracking humor trends, identifying top users, featuring original videos, and developing contests and programs to foster the creation of quality comedy content. Prior to joining YouTube in January 2008, Mark was an well-known “YouTube comedian“http://www.youtube.com/markdaycomedy” and one of the first content creators to participate in YouTube’s User Partner Program. Prior to his career in online video, Mark was an advertising copywriter and a music magazine journalist.

    Eric Elia: He’s vice president of professional services for Brightcove, a platform for professional video content online. He has worked on projects for media companies such as Lifetime, Showtime, Conde Nast, Time Inc. and the New York Times. Previous to that, he developed the video hub “The Fan” for Comcast, and worked at The Feed Room and @Home.


    JD Lasica:He’s a social media strategist, entrepreneur, citizen journalist and author. He runs Socialmedia.biz, a news site and enterprise that offers consulting, training and video services to major companies and smaller organizations. JD was co-founder and editorial director of Ourmedia.org, the first video hosting and sharing site. His 2005 book “Darknet” explored the emerging media landscape.

    Irina Slutsky: She has a background in doing hard news journalism, and wrote for the reborn Red Herring magazine. She co-founded and hosted Geek Entertainment TV, interviewing people at parties, industry events and happenings. GETV was picked up by PodTech, where she worked for about a year, before going back to doing the show independently.

    I’ve sliced up the show into chunks so you can pick and choose the sections that interest you below. If you want to watch the entire show, with all the chunks below mashed together, start here (this longer version will be offered as a video podcast eventually):

    If you’d rather pick and choose shorter sections, you can follow this rundown of each one, with links to related sites:

    Starting in Online Video

    First, I talked to some of the guests about how they got a start in online video. Veronica explains her “side door” start in video, learning about audio and then hosting video shows for CNET. Mark Day was inspired by Ze Frank’s humorous one-man videos in doing his own comedy routines on YouTube, and Irina talks about how she started interviewing people at a party before she even had a show. The pretend show became a reality!

    Related Links:

    Veronica on Buzz Out Loud

    Ze Frank’s The Show

    Irina’s first report on Geek Entertainment TV about Web 2.0

    Motivations for doing video

    Veronica talks about how important it is to be passionate about your topic when doing a video blog or show. JD says to “forget YouTube” and not try to be imitative and go viral. Instead, he says to just tell stories that are important to you and not get caught up in the details — “do something that’s real and genuine.” Irina says launched GETV because she liked it, it was fun and it wasn’t really to make a business out of it (even though that happened).

    Distribution of Videos

    So now that you have your video, where do you distribute it online? Eric talks about various places to upload your video, from YouTube to Blip.tv (which I’m using here) to Brightcove for more professional videos. Irina talks about her experience having been signed to work with PodTech, a startup that wanted to make a business out of higher quality video and audio shows — but fell short.

    Related Links:




    Ill Doctrine from Jay Smooth

    Moments Showing

    Lo-Fi Saint Louis

    Professional vs. Amateur Video

    Eric notes that people are starting to watch more professional video than user-generated videos online — though the line between amateur and pro is being blurred. Irina discusses how she doesn’t use any B-roll video, but makes sure everything is edited down and doesn’t run on.

    Related Links:

    Time magazine’s online videos

    Mark Bittman’s The Minimalist cooking vlog on NYTimes.com

    Steve Gillmor’s Gillmor Gang

    How Do You Measure Success?

    One other part of the 5Across show is that I had each person write down a topic they wanted to discuss and put it in a hat. They then pulled out topics and we talked about them. This topic was “how do you measure success?” and JD reiterated his point about not worrying so much about popularity. Mark Day says people do worry about numbers, and do want to have an audience for their videos. JD fires back that not very many people will make a lot of money, and that most people are not making a show — it’s all about niche media. Eric hopes there will be “radically new programming” online that takes advantage of the new medium.

    Related Links:


    Six Apart

    College Humor

    Pet Peeves

    Another topic from the hat: “What’s your least favorite thing about online video?” Eric’s least favorite thing is comments on YouTube that are unmoderated. JD hates people who videotape people on a stage at conferences and prefers one-on-one sitdowns with people. Eric says there isn’t really much that he dislikes, and he’s OK with all the people who might have failed but pioneered and informed everything later. Mark Day hates 30-second intros to short videos (and I illustrated what he means by showing a clip of the montage we did for 5Across while he was talking).

    What About YouTube?

    Mark Day says that if you have a lot of subscribers on YouTube, your content will be featured on the site. But he also mentions that people doing videoblogging get burned out, and a new wave of vloggers comes up. He says that people often try to find people on YouTube who they can argue with, like Christians and atheists, who battle it out. Veronica says she avoids YouTube, and wonders if that’s OK. Mark says YouTube is a very vocal community. Irina says GETV went onto YouTube because they now offer Creative Commons licensing and support for HD video.

    What About Making Money?

    Our last topic was about the business of online video — how do you make money? Irina says you have to specialize, and you have to do more than just talk. Mark Day says it depends on the person and situation, but some people have broken out like Michael Buckley (who was signed to a development deal with HBO). JD says it depends on the niche, and that you can make money with it. Eric argues that these are only one-off successes and that in general most long-term media successes take infrastructure and support from larger media organizations.

    Related Links:

    Buck Hollywood

    YouTube Videos Pull In Real Money at NY Times about Buckley’s success



    Mark Glaser, producer and host
    Charlotte Buchen, camera
    Julie Caine, audio
    Dan Doerner, second camera
    Location: Vega Project & Kennerly Architecture office space in San Francisco
    Special thanks to: PBS and The Knight Foundation
    Music by AJ the DJ

    As this is a work in progress, I welcome all your thoughts on what works here, what doesn’t, and ideas related to style, tone and future topics covered.

    Tagged: brightcove geek entertainment tv video roundtable youtube
    • Jared Fordham

      Great program.

    • jessica mayberry

      this is so interesting. I would love to ask these people what are their top three favorite online videos, and can they send their links to these. what are the actual videos that they think exemplify best practices?

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