ONA 2013: Death of the Talking Head


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Lightning talk presentation for ONA 2013 in Atlanta, Georgia.

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  • Today we’re going to betalking about the talking head and how it’s time to die, and for those who don’t know what that is. It’s not these guys.
  • Not these guys.
  • It’s this. It’s a TV news term when the camera films someone from the chest up so the footage looks like the head doesn’t seem to be connected to the body. Thus, it looks like a “talking head.” And when you look around the web, it’s not just network/cable television who are still doing it today.
  • New media companies are doing it.
  • Newspapers are featuring their own talking heads.
  • And it’s not just reporters who are going on camera, but also “expert authenticator” talking heads. Yes, apparently, that’s a real title.
  • There are social, live streaming talking heads, with google hangout talking heads.
  • There are plenty, plenty of talking heads on YouTube too
  • But the surprising thing is that this form of video journalism dates back to the 1930s.
  • And while it’s 2013, it’s still around in a ubiqutious way and in many forms. But why? Why are we essentially doing the same thing we’ve done for decades?
  • Here’s the dirty little secret
  • But on the business side, compared to other kinds of video production, it’s cheap, fast and easy to produce. Imagine a one hour live stream talking about all the hottest topics of the day, and then imagine chopping it two minute video clips. You get 30 clips that you can put on the top, middle or bottom of 30 different articles that can drive clicks on your stories. The more clicks, the higher “engagement,” the higher CPM rate you can charge advertisers. At the end of the day, it’s the equivalent of doing video for the sake of having video on your site. Sure it’s cheap, but it’s lazy, it perpetuates the voice of god complex and it’s extremely boring to way to deliver the news. Let’s be real, it’svideo clickbait. It’s time we stopped doing it.
  • Because we can do better.When we talk about producing quality video it’s not about spending 6 months to do a 20-minute web doc, while those are great. We live in a world where time/attention are finite resources on the web. We need to keep that in mind, while also realizing that the web is still a wide, open playground for visual storytelling. Here’s some of the experimentation that’s happening on the web
  • Seamless integration with text, images, audio, etc. It’s elemental. Video doesn’t have to be contained to a video player. Think web docs.
  • There’s also motion graphics to add another dimension to live action video.
  • 3D video is another method, and while it’s stlll a very niche skill, it’s becoming more and more prevalent.
  • There’s cartoons and animation that allow organizations to produce original, evergreen content in house.
  • You don’t have to fly people around the world to show people what it’s like or, according to Vanity Fair, you don’t actually need to have an extramarital affair to tell people how to pull it off.
  • There’s also stop-motion, timelapses,claymation
  • Let’s not forget music videos. If we can all karaoke, then there are definitely rappers in the newsroom who can spit some rhymes about the government shutdown or write some lyrics about fracking.
  • Finally there are video series, where it’s not bout quantity but consistent quality. And you’re not measuring clicks, it’s about measuring engagement and subscribers. The benefit of all this is that when you’re producing things beyond talking heads you can broaden you’re not pigeon holing yourself to running video ads. Your videos can travel, you can syndicate it to iTunes, Hulu, Netflix, taxi cabs and airplanes, attract sponsorships, expand your brand in a positive way, and create something truly native to the web rather than repurposing broadcast television.
  • While I’m sure there’s always a place for this type of content. There is life beyond the talking head. There are so many ways to dive into visual storytelling. It’s an exciting, thriving space, gives us a real opportunity to tell engaging stories. Video journalism is not going anywhere, here are three guiding principles when it comes to experimenting with online video:
  • Respect our audience- time/attention spans are short so create videos for them, not for you. Let’s be creative- make something you’d be proud to share with your friends. And finally, the one and only reason to do anything online. Have fun. You won’t regret it.
  • ONA 2013: Death of the Talking Head

    1. 1. Death of the Talking Head @YvonneLeow, Digital First Media
    2. 2. The dirty, little secret….
    3. 3. Respect your audience. Be creative. Have fun.
    4. 4. Thanks. @YvonneLeow, Digital First Media