By Bryce Clemmer
All of a sudden, video has become the answer to the media’s problems. Sites are building out their video teams, in some cases laying off writers to focus entirely on video. Pundits are predicting the end of the written world and a future where we watch everything. Video ads already command much higher rates than traditional banner ads, and those rates are only expected to climb. We’ve seen the future, and it’s “get a 15-second pre-roll ad for potato chips in front of it.”
This is all well and good, except that it’s entirely possible for video to implode, just like other forms of communication before it. For video to succeed, it can’t just meet the base standard of being something that people are forced to watch — it has to be something that people want to watch.
Consider how many sites responded to the proliferation of ad-blocking services. Rather than taking the abundantly clear consumer data that they have no interest in banner ads or intrusive pop-ups, and serving that content in a way viewers actually want, these sites have thrown tantrums, ranging from passive aggressive notes about how ad-blockers take money out of their pockets to lobbying Apple to remove the apps from the app store. People don’t download ad-blocking software for fun — and they’re not likely to suddenly wake up one day loving intrusive pop-ups that block entire pages. It’s time to take the feedback and adapt — or die.
Those trying to adapt might be tempted to turn to video, and in some cases it might work out. But cluelessness isn’t format specific, and video is just as easy to mess up as other forms of content presentation. Horrifying inappropriate ads are only the start — if someone is watching a video about migrants drowning while trying to escape to Europe, they’re probably not thinking about what type of toilet paper they want to buy. During a local TV network’s coverage of a mass shooting incident, viewers were forced to sit through an ad for a local roofing business every time they restarted the stream — and that can’t have been good for business.
Beyond that, videos need a reason to exist — making videos for the sake of having videos isn’t a great use of anyone’s time. We always need to keep in mind that actual people are watching and reacting to these videos, and terrible or useless content will only make them turn away. Video is a fantastic means for telling stories and sharing events in a way that fosters a deeper connection than just reading text or hearing an audio clip, but the power of video needs to be respected.
If we don’t respect the consumer and make content that they want to see, they’ll simply turn away. Already plenty of people just mute the ads, a practice as old as the medium itself. The solution is never to force the consumer to conform — rather, it is to make videos so good they want to watch. In the end, just making videos isn’t enough — we need to be making great videos.
Bryce Clemmer is CEO and co-founder of Vadio, a music video distribution platform for media companies and brands.