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Consuming Content and Scanning Video

by Randall Craig on January 9, 2015

Filed in: Blog, Content, Make It Happen Tipsheet

Tagged as: , ,

How fast can you “consume” content? Or better yet, how quickly can you scan it?  Likely pretty quickly, if you are reading.

Since most people consume by scanning – not reading – experienced bloggers (and website writers) understand the need to chunk content into smaller bits:

  • Headings and subheadings
  • Short paragraphs
  • Bullets and lists
  • Judicial use of bold and italics
  • Pictures and diagrams

But what about video? Unlike the written word, it is almost impossible to scan a video and get any value from it. At best, a video scan helps a user find their place: at worst, it is an exercise in frustration. But does it have to be such a low-value experience?  Is there a way to impregnate your video with value, knowing full well that the user might merely be a scanner?

Here are six ways to do this:

  1. Agenda: Right at the beginning, ensure the user knows what the video contains, either by saying it, or using a background or overlay. If they know the order of the content, they may be able to skip to it more efficiently.
  2. Summary: Like an agenda, a summary near the beginning and the end of the video means that the user is more likely to be exposed to the entire message. A bulleted list (with audio), an overlay, or even a spoken word summary can do this.
  3. Lower Third Overlay: Identify sections of the video by using an overlay that stays on the lower portion of the screen for a longer period of time. When a user scans through the video, a shorter overlay may not actually be seen.
  4. Use Quality Metadata: Conventional wisdom now suggests using key words within the metadata to aid in searches. The Metadata (description and video summary) can also include the start time for each major section of the video, thereby allowing the user to directly navigate to the most relevant content.
  5. Multiple Call to Actions: To improve the likelihood that the viewer will actually do something, you cannot count on them getting to the end of the video to see the call to action. Instead, share the call to action several times throughout the clip, using several different techniques: verbally, with a scene change, with an overlay.
  6. Multiple videos: Sometimes the reason for scanning a video can be traced back to a mismatch between the goal of the user (“I want a quick overview,” or “I want a specific piece of information”) and the goal of the video producer (“This is an interview format” or “This is a recording of an event.”)  Consider producing several videos, all with the same goal, but in different lengths: a 60-second quick hit, 3-minute key points, 10-minute summary, and 60-minute deep-dive. In this way (hopefully) the user will choose a format that does not require scanning.

This week’s action plan: While these suggestions might help you while wearing your producer’s hat, what if you are the video consumer? How can you quickly scan important video content?  Here’s one idea that might help: If you are using a browser that supports “HTML5” (which means almost all browsers nowadays) and are watching a video on YouTube, look for the video “speed” controls to hurry up the playback. YouTube has the setting hidden under the gear settings icon just under the video.

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Randall Craig

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Randall has been advising on Digital Strategy since 1994 when he put the Toronto Star online, the Globe and Mail's GlobeInvestor/Globefund, several financial institutions, and about 100+ other major organizations. He is the author of eight books, including Digital Transformation for Associations, the Everything Guide to Starting an Online Business, and Social Media for Business. He speaks and advises on Digital Transformation, Digital Trust, and Social Media. More at

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