I interviewed Chris Tolles, CEO of the online news portal Topix, on his predictions for how video will mature into the local landscape, and its impact for audiences and businesses.
The following interview took place at the Chicago Interactive Marketing Association's 7th Semiannual Interactive Marketing Survey, where Chris was one of the featured panelists. Sorry in advance for the audio/video quality as all I had with me was a Flip and it was dark and loud at the show.
Chris Tolles' forecast of the local video landscape for businessPrediction #1: Increase in scale. Video content and activity will increase in the local online space. (Yes, that sounds like the obvious prediction!)Prediction #2: Production key to manage. This is in regards to cost, time and project scale, which Chris believes will be more of a priority for local campaigns than for larger-scale audiences.Prediction #3: Very short format. Successful local video campaigns will need to be very, very short. "There's a cycle of 12 seconds (for online engagement) that's sort of interesting." Says Chris. "People may want a 5-second or 10-second video of something. They don't want an hour.”Prediction #4: User-generated content will dominate. Successful local video campaigns will be based around authentic audience-produced video as opposed to professionally produced videos. "Somewhere along the line, integration of video from an audience standpoint is going to come out. Its going to be something where a video of a store or of the (customer) experience I think will be part of the process; but I think we've got a ways to go where that's going to happen." He says. Which brings us to his next predictionPrediction #5: Change in form factor. Chris believes that while video will eventually become an integral part of the local landscape, he doesn't forecast any commonly-adopted strategic implementation in the near future. "Text still rules. You don't want to see 20 videos or even photos of a restaurant. You can look through 20 reviews in text. If I look at 20 different video reviews, I wouldn't be able to do it. So I think the real problem is that the form factor of video is hard, especially in local. I think video will be important, and increasingly so. But it hasn't been solved yet. It's not going to be a linear progression. Something different is going to happen down the road… I think (video) will just take a different form factor. It comes down to, you don't want video commentary, you don't want video reviews – I think you'll want something else.”
After I did this interview, I had to ask myself, does Chris really "get it" when it comes to the business opportunity with local online video? I think he's most accurate with talking about a content-type (customer testimonials and reviews), but less accurate when thinking that user-generated video content will trump professional-quality content. Production value also means good production quality, and one professionally produced video testimonial and review would not only be much more likely to have better influence and reach than a bunch of amateur-looking UGC videos, but also be more visible in keyword searches and social media sites – AND provide a level of influence over the message – which businesses desperately want and need.
I think search traffic and engagement reports have already shown pretty well that people DO want video commentary, they DO want video reviews; they also want instructional videos, videos with interviews, videos of demos, videos of events – the whole gamut. Its not really about a linear progression; its more about many paths that overlap and integrate; and from new and enhanced technologies, audience awareness and input, and increased levels of passive-to-active engagement, new marketing models will continue to emerge – just like has already been proven in the local online space.