The Biggest Oversight In Online Video Today

This post is by Richard Boehmcke, the winner of our mentorship contest earlier this year.

There’s a great line from an episode of Seinfeld when George and Jerry are pitching their “show about nothing” to NBC’s top executive Russell. After a bit of back and forth Russell tries desperately to understand what the show is about.

The exchange goes like this:

Russell: Well, why am I watching it?

George: Because it’s on TV!

Russell: (threateningly) Not yet.

As a profession, I produce videos for brands. That means I find myself watching tons of videos. All different kinds.

I’ll search for keywords and find myself in a vortex of videos, some interesting, some extremely obscure.

And no matter how many videos I watch or what kind they are, I find myself asking the same question over and over again:

Why am I watching this?

Every single person on the internet is their own media network now. We get to publish whatever we want without a worry about being cancelled or canned by a network executive.

Unfortunately, many people take that as permission to pump out loads of dull, low quality content.

That’s fine. That’s their right. Nobody said everything on the internet needs to be beautiful, magical and full of meaning.

And that gives you an opportunity. Compared to the rest of the monotony online you can stand out with relative ease using one simple trick.

If you make some sort of a living online, if you seek to build an audience, if you want to share your story with others, all you have to do is ask yourself:

Why am I watching this?

Watch your own video, read your own script, read your own blog post, and ask: Why am I doing this?

If you can’t give a good reason, chances are nobody will be able to either.

It’s not about the production quality or the lighting or the camera or the crew… it’s about how well you know what matters and what doesn’t about your communication.

Think about this: what’s the worst that can happen? What’s the worst thing that can happen when you launch your video or blog post or product or whatever?

It’s not that they’ll make fun of you. It’s not that they’ll despise you or lose respect in you. In order for those to happen they need to notice you.

The worst thing that can happen is that it’s ignored. Nobody notices.

The best way you can avoid that is to ask yourself some form of this question:

  • Why am I doing this?
  • What will people get out of this?
  • What do I want people to take away from this?
  • What am I really trying to say?

One trick here is to distance yourself from your work. You need to be able to form intelligent opinions about it.

Friends, family and mastermind groups can give honest feedback and help you (continually) create awesome content.

They’re like Roman Litter bearers walking behind you whispering in your ear “Thou art mortal, thou art mortal.”

Not to say you should double think every single thing you create, but have a healthy awareness of what is working and what is not. The answer to “why?” should always be a good one.

If you paused for three seconds before creating, posting, or otherwise uploading something, your communication would connect harder and hit the target more often. Which is what you were looking for in the first place.

Video is subject to probably more and possibly harsher critique than any other form of content on the internet because it’s so easy to consume and requires minimal thought to tear down. There is so much we can find fault with from the person on camera, to the lighting, sound, subject matter, etc.

As far as critical fodder goes, video is the ripest, lowest hanging fruit.

And while this post isn’t about lighting or iPhone videography or editing tricks, none of that is as important as this one single tip:

Know where you want to go before you start walking.

If you don’t know what you’re going to say, you are not going to find it when you hit the record button.

Think of your viewer asking: why am I watching this?

People rarely enjoy watching others figure out what it is they want to say. It’s like teaching kindergarten. You ask your class what one plus one is and some kid in the back starts telling you about his collection of blue socks.

If you want to connect with your readers and watchers, if you want your communication to connect and resonate, begin with the end in mind.

Here’s a little secret: you know all those television shows you love so much? They didn’t start out so great. Pilots for shows are typically boring or weird or disconnected and generally not good.

So how do they end up getting made? Because a good pilot doesn’t show perfection… it shows promise.

You may not be able to make content at the level you want right now, but you can show your audience promise. People are hungry to connect and sensitive to authenticity. Start by asking: why would I watch this?

Here’s a question for you: what current project are you working on and how can you be more sensitive to your audience’s why? Tell us in the comments and I’ll respond.

Richard Boehmcke is a writer, director, and film maker. His company, Vibrant Motion, produces videos for businesses and brands. You can follow him on Twitter at @Boehmcke.

32 thoughts on “The Biggest Oversight In Online Video Today”

  1. Excellent article Richard. I too am in the video production industry (have been since 1999). I agree that these days more and more people are putting videos and video content online. I stress to my clients that it is extremely important to focus on starting with a quality script which is then perfectly matched with an effective voice talent. If those two steps are taken with care, a powerful video can then be produced however high quality animation and motion graphics are essential. Investing in a quality video production can and often does have very positive and long lasting impact on any business.

    1. Hey there, thanks so much. I can’t imagine what the shift has been like for you seeing video evolve for the last 14 years professionally. It’s crazy enough watching the evolution THIS year. But the thing I always take comfort in is that while the medium might change, along with the technology, what makes a story great remains the same. And regardless of whether it’s animation or live action or puppets, good storytelling matters. Glad to hear you have such high standards for the work you do!

    2. Like Richard said you have to answer the question why, and having a quality script can go a long way in creating solid content.

      The question of why is important for everything that we do. From the start to the finish of any project, you need to answer the question why.

      You’re right great equipment doesn’t equal great content.

  2. Excellent insight and brilliantly focused questions. Love it. I’m working with a new client who sells the software I use to design. I’m working with them in a marketing/social area. We’re going to be creating content and I absolutely need to keep in mind as we do – why people should buy this software. Is it easy? Is it supported? Does it make them look brilliant? Those kinds of things are what I’m thinking.

    1. Hey Denise glad you enjoyed it. And that is so great that you’ve got that question in mind. I did content creation for a Social Media Software company for two years and so often it was just about making the content instead of why we were making it, and anytime somebody dared to ask that question why it was like the bottom dropped out. Starting with why is such a great quality compass. I have created so much stuff in life without asking why, and frankly, sometimes that’s OK because you just need to get started, but too much what without why, makes jack a dull boy. Or, something like that. You get the drift.

  3. Hi Richard–

    Thanks for the thoughtful question “why am I watching this?” You just answered a dilemma: I’m 90% complete on a product that includes short videos, recorded slideshows, Mp3 files, and PDFs. I was struggling with whether or not to make a “closing” video to say thanks. Since this is a new product that only my testimonial peeps are privy to, I’m going to ask for feedback:

    1. What did you think of the material?
    2. Was the format a good way to deliver?
    3. Suggestions to improve the content, quality of material, length, etc.

    I’d love your expert opinion on length. Since the meat of the material is in the recorded slideshows, I’m sticking to under 3 minutes. Is there such thing as too short for video?

    Thank you :)

    1. Hey Linda. So glad you enjoyed the post. And yes asking for feedback is a great way to gage the general opinion and consensus and from that you can form you own opinion on what to do next.

      And in terms of length for video, the most important question when it comes to length is “What is the goal/objective of this video?” Once you come up with that goal/objective, your video should be no longer than it takes to reach that goal. If you don’t have a specific goal it’s really difficult to figure out if you’ve hit it.

      In script writing there’s an adage that says the point of dialogue is to reveal character or advance plot. A similar thing could be applied to what you are doing. Are you hitting your objective, adding value, or just adding in content because you think you need to?

      It sounds like you are asking the right questions!

  4. I am currently preparing my first online project for launch. It will be a portal for my creativity, for posting my music, photos and life stories. I think I have a grasp on the WHY for myself – to put me out there, to make my creativity accessible, to spread my word. But I don’t know the WHY for my audience. Will someone care about my content because I am unique, I put all my soul in every piece of it and I desire to make the world a better place? It may be too generic.
    I think that my first steps – weeks, months or even years – will be spent in finding my voice and clarifying my message.

    Do you have any advice for a beginner content creator?

    1. START! That is the best piece of content. It’s perfectly OK to not know what the answer is to why when you start. If we all waited for the why it would be a very empty world. And you are right it might take you a very long time. I feel like I’m always just discovering my voice. It’s mentally exhausting to try and focus on quality and the why and the how all at one time.

      But I believe, and this is just my opinion, that if you focus on quality first, work on crafting something significant and build that muscle, then it will be easier to open yourself to the question of why. Honestly if you really want to you can lose lifetimes asking why. That is not the goal. You don’t know the answers to the questions on the test until you start taking the test. So start. Create awesomeness. And check in along the way. If you’re gut is what is fueling you right now, trust it.

  5. Thanks for the post – I love the 4 questions!! I am a web developer who puts up content constantly and most of what I put up for my clients screams “Look how smart I am” or “Check out whose island I visited last weekend” or “You can make the money I make if you just do this” … It’s all meeeeee focused …

    It makes me want to poke my eyes out …

    I love how eloquently you point out the fact that most site visitors care more about ‘what’s in it for them’ than how awesome they think you are … Granted, Moms care how awesome you are, but the rest of us want you to get to the point and add value to our lives or businesses…

    Stepping off the soapbox.

    So my question is this, what is the best method to approach ego driven entrepreneurs (who love to hear the sound of their own voice) with the notion that they should focus more on what their visitors get out of their content and less about how cool they are or where they vacationed?

    1. I think it’s really challenging. Best case scenario you can pick and choose which clients you want to work with to limit the amount of frustration you are going to deal with. Thus far in my experience, the time and frustation saved by not working with non-ideal clients is well worth the money I’ve given up to do so.

      So let’s say you can’t do that, what I strive for is finding examples of really well executed projects that hit the goals you are trying to achieve. In my case that’s videos that really demonstrate value, respect time and attention.

      In your case that might be sites that really put the end-user first. It’s always good to get the goals of the person up front so that you can use that as a guide going along to say, “hey this was your goal, what you want to do does not work towards that goal, still want to do it?”

      And if that still doesn’t work I like the pie in the face method. It solves nothing but man, does it feel good.

  6. Good morning Richard. First may I say “I really dig” . I think it’s right on point for todays internet entrepreneur and your presentation is lovely. :) I appreciate this post because it ask you to ask yourself something that should be common sense but with everything else going on in running a site that simple notion could be lost in the execution of an otherwise great idea. I’m in the beginning stages of launching a project and gave some thought to putting a welcome video on my coming soon landing page. Reading this post and viewing your site confirms this idea and I’m going to look into making it a reality. Thanks for your thoughts and know I would love to hire you in the future when my budget allows for it. Good luck with everything!

  7. Hey Nichole glad to hear you dig the site. The goal is to make it clear, concise, but also resonant, so if that happens, I’m happy. I’m also happy that I was able to help you clarify your goals and make some decisions. Looking forward to being hired by you in the future =)

  8. Thanks Richard for this post. Super clear and I knew exactly why I was reading it :)

    I’ve built up a bit of fear around planning any further than a topic for my video because I felt like I would be wasting so much time trying to say the right thing to my viewers. Your article helped give my the clarity to see that I just need to provide meaning in my video- authentic meaning, and that will provide plenty of value.

    Thanks for sharing your wisdom and clarity.


    1. Hey Emily awesome to hear. Remember you don’t have to show a video to somebody just because you made it. Video BEGS people to screw up. You have to make mistakes to get better at it and it’s scary because those mistakes are very visceral. A trick I use for video is to say, alright, what are the 3 things I want to say in this video? What are the 3 MOST important points? Then all you have to do is connect the dots. Go make mistakes! You’ll be wonderful at it, and more wonderfuller for it!

  9. First of all let me tell you Richard that I am impressed by your post! I love that you invite us to create content (not just videos) that is magical and inspiring even if we’re just starting out rather than opting for mediocrity. This is exactly what I am striving to do so it’s refreshing to hear someone else say this. I’m not there yet, but posts like this encourage me to keep improving. Thank you :-)

    1. Well thank you so much Tehmina, you are very kind. When I played baseball as a kid, I was never homerun hitter. I got on base, I hit singles and doubles, but I wasn’t one to swing for the fences. But deep inside I always want to swing for the fences. And as somebody who strives to create art, I want to create big, resonant, significant STUFF. And it’s awesome that you are striving for that as well. If nothing else, I’m good at motivational schpiels. You can always reach out for one of those! Rock on!

  10. Great piece, Richard. I just completed my 3rd sold-out launch using Jeff Walker’s PLF system which included 4-prelaunch videos. I trusted Jeff’s system when I was writing the video scripts and made sure my true voice was at the foundation of every sentence. I tried it without teleprompter at first and soon realized I was talking about my collection of blue socks.

    I enjoyed the videos on your site – you do great work at distilling down the mission and purpose for your clients. A few of them were so compelling that I went to their sites and read further. Well done.

    I find the visual content of your videos very engaging. My PLF videos are me in front of a backdrop. You’re making me think about my next videos being filled with more visual candy and using the audio as a voiceover. Love the soft focus of backgrounds and wondering how I could do that with a Canon Vixia HFS100 – or maybe I should do what I teach my clients to do and that is to live in my areas of brilliance and passion, and let someone else create the blurry backgrounds! Thank you.

  11. Haha great comments Barry. I find myself doing that same thing a lot, asking myself how can I do something better and then realizing, man maybe I should just pay somebody else to do it!

    Good job on staying true to your authentic voice. It’s can be so challenging. And thank you for your kind words as well.

    There are lots of tricks for achieving looks with different cameras but ultimately filming yourself is extremely challenging. Hence whenever I film myself I always give myself the most straightforward easy setup possible. It makes my life a lot easier. When I’m behind the camera, then I can be creative.

    Whenever I want to see what’s possible with a certain camera I always take to Vimeo and search for that camera model. People love chatting about capabilities there and showing off their work.

    And as a side note, matching socks is something I find stressful, thusly, I no longer wearing matching socks.

  12. Hey Richard,

    I just wanted to say thank you for the great post. Especially the line about pilots:
    Because a good pilot doesn’t show perfection… it shows promise.

    Look forward to checking out your site-


  13. Hey Richard I really like the 4 questions and I’ll be using them as I write and hopeful do some videos on my blog. I’m just starting out in the blogging world and I understand great content and videos that give value to the audience is #1.

    My project is; “Helping individuals after 50 re-engineer their lives in their second half of life doing what they love in pursuit of happiness on their own terms.”

    My question is do you think this audience seeks out more information by way of written content or videos? Even though my audience is individuals after 50 I wonder if I should try to narrow it down even further.

    Really like the article your points will be of great help as I begin my journey.


    1. Hey Pappy. From what I’ve learned, and certainly from the tremendous guidance I’ve received from the Think Traffic team, you can’t go wrong by drilling down into the super specific. Ideally you want somebody to watch your video and go “THAT’S ME!” You don’t want people to say “That’s… kind of like somebody I know.” But again, if you don’t know who the audience is, it’s ok to try and experiment a bit. Life experience is worth five times whatever research is worth. People like things that resonate with them. Words, pictures, videos. What are you best at? Start there and move forward.

  14. Great stuff, Richard. You may not remember me, but I had the privilege of taking your Skillshare class on making better videos. I thoroughly enjoyed it. (And I took it because I dug around on your site after the announcement of your win from ThinkTraffic, so thanks ThinkTraffic guys.)

    I think I can be pretty comfortable on camera, but a while ago, when I wanted to start more video blogging, I realized I wasn’t posting very often because I felt that everything had to be perfect and just right. So I took the opposite approach and just started hitting the record button whether I was ready or not.

    Now, it did help me get more comfortable, and create more videos, and people seemed to like them even though I didn’t have anything profound to say (the fact that I was filming while driving created a little anticipation.) But I know that to take my videos to the next level of quality I need to be very purposeful with my content. So thank you for this elaborated tip – why are they watching this? (to see if I would crash was probably the most reason :)

    I’m currently working on a video series that will go along with my newsletter on curiosity, so thanks for your insight.

    1. My pleasure. The goal is to always keep providing quality. Don’t phone it in. Create something people want to see, not just click on, but watch all the way through. And remember starting out with no experience isn’t a blank check to operate willy nilly. Even if you start in the middle of nowhere you should still be working to get somewhere.

  15. Great post Richard. I like how you’re giving attention to the viewer’s perspective and why would he watch it instead of just explaining how to do another useless video.


    1. Hey Shadi glad you liked it. It’s a hard task for sure, but those that do it well, man, they really knock it out of the park!

  16. I just came back from visiting Fizzle and I am amazed at the level of quality and authenticity that was portrayed in that content.

    I plan on purchasing it sometime tomorrow…But I just want to share with you why I watched that video…

    1. The quality of the video production kept my attention. I took what he had to say more seriously because he appeared to be top quality himself. You say its not about the lighting and the production. But I personally believe the better the footage the higher the perceived value of the speaker.

    2. The content was geard specifically towards me and the value that was being offer was amazing. And the quality of the information as well.

    3. The content was both engaging and it made me feel as if I were a part of what you guys were doing and I wasn’t even there.

    All I’m saying is that now days with everyone being so accustomed to watching HD, not having high quality production in conjunction with high quality usable content for the visitor if your using video is going to make you appear less valuable. Every video that I watch on YouTube I always click the HD link to see if I can view it in HD…

    All I’m saying is that quality of production matters. It’s not the most important factor but it matters.

  17. What good timing. I just sat down yesterday with a video person to talk about making videos of my art. This is so outside of the box for me and I was wondering why I was even bothering. I make watercolor art. People don’t need to know about me. Right? I do have a style and a process that I am having trouble explaining though. People do need to know how I interact and what a “vision painting” is all about to they can want and commission their own. I hope people will want to watch. That’s my only concern. Thanks for helping me work on the content.

  18. Great post, and I know it’s something I really have to start working on.

    Right now we’re putting up a little too much “how” and “what” posts, and haven’t found what really resonates. But moreso in our newsletter we’ve been talking about the “why”, and we’ve had numerous people write back to us and tell us they loved it. I think the “why” is what really gets stuck in peoples heads and can resonate with them.

    1. Glad you enjoyed it Andy. What’s interesting too is the why can change and evolve as you do, just like your audience can change and evolve. As long as it’s something you believe in and love and connect with, well, that’s all the really matters! Keep up the good work.

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