Video Blogging and Podcasting

Video is all over the place on the web nowadays, and nobody wants to get left behind. But how do you add video to a website, and, more importantly, why should you?

Only a few years ago, the words podcast and blog created a new buzz. However, it wasn’t anything to do with video. While Webster’s Dictionary hailed podcast as the “Word of the Year,” a State University in Michigan was handing blog its hat. Fast-forward to today, and both words are still with us. Both survived and are arguably more popular than ever before. In fact, there’s a lesson that comes out of the past hubbub: funny as they may sound, blog and podcast may just replace our beloved diary and broadcast.

Podcasting vs. Blogging

A general rule of thumb on the web is that, wherever digital photos and music work well, video is sure to follow. This applies particularly to blogs and podcasts. Both recent forms of distribution share similarities: subscribing is easy and they get regular updates. Blogs advanced beyond simple text to allow publishing of photo essays. Podcasts evolved from featuring unique talk-radio to indie music videos and TV documentaries. Generally speaking, a video blog offers a single, customizable space in which we can show our video. The advantage is having video centrally located.

Video podcasting, also called vidcasting, zips our video to computers in the far corners of the earth. Viewers download video to watch at home or to transfer to a portable device like an iPod or Zune. Though podcasts and blogs function in similar ways, all in all, you can use them quite differently.

Video Blogs: The New Diary

A video blog may serve us as a production journal of events or a personal story archive like a diary. Video blogs tend to be more personal than podcasts and display automatically in reverse-chronological order. This means viewers don’t have to scroll all the way from your first entry to your last to see a new video. The freshest behind-the-scenes look at your latest production sits right at the top. Videos in blogs link to a source somewhere on a web server. You can make them available for downloading or streaming, in a Flash video format or QuickTime, for example. Many video-sharing sites list an “embed code” along with displayed video. You can easily copy this code and paste it into your blog entry, which links back to the sharing site. Since no video is stored on your blog, there is no additional bandwidth fee.

Providers

Services like Blogger and WordPress offer video-blogging capabilities at a low cost – free. Pair them with a free account on a video-sharing site, and you have one lean mean blogging machine! Video is stored on a sharing site and is then displayed on your video blog. You can customize and brand blogs to a greater extent than video-sharing sites like YouTube. So, if you’re picky about preferences, creating a blog is the way to go.

Your Journal to the World

Video blogs can serve videographers in gaining valuable audiences they would not be able to reach otherwise. Unlike a journal that lives in the dark of an old desk, blogs are live and public. By reading the comments left by viewers, we can gauge how well our video project engages our audience. Video bloggers like Michael Verdi and Josh Leo have gained much notoriety by using video blogs to share their everyday stories. Viewers leave comments, and bloggers return with feedback and personal messages to them. Auto-archiving takes care of the nitty-gritty duty of backing up your stories.


Video Podcasts: The New Broadcast

Even before Apple Computer blew the roof off podcasting by including it as a feature in its iTunes software, there were thousands of podcasts produced and published. Like broadcasting, podcasting allows the delivery of content to an audience.

A podcast, or vidcast, is audio or video that you can deliver or receive automatically via a special kind of web-code. The code is RSS 2.0 (Really Simple Syndication) that supports enclosures and can publish a work to multiple people all around the world. It’s the same technology blogs use to inform readers that new content is available. This is great for forming a community of video-loving people who are interested in your videos! Creating a video podcast is a multi-step process. First, a video file must be uploaded to a web server. Then you can use a service such as FeedBurner to create your own RSS feed. Adding your feed to video podcast directories ensures that your video will be visible to as many potential viewers as possible. Viewers typically download these videos via their preferred RSS feed reader, rather than playing them immediately. This poses some problems for lengthier videos, mainly storage space the viewer needs. Downloading a handful of 200-megabyte videos each week could easily lead to a hard-drive that runneth over.

Providers

Along with iTunes, software such as Miro and Juice collect available podcasts into an internet TV environment. Viewers can subscribe to many video podcasts for viewing videos at will. Although many videos have compressed formats compatible with the iPod, there are currently no standards for resolution. Make it 320×240 or 1920×1080 – an RSS feed makes no distinction.

The content of vidcasts varies widely. Larger companies now routinely “repurpose” their existing TV shows as ‘casts. This act turns their podcasting into a service that is very Tivo-like. Be forewarned: your nature vidcasts will sit in the same basket as National Geographic‘s. Independent producers are creating fresh, unique video content in the form of web serials and news programs, most of which are available on a weekly or daily basis. These work best because the producers tailor them for podcasting by minimizing length and set complexity. Some episodes run under ten minutes in length. Still, hour-long video podcasts exist. If you’re thinking of creating a vidcast, consider creating it as a standalone product or as a teaser to a larger project you may be working on.

Final Words

It’s all up you, the video content producers, to keep energizing these new modes of communication and self-distribution. When you create your vidcast, consider subscribing to the offerings of others. When starting a video blog, it’s handy to make comments and link to other blogs from your own. In time, these links create connections that lead more eyes back to your video. The demand for web video content is still high. With luck, our broadband internet providers together with our government will make sound decisions to ensure viewers have fair access to this great content. That way, the words blog and podcast may stick around for years to come.

Andrew Burke has worked in all areas of video production on three continents.

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