Look before you loop, and a new channel for corporate stories

Jason Sumner hopes the fad for short videos is short-lived, and Scott Payton says syndication could be a promising new channel for corporate ‘stories’.

Looping video – gone in a Flash? by Jason Sumner

The Snapchat phenomenon has introduced many of us to the world of throwaway – or rather exploding – images. Take a photo, send it to a friend and – pouf! – it vanishes after 10 seconds. Teenagers love them, I think less for hide-it-from-parents reasons than that it’s a bit like making a silly face and moving on. Not the sort of thing you want to preserve for eternity.

Then there is a video service, Snapchat Stories, where a ‘story’ made up of snaps can be assembled that will last a whole 24 hours. I read that marketing people are starting to exploit them.

I can see the point of these, sort of. But I’ve also been seeing more and more little films, five to 10 seconds long, popping up in our ‘serious’ world. They have been appearing more frequently in my Twitter feed – for example, the tech news site, The Next Web (@TheNextWeb), is a regular producer. The best known channel is Vine, where the videos stretch to six seconds before starting again. We wrote about the Philips Vine presence in January, and now the White House is producing ‘vines’ for, and of, President Obama. Apple’s latest iPhone camera meanwhile lets you take a couple of seconds of video before and after you press the shutter.

One corporate careers site I visited recently used a short repeating video in place of a (usually static) banner image. The most unambiguous use of looping video on a corporate site that I’ve seen is on the Cisco corporate web estate. The networking giant’s ‘newsroom’ microsite has a page ‘Cisco in 6 second Vines’, which showcases four vines and profiles their creators (The banner image on this page is also a looping video.)

Are very short videos effective? At their best, they can be funny and informative. Time-lapse photography – showing how a scene or a subject changes over time, can be interesting. And the New York Times is being clever, having gone all Daily Prophet in a feature on the South China Sea. For those not familiar with the works of Ms Rowling, the photos in the Daily Prophet move – I suppose they loop but it is done in a way that makes that unclear. The NYT piece is the same – the video of a man in a boat starts again after a while, but you have to look carefully to see the join.

This works well, because it is subtle. Most of the time, looping videos are annoying, verging on headache inducing. Flash animation came and went in the first 10 years of the century. Looping videos have come; I think it’s probably time they went.

Syndicating corporate stories could bring more readers to the party, by Scott Payton

I’ve spent some time this week playing with the new Apple News mobile and tablet app, which arrived in the UK (via an operating system update) at the end of October. It’s a news aggregation service like Google News and Flipboard – allowing users to create a personalised feed of articles from a wide range of newspapers, magazines and blogs.

Like Google News, it can be a bit overwhelming at first. But it’s certainly prettier than Google’s offering, as well as good old RSS feeds, and is easy to personalise. Importantly, publishers and readers alike will also be pleased with the fact that each publication’s fonts and layouts are preserved via the Apple News app, rather than merely poured into a crude ‘feed’ template.

I mention this app because it got me thinking about the fashion for corporate ‘stories’ –using journalistic and other ‘traditional’ narrative techniques to convey an organisation’s messages in more engaging ways. If traditional publishers are increasingly using third-party services to widen the reach of their output, shouldn’t corporate web managers be thinking more about this route too?

Some companies have already been experimenting with this. The former head of Coca-Cola’s corporate site worked hard to get his team’s material syndicated by the likes of The Huffington Post. Unilever has a media partnership with UK newspaper The Guardian to spread the word about its sustainability agenda. Professional services firm EY has a “content marketing” tie-up with Forbes’ site.

But many companies’ efforts to produce more engaging online editorial material remains confined to their own channels. For sure, there is a good reason for using your corporate website as the hub of your company’s editorial output: it’s the one channel over which your company has complete control.

But third-party news outlets may have a powerful future role to play – alongside a company's own Twitter feed and other channels – in ensuring that more people find your company's stories in the first place. Something to muse over, perhaps, if and when you get the chance to play with Apple’s latest app.


First published 11 November, 2015
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