Thinking of video blogging? You should probably forget it


When it comes to video blogging, most people do not have enough talent to be in front of a camera, or enough to say that would not be better as text. But there are some exceptions: In some cases, video can help make a point that you could never make with just text, and in some cases, a video blog can establish you as a thought leader in your field.

The field of well-known video bloggers is much smaller than the field of well-known text-based bloggers. So it might look like video blogging is a quick route to a big audience, but the truth is that the bar is higher with video than with text.

Video blogs that have taken the world by storm are pretty much full-time jobs. For example, Ze Frank spends six hours a day preparing a few minutes of video for The Show. And Wired reports that the popular video lonelygirl15 who seemed to be a home-schooled teen with too-strict parents turned out to be an actress starring in bankrolled, scripted show about a home-schooled teen with too-strict parents.

On top of that, video has to be a lot better than text to stick around. It takes much more time to download a video than just text, and you can’t skim a video. So “the quality of the video blog is very important. If I take the time to se a video and it’s not very compelling, I am not sure I would go back to see the next one,” says Constantin Basturea, director for new media strategies at Converseon.

“The best video bloggers are about customizing their schtick,” says Mark Amerika, professor of media at University of Colorado at Boulder. For example, RocketBoom is all schtick – serving up wacky information with a zany it-girl as presenter.

If you are still thinking video blogging might be for you, here’s a reality check: Five good reasons to create a video blog. You better have at least one of these before jumping into the video blog arena:

1. You are commenting on things that can be seen on video.
The video world is full of moving images that beg for commentary, ranging from video resume horrors, to botched mainstream news, to hipster advertising. If you have a lot to say about a lot of moving images, give video blogging a try.

2. You have a lot you want to illustrate.
A tip on how to be a powerhouse with Excel, for example: that’d make a good video. And, if you had 1000 tips up your sleeve, you might have a good video blog. “Video is good for illustrating things and making tutorials. You can write a very long post to do something difficult, but you could show it very quickly on a video,” says Basturea. It is no coincidence that one of the most popular downloads on YouTube is instructional (and amazing): How to peel a potato.

3. You need to show your emotional side.
A video blog, more than text, can “show emotions, humanize a product and make people more accessible,” says Basturea. When Microsoft, wanted to show that there was a soul behind the logo, Robert Scoble toted a video camera through the company and “people were able to see there are people behind Microsoft products.” (This video blog was so successful that today Scoble is video blogging on his own, backed by investors.)

4. You know you should blog but you don’t have the time.
Video blogging may be just plain more practical for some people. While there are many reasons for executives to blog many may not have the time. As long as the executive “has charisma and is comfortable in front of the camera, a video blog is a solution for a very busy schedule,” says Converseon.

Robert Wright, of BloggingHeads, concurs: “Having a conversation is a lot faster than writing a piece. It’s a way to get your views out quickly.”

5. You are really, really funny and intelligent and charismatic.
If you have all three of these talents, surely you will not be video blogging for long, because some agent will pick you up and put you somewhere in Hollywood. But until then, a text blog would be a waste of your talent, so use video.

In this respect, the two most influential video bloggers are not even online; Steven Colbert and Jon Stewart serve up video daily in an effort to show people a new way of seeing things.

Colbert and Stewart also give us a window into the future of video online. “Young people are getting most of their information from Steven Colbert and the Daily Show and the audience is learning a video language from that,” says Amerika. “The shows demystify the process of creating media. People learn to become their own media producers and develop their own spin.”

Amerika says students used to come to his classes to learn how to use Photoshop. Now they want to know how to produce their own videos. So if you’re wondering what the future of video blogging will be, look at the bleeding edge of video art where people like Amerika live. And look at popular shows for twentysomethings, because those are the training grounds for the next wave of video blogging.

21 replies
  1. Katelyn Sack
    Katelyn Sack says:

    I just started my text blog as part of my nascent art business; it hadn’t occurred to me to go to video. Now I will be listing pros and cons in my sleep until I break down and try it… Thanks for another fantastic post, Penelope!

  2. Jim Kukral
    Jim Kukral says:

    Great thoughts, been meaning to write about this for a long time, good to see that someone beat me to it!

    If you’re boring in person, what makes you think someone wants to watch you be boring on video?

  3. steve garfield
    steve garfield says:

    Hi Penelope,
    Another reason for videoblogging is to caputure and share fleeting moments.

    You don’t have to spend time editing or be in front of the camera.

    Jay Dedman calls them ‘moments showing’.

    Like Ze I too sometimes spend 6 hours on a 3 minute video, but other times I capture moments from my life and share them.

    It’s like flickr for video.

  4. Harold J. Johnson
    Harold J. Johnson says:

    Decent article — you’ve made some valid points, I believe — though you’ve selected to mention only the most well-known examples of current videoblogs. (If they are, indeed, even videoblogs; there are many who disagree with these “shows” being classified in the same category as blogs or videoblogs.) The online videos you’ve mentioned are well-known, they’re hardly representative of the steadily growing list of videoblogs (also known as vlogs, to some).

  5. Bill C.
    Bill C. says:

    Apparently, videoblogging isn’t about talent. It’s about self-expression. Your advice is useful for people that hope to become *stars* through videoblogging.

  6. Penelope Trunk
    Penelope Trunk says:

    I see a few people have hit on the point that you could just do a video blog because you love to do it. This is true. And I like that I’m hearing from people (above) like fleeting-moments Steve and Bill at

    But I write a carer blog, so I tend to think of things in terms of careers. And if you are going to vieo blog for your career, the advice is the same as if you are going to do a text-only blog for your career: Be very interesting and useful and look like a star so that the blogging helps you to get what you want out of your career.

  7. Mark Smith
    Mark Smith says:

    It’s true that currently the barrier is much higher with video than it is with text. Difficulty is a function of inovation so things will no doubt get better.

    You seem to suggest that the only use for videoblogging is in making entertainment style shows…its only for people who want to be stars.

    I think the power of the medium has only started to be explored, what sort of people will be videoblogging when it’s as easy as wordprocessing?

    You do make some good points though, and I enjoyed your post.

    I wrote something vaguely related only the day before your post…


  8. Bill C.
    Bill C. says:

    Penelope: I understand your point about your blog being about careers. As someone who was pointed to this page directly, having zero context for your statements, I read the title literally: “Thinking of video blogging? You should probably forget it.” and that’s what I responded to.

    Had the title been “Thinking of video blogging _as_a_career_? You should probably forget it.”, I would have agreed with you along the “don’t quit your day job” lines. :) One of the most technically well-done videoblogs/shows that I’ve seen is Galacticast (, and Rudy still has a day job. I can only think of two situations where an independent production company created a videoblog and got picked up and funded to the point that they can call that their career. I’m sure there are probably a couple more, but I’m not aware of them.

    In the context of a career, the ‘problem’ with videoblogging is convincing someone that their money is well spent funding YOUR collection of videos on the internet. To do that, you would have to convince them that you had X viewership, and that the ROI is there from your viewers to justify them sponsoring you. I don’t think there’s enough data yet for anyone to speculate on which videoblogs are going to be financially viable. It’s all a gamble.

    For instance, television is based on advertising. So many people own televisions. So many people subscribe to cable. So many people are known to watch X television show. Stations can use this to sell advertising space during their 30-minute or 60-minute shows to companies attempting to sell to the demographic that watches their show. That’s what the advertisers pay for. They pay to get their product in front of X eyes every Tuesday night @ 9pm.

    Without concrete ideas about potential ROI, there’s no incentive for anyone to fund a videoblog, so the concept of videoblogging as a career is currently a longshot.

    … currently :D

  9. Penelope Trunk
    Penelope Trunk says:

    Bill, guess what? My husband is a video artist. The last link in my post is to his art.

    When I met him, he was the first person at the UCLA film program to work with interactive video, and the piece he was working on became part of the UCLA film school curriculum.

    I fell in love with him because of his vision, and passion for expressing himself no matter how much money it would ever make. So I totally know where you’re coming from on this.

    What I learned from you is that I need to be really careful to give each of my posts context. I hope that I can discourage people from starting a video blog as a way to promote themselves in their business life, because I don’t think it works for most people. But I like to think that I make my own contribution to those not-in-it-for-the-money video artistis by supporting my husband in his work.

    Thanks for keeping me in line :)


  10. drew olanoff
    drew olanoff says:

    I spend anywhere from 20-25 hours writing, editing and deploying an episode of scriggity every week. I get an hour and half worth of footage and in 7 hours shrink it down to 7 minutes or less. Love every second of it :)

  11. Bill C.
    Bill C. says:

    Drew’s post reminds me that the time spent on video blogging can be way more or way less than the time it takes to do a text blog, depending on how technical you want the presentation to be. If you’re doing comedy, you might have to keep editing until you get your timing right. If your on-air-talent doesn’t deliver properly, you might have to shoot a lot of takes. If you’re shooting on DV, you have to transfer the footage to your computer to edit it. If you’re greenscreening or compositing anything or placing a bug in the corner of your video or applying a filter to ensure that your video is within broadcast-safe levels, that’s going to add to your rendering time. OTOH, if you shoot your video blog with your mp4 camera, or better still, right through your webcam to your hard drive, saying it all in one take with no need for editing, creating that video might take substantially less time than typing out the same information.

    I think having a formula is really important as well. The popular video blogs that I’m aware of do variations on a theme. They’re not random. There’s something you can expect to see or learn every time you tune in. It’s not the same show, but you expect to see certain actors or characters. You expect the show to focus on something specific (tech, for instance). You expect comedy or maybe news. You expect to focus on teens. You expect to focus on science fiction parody. Unless really interesting things happen to you randomly, you’re better off with a formula that you’re comfortable with producing, and like Drew mentioned… that you ENJOY producing, than going with the flow and expecting people to “tune in next time” to check out your latest random antics. :)

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