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The Ultimate Guide to Creating Online Video Content That Works, Part 1
Nine media and entertainment content decision makers discuss what they have learned from their years in the field and offer advice on producing and delivering content that draws—and keeps—viewers.
Tues., Nov. 11, by Geoff Daily

This article appears in the October/November issue of Streaming Media magazine. Click here for your free subscription.

Let’s put aside the issues of distribution and monetization surrounding streaming for a moment and focus on content. What content works for online video?

Ultimately, anything works so long as the people who find it want to watch and can do so in a reliable, high-quality fashion. If nothing else, YouTube has proven that videos of any subject matter and of the highest or lowest production values can generate incredible viewing numbers—or, as some people are beginning to call it, "viewsage."

At the same time, the most reliably popular online video tends to be the high-quality content that’s already proven popular on TV, DVD, or in the theaters, which isn’t surprising given that success in traditional media means a built-in audience of millions before the video ever gets online.

But what about those people charged with creating or finding fresh content for this new digital medium? How do you program for a medium where seemingly anything goes? How do you know what works and what doesn’t?

Well, according to the nine content decision makers interviewed for this article, we’re a long way from knowing the magic formula to answer that question. Everyone’s in agreement that we’re currently in the "throw it against the wall and see what sticks" phase of streaming’s evolution.

And whether large or small, content producers still can’t say with certainty what original content’s going to be a success when they first put it online—some videos they thought were great ended up flopping, while other videos that weren’t as exciting attracted impressive viewerships. "When you’re producing a show from scratch, knowing it’s going to be a success before you put it online is akin to knowing it’s going to be a success before you put it on air. Namely, you don’t," says Greg Clayman, executive vice president of digital distribution and business development for MTV Networks.

Yet that doesn’t mean lessons aren’t being learned and best practices formulated. Every time a new video goes up, producers gain a little more insight into what works and what doesn’t for online video.

So even though we may never find the magic formula for creating successful online video, by entering the minds of people who have found success, this article will set out an overview of what’s been learned so far in order to help all online content producers better aim their efforts toward creating video that works for online distribution.

Fish Where the Fish Already Are
Here’s a crazy idea: If you want to create a successful online video, find ways to leverage brands, people, or trends that have already proven popular elsewhere. While not an earth-shattering concept, it’s interesting to see how this central tenet can be found responsible for driving successful online video at everyone from major media companies to internet aggregators to YouTube auteurs.

On this front, major media companies have a significant advantage over their internet-only counterparts as they already have high-profile properties around which to build online experiences. "That helps a lot when it comes to creating popular online content," says Clayman. "A good example of this is we do a thing called the After Show for The Hills.