Organic VideoWritten by emPivot Team June 10th, 2009.
With the documentary film Food Inc. set to hit select theaters nation-wide this Friday we thought it appropriate to share our own thoughts about organics. Not organic food though, or the state of the food industry like this groundbreaking documentary explores. No, we want to explore something that is closely related; “organic video.”
Around the emPivot offices we talk about “organic video” frequently and debate what goes into a video earning such a label. By now, most of you are no doubt familiar with the concept of a “viral video” – any video on the Internet that becomes wildly popular over a very short period of time. Most viral videos are funny to most people but also seem to be increasingly pointless (if you don’t believe this, watch “I’m on a Boat” – the kids love this stuff).
Are videos like “I’m on a Boat” the gold standard for successful online video? A short, inane, funny clip meant only to entertain and be consumed by the largest possible number of viewers? Of course these clips have a big place in our culture, and having a laugh on a regular basis is important. At emPivot, though, we don’t think it’s the be all end all of online video.
Many people treat viral videos the same way they treat junk food: as a guilty pleasure, an indulgence. Something you know you shouldn’t want, but do. You’ve often heard statements like “Oh my god, you have to watch ‘Charlie Bit My Finger,’ it’s stupid but it’s still really funny.” This sounds strikingly like the way people talk about junk food; for instance, “I know it’s really bad for you, but it tastes so delicious that I can’t give it up.”
Contrast this to the average emPivot video. Our videos, though often entertaining, are usually more meaningful than the average “junk food/viral” video. Instead of feeling empty after watching a thirty second video, you might feel fulfilled, satisfied – maybe like you’ve done something good for the environment just by watching the video. Which is true, if you’ve really absorbed the message in any meaningful way.
So the types of videos that make a good impact don’t have a name and we think it’s high time to create a better term for the videos that don’t leave you with a viral video hang-over and wondering, “what did I just waste my time watching?” This is why we’ve decided to call our most fulfilling and uplifting videos “organic.”
The pure, no-frills definition of “organic” is basically “pesticide free,” granted. But that’s not really what we’re talking about when we say organic. The word itself has expanded beyond its original definition to mean anything healthy, nourishing, natural, or even delicious. And that’s how we like to look at our best videos – as more wholesome alternatives to the viral videos that saturate and overwhelm sites like YouTube.
What then, are the criteria for an “organic video”? What directly measurable qualities make an emPivot video organic? Length? Popularity? Rating? Certainly these qualities have a bearing on it, but we don’t think there necessarily are tangible, measurable qualities that make a video organic. Popularity, for example, often (but not always) means that a video is good, but there are also many good videos that never achieve widespread popularity. So it seems that trying to define an organic video in terms of measurable attributes is not that effective. We’ve got some ideas and we are excited to know what makes a video organic to you.
First, an organic video should be entertaining. This doesn’t necessarily mean it has to be funny, but it has to be attractive enough in some way to keep the viewer watching. Not many people want to watch boring videos, and if they do watch one, they’re more likely to move on to another video.
Second, it should be informative without being boring. This is, obviously, a trait that most viral videos lack, because they tend to focus mainly on entertainment. An organic video for us, since we’re environmentally oriented, is one that provides some sort of information about an environmental issue, like climate change, conservation, or any number of other topics. More than just making claims, a real organic video will advance arguments, backed up by evidence.
Doesn’t something taste better when its local and organic, when it comes from the area near where you live? The local aspect of green-related video is one of the most important aspects that shouldn’t be overlooked and is clearly a factor in determining a video’s impact on our experience.
Finally, the video itself has to be significant. It has to be more than just a report or regurgitation of facts; it should include the implications of those facts, too. In encouraging thought, though, it also needs to be non-didactic, though it won’t usually be totally objective (any video with a message is by nature subjective). In other words, without being too partisan, a real organic video has to be thought-provoking and, ideally, action-provoking.
Out of these elements comes the most important aspect of the organic video. The reaction – the result. People need to feel like they want to share videos with other people because that video makes them feel good and they know it will make one of their friends feel smarter, healthier, and more informed about the world around them.
In the coming months we’re going to consider incorporating organic labeling for videos on our site based on feedback from our users.
So what do you think makes for an organic video? What elements do you think are most important? Post a video comment on the site or leave one here on the blog post. And don’t forget, keep it “organic.”