The word is greater than the film

We recently tweeted a link to an interesting piece of market research from Addison Group on the things journalists most want on a corporate website. One of them is video transcripts - most journalists don't have time to watch the videos themselves, but they do want to pick out quotes. That reminded me of something a former financial analysts told us the other day - that he didn't watch webcasts but did scan the transcripts. This implies that transcripts are not just a useful extra (and good for accessibility), they may actually be more important than the video itself. Which of course leads to the question, should you just publish the transcript and forget the video? Brave, but not necessarily that stupid.

David Bowen

BC tip - The Hillary Clinton campaign: Designer subtitles

A US political video gets its message across to viewers who have their sound turned off.


The Site

The creators of a YouTube film of President Barack Obama endorsing fellow Democrat Hillary Clinton have made subtitles an integral part of the design.

As Obama speaks to camera, his words appear in different places on the screen, and in varying font sizes; larger fonts are used for points the Clinton campaign wants to emphasise.

The Takeaway

A problem with video online is that so many people cannot listen to the audio because they are in an office, on a train, etc. On Facebook and Twitter, videos start playing with the audio switched off as the default.

The producers of this slick video of Obama endorsing Clinton for president seem to understand this - and have made ‘mega subtitles’ an key part of the film, rather than a small-text, crude-font bolt-on.

This means that the video gets its messages across whether viewers have their sound off or on, a potential lesson for companies looking to use video effectively on their online channels.

BC tip - Jigsaw: Audio case studies

A Google-owned think tank makes innovative use of radio-quality audio clips for its case studies.


The Site

Jigsaw (formerly Google Ideas) is a think tank and technology incubator within Google’s holding company Alphabet. Its mission is to invent technology that will address global problems such as violent extremism, online censorship and digital attacks.

The think tank’s website uses radio-quality audio clips coupled with rolling transcripts to illustrate its services. For example, in ‘Uncovering corruption in Cairo’, investigative reporter Hisham Allam tells a 2m story about how he uses the Jigsaw database and records-access service, Investigative Dashboard. Visitors can either listen, or turn the sound off and read the story.

The website home page plays excerpts of its case studies in a loop, inviting visitors to click for more on the story, or the Jigsaw service it is helping to highlight.

The Takeaway

Jigsaw’s audio case studies take a simple, but innovative approach to content creation. It is an unusual choice not to use video for this kind of material, but the quality of the recordings and power of the language lend immediacy to the testimony. 

The clips are relatively short, and signposted via a vertical bar. The audio also acts as a hook – viewers can decide to turn it off and read the transcript.