Now You Want Video?

Back in 2009 when this article appeared on Red Room, everybody on the web seemed to want slideshows. It was supposed to increase the "stickiness" of a site, causing folks to linger longer and read additional articles. This led to some interesting discussions with PR people as I tried to comply with the request.

These days, I've pretty much abandoned slideshows and the theater column's current format only allows one photo inside an article. But I do call for video (using YouTube embed coded) to add punch to arts articles. Interestingly, some of the same issues come up. I still hear from PR people worried about giving away too much about a production and, once they see how it looks, wanting the same thing for their show.

Will The Slideshow Tell All?

As Seattle Theater Examiner, I not only worry about words, I worry about photographs. For years, I used to tell PR people who asked where to send the photos, "Please query the editor about photos. I just do the words." But that changed when I went to a web-based publication. 

Having also worn the PR hat for a high-faulutin' arts organization, I do know my way around a  photograph and understand the differences between what a newspaper needs and a color glossy magazine.  Photos these days mean digital and best results come from understanding what a publication needs in terms of  resolution, dpi, and size of the jpg.  If you're a nonfiction writer, ask your editor for these requirements, even if you're not responsible for securing photos. It's just good information to know and keep in the back of your head as you talk to your sources.

Well, now I'm not only writing the words, I'm creating the Flash slideshows for my column. And suddenly, one picture is not enough for a story.  I need photos.  I need multiple photos. I need good photos that tell the story when I'm limited to 400 characters for the caption!  

So, after calling and arranging interviews and fact checking and all the other stuff that I used to do with PR people, I beg for photos.  "Can you e-mail me?  Do you have a website to download from?"

Often I'm sent something sized for print and not web -- but downsizing a photo, as it were, is much easier than enlarging. So I quick crop and export in the right size (iPhoto works just fine for this) and place as many photos as make sense in the articles.

Interestingly, I get a little bit of resistance from some PR people about using more than one photo in an article. I had a PR pro ask me to only use a single photo as the designers of the show were worried about someone copying their ideas.  OK, if you're creating Wolverine for Fox, early leaks of your designs may be a problem.  But, frankly my dears, nobody is going to run around the web looking at regional theater shows and saying "YES! This is how I'm going to do my version of Hamlet!!"

Still, having worn that PR hat (complete with Valkyrie horns), I know how touchy some designers can be about letting people outside the audience see their designs. So I do what the PR person asks.  Only to get the e-mail the next day saying "Gee, we saw the slideshow you did for this other show, and we'd like to get the same exposure."  Usually with three more oversized photographs attached!

The slideshows, the videos, and all the other multimedia tricks in an article do attract the eye.  They also cause the viewers  to click through to the production's website. In short, a slideshow or any other visual media may catch a ticket buyer's eye and entice them into a production or theater that they haven't tried yet.


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