Steve Goldstein’s Amplifi Media works with media companies and podcasters in developing audio content strategies. Goldstein writes frequently at the Amplifi blog. Steve can be reached directly at 203-221-1400 or sjgoldstein-at-amplifimedia-dot-com.
This post is loaded with valuable tips about podcasts and the challenge of creating effective video.
After our joint keynote at Podcast Movement with Coleman Insights about “The New Rules of Podcasting on YouTube,” I have fielded numerous questions about mastering social video and specifically YouTube. I say brilliant things like “You don’t need to be Steven Spielberg,” but let’s face it, much of the video generated by podcasters isn’t good, which most often means it isn’t effective. So I thought it might be helpful to speak to someone who has created, written and directed movies, TV shows, TV commercials and created a ton of content for social media.
Steve Stockman is the President of Custom Productions. We have used his company to produce TV commercials for radio stations and as social video and in-studio cameras became a thing, we started down the path to manage our own video that wasn’t outright terrible. Steve was headed down a similar road, writing a book about amateur video which sold 250,000 copies; How To Shoot Video That Doesn’t Suck. Apparently, ‘\”suck” is a universal term as his book has been translated into 6 languages.
Our interview below reveals critical strategies for converting podcasts to video. We dissect actionable tips for YouTube, why TikTok creators resonate, equipment, marketing via short-form video, and communicating authentically with your target audience. Plus, Steve shares five tips tailored for podcasters and audio content marketers. Let’s get into it.
SG: You wrote your book when video was less available and more costly to produce, but now we are firmly in the TikTok era. The tools for many creators are a smartphone and an idea.
SS: You can compare the surge of video content to the desktop publishing explosion of the early 2000s. Everyone had a blog and an easy-on ramp to making content. Today, people now have the tools in their hands to make everything. 98% of people have little pocket computers better than anything Alfred Hitchcock had to shoot with back in 1957.
Unfortunately, most people don’t know how to use them. In the early social media days, you could get millions of views with a hit like Charlie Bit My Finger, which was literally video of a kid saying that. We are beyond that. Everyone creates videos. There is so much content that no one has the patience to watch unless it’s good. Ensuring your video is of a certain quality level is even more vital than when I originally wrote the book in 2011. You run a high risk of being disqualified by the person flipping through video the way people punch buttons on a radio in the car.
SG: So you’re not talking about professional setups with studio lights and camera crews, maybe just a ring light. It comes down to compelling content.
SS: Yeah. It’s not about gear. The equipment passed the minimum acceptable level for social media and actual broadcasts during the pandemic. Journalists were going out carrying iPhones and turning in reports that ran on major news networks. The issue is what you do with the equipment. A smartphone makes you look great, but it won’t decide what you will shoot, how long your shots will be, or whether you’re pointing at the right thing. That is the hardest part.
People understand video well because we’ve watched it since we were zero. But we still don’t speak it very well. Video is a language. You can make people feel emotions, anticipate what’s coming next, and immerse themselves in your story. That’s the language of video.
If you aren’t aware that it’s a language and haven’t practiced speaking it, then you’re like the dumb American who goes into the French restaurant and orders earmuffs for breakfast. What I teach and endorse is looking at video from a higher level; what does the audience want? How are you going to take them on a journey? How are you going to tell them a story? How are you going to make them feel? How will you give them an experience of value so they will sit through it past the first three seconds and enjoy it?
“You can spend a million dollars over two days and produce garbage, and you can spend nothing and produce a very effective video.”
– Steve Stockman
SG: You can spend a lot of money and tell a bad story, or just a few bucks and tell a great one.
SS: I can point to $200,000,000 blockbusters that are terrible and low budget movies that will make you cry. What you learn, working at a professional level over the years, is you can spend a million dollars over two days and produce garbage. You can also spend nothing and produce a very effective video. There’s almost no relationship between budget spent and what comes out the other side.
We know TikTok creators who make us laugh are not spending millions. They’re taking their phones and saying something of value. The relationship between budget and creative is this: how much do I need to make what I want to say at the level that I need to be effective with the market I’m going after?
If you’re doing a superhero movie, there is a certain minimum spend just to get in and make it look like what the world is expecting to see. The rest is entirely about storytelling, creativity, and casting.
Similarly, if you’re doing a TikTok video, there is a certain amount of effort to get the production quality up to speed. You should have an external microphone so people can hear you clearly, and make sure you know how to point your phone. After that, it’s all up to what you want to say and how you use the language of video to say it.
SG: I’m wondering about the difference between influencers and what they do versus businesses and their use of video.
SS: In general, businesses are significantly less aware of what audiences want to know about them than people who do TikTok videos because the people who do TikTok videos are mostly their authentic selves. In contrast, businesses tend to want to share their facts and expertise but often aren’t thinking about what’s important to the viewer.
An architect might want to talk about their degrees and their background. But what people want to know is what’s magical about working with them for their kitchen remodel. Businesses need to gauge what’s important to their audience.
SG: There’s an old axiom – people care about quarter inch holes, not quarter inch drills. I think that’s a large part of what you’re talking about.
SS: If you don’t understand that, the leveler is the audience’s finger on the button, determining whether they watch your video. Spending money on videos that are not watched is a complete waste of your time.
SG: We debuted a study with Coleman Insights about YouTube and podcasts a couple of weeks ago. YouTube is now the number one source for podcast listening, and since it is a visual platform, there is often an expectation of video. That’s a tectonic change. But not every podcast lends itself to video.
SS: The decision to include video depends on your purpose. In some cases, it is perfectly sufficient to do an edited podcast video that flips between speakers, sometimes shows two speakers at once, sometimes just shows one, and maybe simply uses visual aids or words on screen. If the goal is to use YouTube as a distribution medium for your audio, that is fine.
If you want to make your podcast into video, you must follow the same rules as everyone else. Those rules include things like there must be movement on screen. Multiple cameras. A thinking person capturing the action with a switcher. We have TV models for this: Drew Barrymore’s show is a podcast. Rachel Maddow’s TV show is a podcast.
SG: I know it’s an art, but there is also some science to video and visuals.
SS: 50% of our brain’s cortex processes visuals full-time. It’s how we learn. If we don’t get enough visual stimulation, we feel trapped and start looking for other stuff to process. You see this in Zoom calls. Eyes drift and wander – ooh, it looks like the roses need water. Is she dying her hair? Oh, sorry. What were you saying?
SG: In my NYU class, students don’t always want to watch a podcast but sometimes like to see a picture of the guest or know who is talking. How do you solve for that?
SS: It’s about purpose again. If you’re just doing “audio on YouTube,” put up stills or publish the Zoom call. If you want people to WATCH, you need production. Cuts, variations of shots, editing, graphics, or words on screen—give us something for our eyes to enjoy, just like they do on The View.
SG: As evidenced in the YouTube study, is the podcast is one thing, but marketing it using YouTube Shorts, Instagram, and TikTok is something else. How do you recommend packaging up and visually marketing a podcast?
SS: Always start with something captivating. Obviously, the most startling or intriguing comment a guest says. Even if you’re not making news, consider your audience and what they care about.
Introductions are boring, so one tip is to start the promo in the middle. If I’m shooting video of myself standing on the cliff overlooking the ocean, I could begin that video and say, “Hi, I’m Steve Stockman. I’m a director and producer, and I’m standing here on a cliff overlooking the Pacific Ocean” at which time everyone watching that video would’ve tuned out, because they understood all that one second in and are tired of waiting for something interesting to happen.
If you see the same picture and my first words are, “I found seven dead seals on the beach today.” I’m guessing I have your attention. Start on something that’s going to hook them. If you want to introduce someone, do it later, with a title on screen that says “Steve Stockman, Famous Seal Biologist.”
SG: Got more tips for us?
SS: Of course. I’m a tip machine! Here are five tips for creators, advertisers, and people who market podcasts:
1. All video should be audience-focused. Think about what people want to watch, what they will sit through, what will pull them in visually, what will entertain them. Make them happy and take them on a ride. Always. So, audience focus first.
2. Think in shots. Movies, TV, and video are cut into small bites, so there is always something for the visual cortex to pay attention to. Same for your video. A 45-minute shot of Steve and Steve talking to each other on a Zoom screen, as good-looking as we are, is horrendously boring.
3. Quality Counts. Quality doesn’t mean expensive shots with fancy lights and $100,000 lenses. It means clear pictures framed to call the audience’s attention to what we want them to focus on, with good audio and no glaring technical problems. Oh—and it means you’ve edited out the boring stuff.
4. We watch video for motion and emotion, not information. Motion—that’s a story or journey. Emotion—that’s the other sweet spot for video: love, lust, laughter, fear, all that stuff. It’s why we watch. So, what will they feel from your podcast or marketing message? They might remember the cool way the robots in your factory build 3D car parts but won’t remember what the robot’s called. They’re not going to remember how much it costs. They’re not going to remember how long it takes. But that funny part when all the robots build a gear and dance to a Taylor Swift song? That they’ll remember. Not only is that a win for you—it’s a big win.
5. Don’t put out anything you wouldn’t buy a ticket to watch. The biggest mistake people make in marketing video is creating videos they don’t even like. They run boring interviews or do podcast promos, and they go, “Yeah, well, this will be all right,” and put it up. Then it doesn’t connect.
This is a tougher standard than you think. If you’re watching something repeatedly, and it’s getting worse each time, that’s a sign. If you’re bored and seeing problems in the production, it’s not ready to inflict on someone else. Fix it, or learn from it, trash it, and move on. What you don’t show won’t hurt you. Though, if you put out something people don’t like, no one will watch it. So, it may not hurt you a lot—but it also costs time and money and certainly won’t help.
Thank you Mr. Stockman.