I know video is the next new thing on the Internet. Food bloggers are supposed to get on it. So I turned to mega food blogger and cookbook author David Lebovitz for advice, who started making them years ago.
Here’s what David had to say about why to get involved in video, on the issue of quality versus spontaneity, and on which platforms to use:
Q. There’s so much focus on video at food blogging conferences now. Must food bloggers get into video to stay relevant?
A. It’s good to dip your feet into a variety of things, but doing a video can be an expensive proposition. The good thing is that you can get into it with a platform like Facebook Live, Instagram or Snapchat, which don’t require any special equipment. You can be a little looser than when you’re standing in front of a director surrounded by a lot of equipment.
Q. How long is a good video?
A. I happen to not watch videos longer than 4-5 minutes online. I don’t have the attention span. I may be the exception but I find if they’re longer, they start to lose me.
Q. When did you start making videos for online distribution?
A. I started many years ago in the south of France, in the wine region. I met a young man who knew how to do videos. We did some in Paris and I put them on my site.
Q. What got you started? I remember a book trailer in 2010 for Ready for Dessert.
A. At that time Amazon was embedding videos on their pages for books, and they were 1-2 minutes long. Amazon has mostly phased those out. They probably decided they don’t really convert to sales.
Things change on the Internet. Like Facebook put all this money into Facebook Live, and then I read this story recently. That’s why it’s good to dip your feet into whatever interests you and see what sticks.
Q. So what about Facebook Live?
A. I like it but it’s truly “live.” You have to plan in advance. I’ve done a few in bakeries and restaurants. It’s fun but hard to hear. The problem is the quality of the video image and the sound can be a challenge, even if using a directional microphone on the camera.
Viewers sometimes don’t understand that I’m standing in the middle of a busy bakery. Things don’t always go smoothly, like they do on television where everything is edited for clarity and continuity.
On the upside, I love the immediacy. I like it when people ask me questions, live, and I can answer them. It’s a great way to engage with people.
Q. Your friend Elise Bauer was telling everyone about Snapchat when it first came out. Are you a fan?
A. Elise is very smart and she said Snapchat is going to be bigger than Facebook. It seemed to be getting bigger, and then Instagram copied it. However, the New York Times says to put your bets on Snapchat. The primary market seems to be teenagers, which is supposedly precious.
I took to it because I love the fact that you didn’t have to be perfect. You can say and show “I just got out of bed and I’m going to make eggs.” It’s fun and it’s very easy to use. Instagram stories requires a bunch of windows you need to swipe through to get to the camera to shoot something. And once I get there, I find it’s often too late.
It took a couple of afternoons to figure out Snapchat. I still don’t have to understand all of it, but I’m still learning WordPress for my blog, too!
Q. And you have also made a few videos that people can watch on YouTube. Were they professionally shot and edited?
Yes. People should budget a couple of thousand dollars per video. Shooting a video is 20 percent of the work, the rest is post-production.
I really want to do more videos on my blog, but I need to find someone to do them. I don’t have the skills to shoot them myself or to edit them.
Q. What are your thoughts on quality versus spontaneity?
A. They are two different things. People expect high quality on blogs now. Everyone expects great photos. So if I’m going to put something on my blog, it has to be really good, not out-of-focus or shaky. It has to be edited professionally.
Facebook and Snapchat are more freeing. They’re real and I think more and more, people want to see that nowadays. I used to think the cookbook was the legacy, and now the blog is as well. So I wouldn’t put a Facebook Live video on my blog because I don’t know if those should be archived, like the most professional-quality videos I have on there now.
Q. How does one make money by making videos? Not everyone can be Chef John Mitzewich of Food Wishes.
But those are exceptions. People do make money with YouTube ads before or on the bottom of the video. But I usually turn them off because I want people to have a good experience when they watch my video. If a Game of Thrones ad is showing up underneath it ruins the experience for me.
Q. So you don’t make money from video, particularly.
A. I don’t consider mine revenue-generators. But I have a long-tail approach to what I do: I think if you do a good job, somehow it will all turn out fine in the long-term. As a blogger and author, I’m building my brand, although I don’t use that word often, and offering something that doesn’t pay off in the short-term.
Q. Is that your advice for bloggers who want to focus on video?
A. My advice for what we do is to be consistent, and do what interests you. There are video food blogs, and they’re not necessarily super high quality or the best, but they’re consistent and many have a lot of viewers. People poked fun at Martha Stewart because she was posting not-attractive food photos on social media, but on the other hand, they were real and reflected her day-to-day life
I don’t work for Snapchat, but I think it’s a really good place to try stuff out. You don’t get a lot of followers right away, and it disappears, so you can spill tomato sauce on the counter and play around with it, and not worry someone is going to pull it up two years later and point out the spilled sauce. It’s gone the next day.
Instagram Stories is another place that probably has higher engagement, but with that comes more scrutiny. So do what you like and don’t be afraid to goof. If you don’t make mistakes, that means you’re not learning anything.
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