Journalism Tips: Stop resisting video (you’re only hurting yourself)

I know we all like to believe we may one day ascend through the ranks of music journalism to become some kind of modern Lester Bangs, but we no longer live in the same world Bangs once inhabited. The ways to consume media of all forms has splintered to such an extent that even counting the number of channels producing any type of music-related content is impossible. You are one among tens or hundreds of thousands making various types of media to support or promote the latest and greatest music has to offer, and you’re one of literally billions trying to be heard in the digital space. Your team, which is how I like to consider the contributors to a single site, is just one group among untold thousands as well. 

To be blunt: The chances a few dozen well-written stories or editorials is going to grab the world by the collar and make them believe you’re the next great music commentator are about as likely as you being attacked by a shark on your way home from work or school this afternoon. The world is no longer being influenced by three television networks and whatever print publications are available at an individual’s local pharmacy. Today the world is informed by magazines, blogs, zines, video essays, vlogs, Instagram posts, Snapchat Stories, tweets, and a wide variety of additional social platforms. You don’t have to be everywhere at once (nor could you be), but you do need to keep an open mind about the changing trends in how people consume information.

Any Google search involving the words “video” and “millennials” is going to provide you with a number of studies pointing to a growing preference among the 18-24 set for more content delivered by video than text. In fact, millennials in one ComScore report chose YouTube as their preferred source of all media, including films and current seasons of new TV shows. Perhaps even more telling however, are some of the additional stats in that same report which claim millennials prefer video to text across most, if not all, major social platforms. This is to say that most people between the ages of 18-24, not to mention the majority of those younger than that, are far more likely to watch a video about a news story than to read a news post on the same topic. 

Like many of you I wish this were not true. I personally love reading, and as someone who got their start in journalism through review writing I still believe the written word to be a very powerful tool for communicating thoughts and ideas. That said, I also love watching videos online, and with the target demo for most music outlets showing a growing preference to video the idea of taking time to learn how visual media could work for you is not at all crazy. 

The music business is all about survival. You have to survive the time spent creating and/or working for free before you can do anything else, and even once you start getting paid you have to survive an endless cavalcade of changes to the market and industry that will impact how you do business in ways you cannot yet imagine. Journalists all over the world have known changes were coming to our industry since the dawn of the digital age, and in 2016 it has never been more clear that those who are going to survive this evolutionary period will be those able to adapt to changing trends in consumer behavior. 

I’m not saying you should quit blogging, and I’m certainly not tasking you with launching a digital music news service with 24/7 broadcasts a la CNN (though that would be very cool to see and I am sure someone will attempt it very soon), but you do need to take a hard look at how video is beginning to enter the music news arena online and ask yourself how you might be able to apply your own skill set to making clips for your site. Maybe you start with teaser clips meant to promote new premieres, which is honestly a great idea because it will allow you to learn while creating very easily sharable pieces of media, or maybe you start recording video versions of breaking news stories where you inform viewers about the latest headlines without forcing them to read. Find something that you believe will convey the stories you want to tell in a way people will wan to consume and set to learning how to make that idea a reality. 

You don’t have to take any course (though you certainly can), but you do need to commit to constant growth as a journalist. Our industry is changing faster now than at any other point in its existence, and as a result there are a lot of unexplored possibilities  just waiting to be brought to the public. Video could be the key to your future in this business, and even if you don’t become a full-time journalist you will understand video in a way that can easily be applied to music marketing and publicity efforts, as well as other realms of business.

Video is here to stay whether you like it or not. You don’t have to adapt, but doing so certainly won’t hurt.

James Shotwell

James Shotwell is the Director of Customer Engagement at Haulix and host of the company's podcast, Inside Music. He is also a public speaker known for promoting careers in the entertainment industry, as well as an entertainment journalist with over a decade of experience. His bylines include Rolling Stone, Alternative Press, Substream Magazine, Nu Sound, and Under The Gun Review, among other popular outlets.