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Building My Media Empire – Notes from AAM

Posted By Liz Maurer, Thursday, May 29, 2014

Before meeting Dixie Clough and Jesse Heinzen at this year’s AAM meeting in Seattle, I did not know that I needed a media empire much less what went into creating one. Yet, Dixie and Jesse did a great job discussing the various video platforms available to museums along with their pluses and minuses. The most important take away was that the popular platforms were developed with other than museum users in mind. Each has its own distinctive personality. Posting a standard museum-style video on a platform with millions of users will not in and of itself lead to millions (or even tens) of views. When adopting a video strategy, museums should consider the end goal. Is it to host existing content or create a new engagement channel?  


YouTube and Vimeo are the two large sites for hosting long form videos. Vimeo is a platform for serious films and serious filmmakers. It is an Internet art house. People surf Vimeo to find new and interesting films created with an artistic point of view. YouTube, on the other hand, is the opposite of serious, beautiful, and insider.  It is the behemoth of the Internet with 100 hours of video uploaded every minute. The audience is young and international, with 81% located outside of the U.S. While comedy is king on YouTube, there are several popular genres, including education. As with most successful videos, the most watched education videos are short, funny, and engaging.


Both platforms function well as hosts, with a slight edge going to YouTube. Of particular interest to museums is YouTube’s robust captioning feature, which allows users to upload a transcript that matches a video’s time coding. This is helpful not only in creating accessible content but also in making the video more findable. Transcripts are indexed in Google’s search results. YouTube also has more robust analytics and a larger user base. Vimeo, on the other hand, with its reputation for artistic content provides access to a mature, culturally disposed audience. Museums may elect to use both, based on video content, but if so should consider the challenges of maintaining multiple sites.


Traditional “museum” videos have small audiences on both YouTube and Vimeo, largely because they don’t conform to the platforms’ accepted cultures. The same is true of the short form sites of Vine and Instagram video. Jesse and Dixie stressed that if museums want to attract audiences organically to video through the host platforms, museums need to create content tailored to the platform. The Field Museum has adopted this approach through The Brain Scoop channel, which has 220,000 subscribers. The Chief Curiosity Correspondent educates about science while connecting The Field to the YouTube demographic. One of Vimeo’s most popular forms is time lapse videos of natural phenomenon. It’s easy to imagine how a time lapse video of a beautiful sunrise at a Virginia historic site could advance an organization’s mission while appealing to Vimeo subscribers. Creating platform-specific content would be a radical rethinking of video for many museums.

The takeaway was that museum video on the Internet has a place, but there is considerable room for growth. There is nothing wrong with posting traditional material like lectures, programs, or interviews on-line and either linking or embedding into a museum’s web site. However, in order to fully realize Vimeo or YouTube’s potential, museums may want to re-think how they present themselves on those platforms. Jesse and Dixie suggested visiting the Nerdfighters, Minute Physics, and C. G. P. Grey’s channels to view great examples of educational content matched to the YouTube culture, with the subscriber numbers to prove it.



Tech Tutorial: Building Your Media Empire

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Dixie Clough, Smithsonian Institution

Jesse Heinzen, Minnesota Historical Society

Tags:  AAM  museums  VAM  video 

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