I guess it's only natural that, given my background as a print journalist, I often find myself unsure about how to approach other types of content. I've made it a bit of a personal mission to really improve my understanding about apps and video in the first months of this year. I'm in the process of writing an app and will share some thoughts about it when it's ready for launch, but for now a few thoughts about video.

Instinctively you'd think that video would be the perfect tool for travel websites. What could be better at really communicating the unique flutter of excitement in the pit of your stomach when you set out from your hotel on the first morning in a new city or the peace and tranquility of a sunset over a deserted beach?

But in my experience video isn't getting used much by travel companies. Can you think of any that have really gone for video? Travel publishers too seem reticent. One of the nationals I used to write for  got a bunch of simple handheld video cameras in and did some training for their travel writers and asked them to go off and shoot video as well as writing their stories when they went on writing trips. I don't think it ever really worked. And I am pretty sure that's because the journalists weren't being paid anything extra to shoot video as well as writing the story.

But video on the net is huge. Youtube is apparently the third most visited site on the net (after Google and Facebook). Anedotally I've been told that lot of kids and teenagers often use Youtube as a search engine, typing their queries straight into the search box on Youtube. And wow. sometimes it really delivers - i the strangest ways. I recently bought an iPhone and wanted to buy a protective cover for it. There were loads to choose from and they were all inside impossible to open boxes in the shops. So I hit YouTube. There I found hundreds of videos of people doing 'tech reviews' of stuff - the most boring video imaginable - just taking a cover out of a box and fitting it to their iPhone. Dull, dull, dull - but it was so useful for that one simple query I happened to have. 118,000 views of that particular video as well!

So how should travel operators and publishers use video? When and why?

A few thoughts which are very rough and ready. I'd welcome your opinions.

'How to's: I was struck by a video they had playing above the security x-ray machines at Gatwick Airport a while back. Looping over and over again the clip reminded people to take off belts, take laptops out of cases, put everything in a tray to go through the machine. It must have saved a huge amount of time, seriously increasing the throughput of people. What 'how to' videos could a travel site produce that would be really useful? How to pack might be good. But perhaps not like this?  Luggage reviews could be handy too. I think getting through airport terminals would be very handy but would the airports in question allow people to film there?

Inspiration: It's this arena where I don't understand the lack of genuinely great video content in the travel sector. (But then again, I've not hunted too hard yet.) I have been consistently impressed by Visit New Zealand's website. And it's no surprise that they have quite extensive video elements - but they don't feel well integrated with the rest of the site. Visit California does a better job - mixing video nicely into the picture-palette of options in the main carousel on the homepage. Some of the videos are better than others. In this category I think you need awesomely gorgeous high production value pieces that really excite people. And these don't come cheap. Here's an example for Visit Guernsey - elements of it are great, but the cuts are slow, the use of voice in certain places with the soundtrack suddenly dropping out feels amateurish. It's way too long. I'd never take a promo piece like this past 2 minutes. It feels like it was shot without a proper storyboard and without a real idea of what the piece was supposed to do and who for. What do you think of it? Any stand out examples you can think of?

Personal Journeys: I'm a big fan of bringing real people into the mix - moving away from branded communications towards more personalised conversations. I think the web really lends itself to this. Kuoni has shot some interesting stuff with its product managers. Called Perfect Moments, they are simple shorts of people talking about their most memorable experiences. A great idea - but for me they just make clear how people without presentation training are really dull on camera. The pieces desparately need cut aways to the scenes these people describe. (Which of course would cost far more.) Contrast these attempts with this really cool video about backpacking. It probably cost far less to make, but wow, it's compelling. I discovered it via a backpacker guy I follow on twitter (travelsofadam) which in itself is interesting. Here's a little something I put together a while back with help from an editor friend to publicise my guidebook to Seville.

Hotel reviews: One operator that has invested significantly in video is Thomsom/Tui. They commissioned a production company to shoot short videos of a huge number of the hotels they feature. (I know one of the cameramen who did it.) Similar in concept to my iPhone case video experience, these are pretty functional things - albeit with higher production values. I think they add a lot to the hotel research experience. Anecdotal evidence from Sandara Leonard who works for Tui in Web Strategy has suggested that those hotels which also had video clips provided attained a 20% higher booking rate. Interestingly the videos themselves already look dated. They are optimised for small screen viewing from the days of slower broadband speeds. Interestingly they have the whole lot on a YouTube channel too which makes a lot of sense. You can in theory optimise Youtube pages for search - so someone say searching for a hotel by name might see a Youtube Thomson video page returned in the results. Having done some tinkering though I've yet to find any good examples of this. Remarkable, given that Google owns YouTube how video results don't seem to really synch too well with other search results. It's only when I click the videos menu at the side of the Google results that I see video pages returned. In the context of hotels, you have to consider what Trip Advisor does because it is so hugely influential in this sector... and interestingly, I don't see anywhere on TripAdvisor for viewing hotel videos. Lots of pics, no video. That's a surprise.

Any stand out uses of video you can think of in the travel sector? And any other categories of video that should be added to this list?

11 thoughts on “Video – the content category that got forgotten?

  1. Great post. I'm also intrigued by video. The big problem as I see it is time and cost. On recce trips, I am always shooting video thinking I will use it on our site, but so far have yet to get round to doing some editing. My fear is bad or dull video is worst than no video, and it simply is such an investment in time and money to create.

    Now if I could just file all my video to some whizz who could edit it into reasonable shorts vids and write a script to voice over, then I'd be delighted. But I imagine those skills won't come cheap... This is the only way I can see it working for the vast majority as few can afford to host a professional video crew.

    1. One stand-out I can think of is World Nomads. Check out their Footprints documentaries. Great quality content and they are getting some good distribution of this content too.

      But you're right. A largely untapped medium for online travel still at this point. And largely this is because telling a story via video is far harder than most amateurs think. Editing might seem like a simple job of splicing shots together, but in reality there's so much more involved to turn video footage into a compelling story.

  2. A The Sunday Times, we film our own video when practicable (ususally southern England for time and cost reasons) but have sent multimedia staff further afield on occasion when the feature makes it worthwhile. The MM staff can also rescue footage shot by writers, or at least turn it into an audio slideshow (if stills available) with a voiceover recorded here. Gradually tho, staff and regular freelances are turning in better content - and increasingly buying their own higher-spec gear as an investment.

    Otherwise, we try to source film - quite easy for our Style and Culture sections, but in travel it's almost impossible. There is a yawning gap when it comes to professionally-shot, original film files available to us for edit that haven't been PR'd or had tinkly music added. Absolutely a hole to be filled by companies who, you would have thought, need video for their own sites as well as for promotional purposes.

    Funnily enough, I'm giving a talk to 100 tour operators on Wednesday night entitled 'Are you getting the picture?' - and this is precisely the subject to be addressed. Cost will always remain the issue but video is absolutely key to distinguish from rivals at this stage. And a basic requirement within three years or so.

  3. I'm dipping my toe into video work at the moment.

    Back in my senior year of High School I had a minor credit in (VHS) film editing. Fast forward 10 years and any technical knowledge is long gone, but I did enjoy it, and with this in mind, I invested in a HD videocamera last April with every intention of trying to be an 'early innovator' in terms of delivering video content to my editors as a compliment to my writing.

    The camera sat in the box.

    However, last September I spent a week in Chiang Mai volunteering and spent a good week filming my experience, which after a few weeks of editing and learning to use Imovie software on the go I produced this video for http://www.roundtheworldflights.com:


    It's my attempt and I learnt a lot from it: that if you don't upload properly you lose the stabilisation and HD features on the video; not to record voice overs when you have the flu and a blocked nose; not to repeat yourself (the word 'actually' crops up ten or so times in this video, actually); to be more sparing with the audio and voice over (and perhaps wipe me out of the video entirely), and how to source music I could afford to use for the audio. One of my biggest learning curves was how time-consuming and fiddly it was to do, and at the early stage of learning, not at all profitable.

    Next time round, I'll try to do things a little differently, and I quite like this as a model- a stunning example of the potential of video travel content is something like this:


    Steve- I've heard my Australia editor comment along a similar line. There, everyone wants video content, but few outlets have a budget for it, despite the fact the online ads that run before bring in huge advertising dollars. Those that do have a budget are open to paying for video content are still working out what sort of video content works best, but can't give a figure as to what they might pay. Do you see a future where newspapers have a budget for online content? Or do you think it will it be expected as part of a package?


    1. Hi Shaney
      A future where newspapers have online budgets? Well, we used to... but my lot found the cost didn't stack up to the (if any) income, so that got jettisoned in favour of promoting inpaper content online. But hey - if someone were to offer an exclusive interview with Paul Theroux, a first on Prince Harry safari hunting in Botswana or Dolly Parton riding Thorpe Park, I'm sure we could find a few pennies. Or strike a deal with a company offering videos of every hotel we check out. But less likely for a video of a freelancer skiing Japan or touring the aquarium in Dubai. Having said that, if the freelance was pitching to a paper or mag - AND had broadcast quality video - then I'd hope savvy print editors took that into consideration.

  4. Apologies but I have to blow my own trumpet here - travelguru.tv is pretty unique as a video based travel inspiration site with unique, professionally shot content. Our USP is the use of a 'guru' on location - a trusted voice sharing the benefit their first hand experiences with the viewer. So I guess we are a bit of a crossover in your Inspiration and Personal Journey categories.

    Do our videos sell holidays? Yes, they do - not as many as I'd like yet but, through partnerships, its building nicely and our average booking value is very healthy £2200pp

    Like you Jeremy, I am contantly surprised by the lack of innovation and creativity in the travel video sector - I believe the potential is HUGE. Of course it will come into even sharper focus (scuse the pun!)once the internet becomes easily accessible via our living room TVs. Its one thing to watch a video in a small player on a computer screen but all that badly edited, wobblycam UGC is going to look very dodgy indeed blown up full screen.

    Viewers will expect the quality standards they are used to seeing 'on the box'. The winners will be those who start to invest sooner rather than later in inspiring and engaging content.

    The question is who will pay for professional content? Travel agents would argue its up to the tour ops to provide them with content and tour ops say the its the tourist board's job to promote their destinations. I agree with this but the tour operator also needs to be highlighting their own USPs. Tourist Boards do have budget (well, some do) but inevitably head office holds the purse strings and they tend to look at things from a global perspective rather than being market specific.

    One of the things production companies(like us)can do to encourage investment is to be flexible about content usage. The days of retaining restrictive copyright on footage have long gone. Typically from a travelguru shoot, we will edit our own programmes for the site but also then work with tourist board partners to reversion the raw material for generic edits, themed 'shorts', in flight promos, soundbites, cinema advertising, mobile apps etc etc. The list of possibilities for reversioning raw content just keeps growing...

    1. I too have spent the first part fo the year thinking about video and from my research I've found that unless you are very high end, a friendly 'home-made look' video is very welcome. It would be great to see more B and Bs doing little videos where personality is as important as the facilities. "Hi this is Jane in the kitchen making scones - say hi Jane, and here is the family cat" etc
      I also know that prices are coming down as I do voice overs for short promotional vids and the going rate for someone like me voicing a script from home is about £40 for a 45 sec track. I blog at http://www.lucythorpe.wordpress.com if you want to get in touch.
      This is the post I eventually wrote on video http://wp.me/pHqcg-b5

  5. Great tourism campaign that in 2 minutes 30 seconds makes you want to go there....Inspired by Iceland.


    Video is a whole different skill set: there is audio to figure out, lighting considerations (just like a photographer) and yes, shooting is sometimes the easy part and editing takes forever. Unless you use a Mac, editing in HD is a royal pain because it demands a lot of processor power.

    But, it's like blogging. I'm glad I flailed around 5 years ago to figure that out, rather than waiting and fiddling and suddenly finding the pool full of others who did not wait and fiddle.

    I see online video now where blogging was then; early days, massive potential and we haven't even talked about video plus mobile. Yes, YouTube is the 2nd largest search engine in the world right now. You're find-able on there, or you aren't. I'd rather be found. :)

  6. I couldn't agree more. Video is so underused and yes, by us too. Bizarre really because I'm a great user of video when surfing the web and looking for in depth information and yet we've not managed to integrate it into our business enough as yet!

    You've inspired me to get the camera out next time we're taking shots at a house and to see what we can do. Working on a Mac does make it easier I have to admit!

    Aparently YouTube is the third most searched site out there now and many people are tunring to it as an alternative to google. Now, where did I put that clapperboard?

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