Digital Machiavelli #2: Video Editing for Attention & Profit
How to get your viewers invested and keep them that way.
Hello and welcome back to my digital content strategy course of indefinite length, delivered to your inbox every week.
What You’ll Learn Today: Why long form videos often show the payoff up front, and what else you can do to keep viewers viewing.
When it comes to YouTube videos and most online video content, the landscape is ever shifting, but it only shifts one way.
In the Attention Economy, characterized by an overabundance of content, the only way to convince a large number of finicky viewers to watch your video fully is to make absolutely certain that you don't waste their time.
You can do this through a number of editing techniques, and today we’ll be looking at the top three.
The Pre-intro Payoff
If you’ve watched a podcast on YouTube over the past year or two, you’ve likely seen this phenomenon with your own eyes as creators of long form content battle it out for your limited attention span.
Before the narrator starts rambling on about the topic at hand, you see a brief five to ten second clip from somewhere in the middle of the episode, revealing the payoff.
This reveal can manifest in a number of different ways:
Answering the question posed in the title of the video
Revealing the secret knowledge alluded to with a clickbait title
Reacting emotionally to something unexpected
Showing off a special guest appearance
But all of these fundamentally achieve the same goal: reassuring the viewer that they ought to keep watching.
“But I don’t want to give away the payoff,” you might retort.
This isn’t a great stance to take, because this approach is used to great effect, but if you insist, you’re in luck, because this technique has covert variations, such as…
A cliffhanger reveal, where you cut off the very end of the payoff
Special effects that conceal the payoff visually while retaining the audio
Showing off the video or article you’re reacting to before the payoff
One caveat. This technique doesn’t work for every type of content, and in many cases you’re better off starting your narration from the first second.
But for long form conversational content especially, you need something exciting up front to help your viewers discern what they’ll get if they stick with you.
An Overabundance of Jump Cuts
First and foremost, what’s a jump cut? Let’s consult Wikipedia.
A jump cut is a cut in film editing in which a single continuous sequential shot of a subject is broken into two parts, with a piece of footage being removed in order to render the effect of jumping forward in time.
That’s the cinematographic definition. For digital video content, jump cuts are used primarily to remove lengths of silence between the presenter’s sentences or even within sentences, depending on how intensely you use the technique.
You may be thinking back to the last action flick you watched and cringing at the overuse of jump cuts in the most intense scenes, causing you to feel confused and disoriented.
But online video is different.
The fundamental philosophy behind keeping eyeballs on your video content revolves around reducing downtime to the absolute minimum.
This means that keeping in all those inhales, exhales, and pauses isn’t an option, so they’re all replaced with jump cuts.
And this works!
Because while a single jump cut here and there feels jarring, once you reach critical mass, with a dozen cuts per minute, suddenly something magical happens, and the cuts become part of a consistent flow, giving the video a dynamic pace that retains viewers’ attention for longer than they otherwise would feel inclined.
Noise Gating as an Anti-irritant
Finally, after you’ve given away your payoff up front and cut out every pause longer than half a second, you can further boost the chance your viewers keep watching by making sure their ears aren’t bleeding.
You do this by cleaning up the audio in three key ways.
Remove ambient noise through noise gating
Make your voice clearer with de-humming
Even out audio peaks through volume balancing
Apply these simple edits, and your viewers will thank you, even if your audio was recorded using a 20-year-old budget bin microphone while you were sitting on the side of a busy highway.