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Screencasts Add Great Content, New Revenue Streams

The following post on Screencasting as a way to add great content and revenue streams to your blog was submitted by Mike Schinkel.

One way to add huge value to your blog is to incorporate screencasts for “how-to” instruction sites “tours” or software products and other blogs and websites.

Take a page from a professional’s playbook

Screencast where Jon Udell interviews Jack Ozzie and J.J. Allaire about Microsoft Windows Live Writer

Jon Udell on Windows Live Writer (30 min)

Jon Udell, now at Microsoft but formerly of Infoworld and a god to many in the technology field uses screencasts frequently and keeps a list of screencasts on del.icio.us. Screencasts are very helpful for illustrating anything that can be shown on a computer screen such as a tour of a website. For example, ProBlogger’s recent post on iReader could have had a quick screencast showing it in action which would make your point much better than sending readers off to go figure it out on their own. And since a “picture is worth a 1000 words”, screencasts can provide a lot more value than the typical post. Combine their visual aspect with the fact that screencasts are (currently) much rarer than written posts and the result is many people providing inbound links if the screencast is good. After all, it’s all about great content, right?

Screencasting takes effort, but provides great returns

Screencast showing live editing of Greasemonkey scripts

Editing Greasemonkey Scripts (45 sec)

Although creating a screencast takes time, it can be well worth the effort if you cover a topic that of high interest to your readers, especially if you are the first to screencast the topic and yours becomes the definitive presentation. When trying to illustrate something you’ve seen on another site, it can be far more effective than sending your readers off to that other site in blind hope they can recognize what you saw. And those employing guest bloggers can ask their readers to create screencasts for them eliminating the time concern and making it a total no-brainer! What’s more, bloggers with enough traffic can sell splash screen advertising at the end of each screencast, and advertisers in niche markets especially eat that kind of thing up. Something tells me there is more money to be made on a blog from screencast advertising than all the HTML click-thru advertising combined!

Shorter is Better

Screencast on Google vs. Yahoo for Current Events

Google vs. Yahoo (39 sec)

Looked at from a best practices perspective I think screencasts are most effective for blogs if they are between 30 and 90 seconds in order not to loose the attention of the typical A.D.D. web surfer. Jon tends to run longer screencasts and those might be okay for deep technical subjects. However I can rarely sit through his full screencasts and often set them aside for later because they are so long yet later never comes. I think Jon would be better off if he sliced his screencasts up into bite-size pieces and let people choose which parts to watch. Of course he could also continue to offer the entire screencast for those wanting the full-meal-deal!

Some good examples:

Blog post/screencast about getting more search engine traffic from optimizing Permalinks in WordPress

Permalinks in WordPress (6:45)

The screenshots in this post link to screencasts hosted on other websites. Most of them are implemented using Flash, one as a downloadable .WMV file (what’s a poor Mac user to do?) Some of the screencasts are short, some long. Some include the total run time as a legend, most do not (or have it on a caption page.) Some are embedded in the text, most are not. :

  1. The first one is from Jon Udell about Microsoft’s Windows Live Writer, my personal favorite desktop-based blog editor. It’s a Flash-based interview of Jack Ozzie and J.J. Allaire as they demo Windows Live Writer and is well done except for it is painfully long (30 minutes); it was all I could do to sit through it all. It could have been 1/3rd the length and been more effective.
  2. Next up is from Dive Into Greasemonkey by Mark Pilgrim. It shows how to do live editing of Greasemonkey scripts. It’s also Flash-based and nice and short at around 45 seconds (there was no legend telling the exact time), but for some reason its controls did not allow me to jump to a point in the screencast and it’s not embedded within the associated text which I think that helps.
  3. Third is from Jeremy Zawodny using Windows Media Video format to show a very quick bit about how searching for the 2007 Oscar Winners on Yahoo produced better results than when searching from Google. It doesn’t include any voice-over, a real weakness, but Jeremy made that point on his blog saying it was his first screencasting effort. However, it’s a shining example of how effective a very short screencast can be at 39 seconds when compared to 30 minute behemoths.
  4. The second-to-last screencast is Flash-based screencast from Tubetorial. It’s hosted on a blog post as an embedded screencast entitled “How to Get More Search Engine Traffic With One Simple Tweak“. Actually, it’s really about one of my favorite subjects: Optimizing your Website’s URL Structure. It shows how to configure Permalinks for WordPress and is more than a pure screencast because it uses PowerPoint-style presentation and picture. Thought it’s a bit too long for my tastes, it is a great example of a screencast. Actually, the entire site is devoted to screencasts and is worth checking out.
  5. And I’ve actually embedded the last screencast into the page below to illustrate the benefits and immediacy of that technique. This screencast is about installing WordPress on a local server that I found on YouTube by leachim6. Being from YouTube it’s obviously Flash-based, it’s a bit longer than it needs to be, and it definitely has the lowest production quality of any of the other four but that’s one of the reasons I wanted to include it. It covers a really useful topic for readers of ProBlogger.net and I think is also shows that you don’t need to be afraid of screencasting because even a low production quality screencast can offer something of real value to your readers.

Installing WordPress on a Local Server (6:30)

Camtasia Studio: the Market Leading Screencast Tool

Camtasia Studio Boxshot

Camtasia Studio

As for tools, the most widely known software for screencasts IMO is TechSmith’s Camtasia Studio. Unfortunately, at US$299 Camtasia Studio is priced well outside the pain threshold for most bloggers. And because I’d really like to see more bloggers producing screencasts, I’ve started a mini-campaign to get TechSmith to release a blogger-priced edition for US$69.

As a person who founded and ran a successful reseller of components and tools for software developers from 1994 to 2006, I know a little bit about software sales and product pricing, and I’m convinced this strategy would also increase TechSmith’s overall profit (revenue – related expense) significantly. As is, the current price is too expensive for the (perceived) value most bloggers would get in return. Lowering their price would change the economics for the blogger, in my opinion, and cause Camtasia sales to skyrocket. Back in 2004 I blogged about that concept in “Pricing and the Economics of Value Creation.” And since TechSmith advertises Camtasia on Technorati, we know they are interested in the blogger market, at least in some form.

Other Tools for Screencasting

After writing my post on the mini-campaign it occurred to me that there are probably many other screen capture tools on the market that simply hadn’t developed the recognition that Camtasia Studio had, at least not with me. So I did some research and sure enough there were plenty. The following is the full list of screen recording software tools in ascending order of price:

I can’t vouch for most these as the only one I’ve tried besides Camtasia was Wink. Considering Wink is a free tool it was great, however its EXE generator did produce an EXE that locks up when executed (I was using it to prepare for a conference presentation, not for display on a blog.)

One more for your Bag-o-Tricks

In summary, if it’s applicable for your audience, you really should consider adding screencasts to your collections of blogging tools and techniques. In hindsight, I think you’ll be glad you did.

-Mike Schinkel
http://www.mikeschinkel.com/blogs/
http://www.welldesignedurls.org
http://atlanta-web.org - http://t.oolicio.us

About Darren Rowse

Darren Rowse is the founder and editor of ProBlogger Blog Tips and Digital Photography School. Learn more about him here and connect with him on Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and LinkedIn.

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Comments

  1. Alex says:

    I was looking for good quality screen capture tools for some time now, and your list is a great resource, thanks!

  2. Donnie says:

    This is good information. I was wondering how screencasts were done. I’m not a fan of the example you gave, but I appreciate the info. – a little long

  3. I have been considering added screencasts to my site lately. Now that I know these tools exist, I think I’ll do it!

    THANKS AGAIN DARREN!!

  4. Amanda says:

    Screen casts are great, but you have to make sure to remember your bandwidth. My site has barely any images and uses up a gig of bandwidth a month on almost zero images.

  5. Gene says:

    You know, when Darren wrote this morning saying he was going on vacation I expected the quality of information in the posts to drop off signifigantly. Or at least prove only mildly interesting. But this post on screen casts was great! My god, I love reading this site, every day I come away in a fever about all the new tips and information I want to implement on my upcoming blog! Fantastic!

  6. Beth says:

    Excellent Post. I just wrote a primer on screencasting yesterday!
    http://beth.typepad.com/beths_blog/2007/03/screencasting_p.html

    and invite you to check out my screencast on tagging
    http://beth.typepad.com/beths_blog/2007/02/the_making_of_s.html

  7. Thank you for that detailed article. I’ve been wanting Camtasia for 2 years now, but I just can’t justify the price. I would not want to see it split into a $69 one, if that meant the full one went up to $500+

    Frankly, I’d just like to see them drop the full price version down to $129 and be done with it. They’d sell a LOT more.

    Now I’m off to check out your other resources! Thanks for those!

  8. Marcin says:

    I can definitely vouch for using screencasts as a good way to attract traffic to your site. I’ve tried it recently to illustrate one of the free tools I am offering and the response (i.e. incoming links) was much better than ever before.

    BTW, thanks for the list of tools. I was aware of several of them but I’ve also found some new in your list and I am going to try them.

    I’ve tried Camtasia but my trial has expired and I just don’t think that spending $300 on it would be such a great idea. I’ve also tried CamStudio but its lacking any editing tools which is a real pain because your screencasts are almost never production-ready without some editing. There’s a work-around, but it really takes a lot of time. I like Wink for presentations without any audio but when I tried using its audio feature, the quality of sound was terrible

    As for bandwidth, if you want to use any video sharing site, I would recommend http://www.veoh.com – my latest discovery. The quality of video is much higher than in case of Youtube which is very important if you want to show some details in your presentation.

  9. Brandon says:

    There are also two screencasting software products from Blueberry Software you can add to the list: Flashback Express ($40) and Flashback ($199). Flashback Express works pretty well, but you can’t edit the screencasts you make. You CAN export them into various file formats though (not all those you list can). Flashback lets you do all the editing you want, upload images to incorporate, etc.

    They’re at http://www.bbsoftware.co.uk/

    I bought Flasback and love it. Not using it for screencasts I post at my site yet, though, so I don’t have any samples to show…

  10. LearningNerd says:

    I make lots of screencasts and videos on my blog(s), and so far I’ve gotten nothing but great feedback!

    And to reply to Amanda’s comment about bandwidth — that’s a good point, which is why I highly recommend uploading your screencasts to a free video host. I use blip.tv for mine.

  11. jhay says:

    I’m on Amanda on this one, bandwidth is of a growing concern for me. But I love screencasts so much I’m willing to take risks.

  12. Wizardgold says:

    You can add IshowU to the list of screen capture programs for Mac users. I was using Snapz Pro which was good enough and did the job of capturing the screen and whatever you did with it, but iShowU did the job better in that as soon as you finished recording – the quicktime movie was ready to view.

    I also use Visual Hub to make versions of the movie in different sizes. I record at 1280 by 720 and then Visual hub gives me that size but with a smaller file size and then I make versions at 920 by 540 and 640 by360.

    I make the small size available direct and then the larger sizes are there for members of the Wizardgold.com web site to buy if they wish. This helps take care of the bandwidth problem.

    I also use Libsyn to host my Wizardcasts, both the audio podcasts and the video podcasts which also solves the bandwidth problem.

    By the way my Wizardcast videos are about how to trade forex or Betfair, basically step by step guides and the audio podcasts cover how I am doing personally with the systems that I use. I also have another site which is dedicated to digital photography and selling the photos online, I have a project on the go to record a “How to” for that site also.

    The other tip would be to get your Screencasts syndicated in iTunes. Most of my Wizardcasts are downloaded by subscribers using iTunes.

    Wizardgold

  13. James says:

    I just spent a over week working on a video for my first digital product. I used Camstudio for the screen capture and then needed to find a better way to convert to flash (original file was over 1gig).
    I look forward to being able to afford Camstasia but I am glad I have use of Camstudio.

  14. carl says:

    nice post mike! and i would like to congratulate you for being a guest blogger.:)

    carl

  15. Pallab says:

    I do use Videos in my blog posts where i find them neccesary, I use Camtasia Studio for my recording needs.

  16. Hsien Lei says:

    I just created my first screencast yesterday comparing two health search engines with Google.com. I used Windows Media Encoder, which is free from Microsoft. It was simpler to create than I expected and I think far more illustrative than if I had written it up.

  17. andz says:

    I just created a screencast the other day using Wink.
    One great feature of Wink is the ability to also make your cast available as a pdf.

    I was going to try Camstudio, but I note that it says under issues:
    “It turns out there’s a bug which means you can’t see anything if you try watching them with Netscape or Firefox”

    A workaround is provided ’till the next version is released, but I think that message was up when I visited quite a while ago and I don’t see any updates – I only really like to use programs that are being actively developed.

  18. Graydon says:

    I’m sorry… I’m sure that the first screen cast has something useful in it… but I swear that everytime I start it I hear something about Windows Vibrator…

    After that, I just can’t watch any more : )

    Important lesson… enunciate.

  19. @Donnie: Which example are you referring to that you didn’t like? I listed five screencast examples and 19 products.

    @Amanda: Good point, but realize you don’t have to host them yourself if you don’t want to. YouTube is one option, and there are a variety other free hosting sites or inexpensive hosting solutions (sounds like that might be a future post!) Plus, if you ensure your cache settings are optimized, you can often reduce bandwidth requirements considerably.

  20. Stephen says:

    Just thought I would say thanks for the post Darren.

    I first had a go with Adobe Captivate but just couldn’t get the microphone to work so in the end I gave up.

    I then downloaded your recommend camtasia, and no problems at all in fact managed to post the demo online first time if your interested follow this link.

    I just need to work out how to embed still I think my boss will be happy.

    Cheers again

  21. Great article. I’d have to say that the best tool is probably Camtasia Studio. I’ve tried a few of the others but Camtasia was just the easiest. Here is my current site I have only made a few of my own screencasts and have indexed many others available on the web. http://www.screencasts.ca

    Thanks

  22. Ashish Mohta says:

    I had been practicing putting screen shots wherever possible.Using a tool is a good idea but then again have to check the costs.Images pull people much quicker.They get the picture talks much faster than words.Thx for the great post.

  23. Darren

    Since this post – Techsmith have introduced Camtasia Studio 5 – and offer a 30 day free trial:
    http://www.techsmith.com/camtasia.asp

    They have also introduced Jing Project – which is for ‘instant screencasts’ and can be used by Mac owners !

    And is free to use (!)

    http://www.jingproject.com

    Techsmith are also offering a free copy of their older 3.0 version –

    http://download.techsmith.com/camtasiastudio/enu/312/camtasiaf.exe

    HTH your readers

    TomC