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
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
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
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:
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. :
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
Camtasia Studio: the Market Leading Screencast Tool
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:
|Screen Capture Tool||Price|
|AutoScreenRecorder Pro||FREE to US$50|
|Easy Screen Recorder||US$30|
|Screen Recorder Gold||US$30|
|Bulent’s Screen Recorder + BSR Movie Lab||US$30 to US$80|
|ZD Soft Screen Recorder||US$39|
|!Quick Screen Recorder||US$40|
|My Screen Recorder||US$40|
|My Screen Recorder Pro||US$100|
|DemoBuilder||US$119 to US$268|
|Instant Demo||US$299 to US$399|
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.