Liz Lemon (Tina Fey) does an imitation of a Steve Jobs presentation

Last night on 30 Rock, Tina Fey’s character, Liz Lemon, makes a presentation to executives sent in to make cuts to the budget of the Tracy Jordan Show, the show Liz runs. The presentation was especially funny to those who recognized it as a dead-on parody of a Steve Jobs keynote. Here’s the clip (via Hulu.com):


Later: Via tuaw.com, another NBC show, Chuck, got in on Steve Jobs impersonation humor this week.

This is a test of the WSJ.com embedded video code

I’m using this post to check out the embedded video feature WSJ.com is using with the “video sidebars” it has started including with “free features.” This video accompanies a story about insurance-company provided driver-monitor cameras parents can put in their teenager’s car. I’m less than impressed with this specific sidebar as it merely repeats what is in the story. Indeed, if you watch the video, there’s no reason to read the story. I don’t think that’s the intent. (More on what makes a good video sidebar.) Having the ability to embed the video on another site is a key viral factor to making it work, so if you can see the video, the WSJ.com folks are doing that right. WSJ.com is using brightcove for the feature, by the way.

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Radar feature in WSJ has a video sidebar

Despite my many previous promises of no more posts about the longest-continuing story appearing on this weblog, I felt the need to link to free WSJ.com article about the re-re-launch of Radar as it is the first time I have ever seen a “video sidebar” in a WSJ.com article.

For the record, I hope the magazine is a big success. Heretofore, however, its hype-to-success ratio far surpasses any magazine in my memory. During previous over-hyped launches (potential writers for this magazine pitch stories about it to every reporter in their contacts), I exhausted everything I could ever have to say about the magazine, except to observe that this time, they started with a blog — and did a great job with it. Previous iterations displayed very little online savvy. Perhaps having the blog as the center of the brand and franchise may be the charm that makes the third time ’round a success.

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Good example of an ‘audio sidebar’

Last November, I pointed to the use of a video sidebar by the New York Times as being a good example of how to integrate different media onto one web page for better story-telling or reporting. Today, the NYTimes.com has a great example of when integrating audio files onto a page can work well — it is an analysis of the State of the Union Address.

(However, Laura’s seven year old’s analysis is enough for me.)

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How to use a video sidebar, lesson #1

Introducing a new buzz term: video sidebar. At least that’s the most obvious term I can think to call a great use of embedded video I’m seeing more and more. I am crediting YouTube with making the concept of embedded video (in simple terms, the little boxes on a webpage where video is displayed) easy to understand — and do. As I’m told often by the rexblog director of hackology, YouTube didn’t create embedded video, they just made it simple and easy for people like me to do it.

For someone with a print editorial background, seeing a text story wrap around a box in which someone can view a related story or graphic is a very easy concept to grasp: It’s a sidebar. However — despite the predictions of futurists for the past couple of decades — in print, we’ve never been able to publish a video sidebar.

More and more, in blogs and big-media sites, I’m beginning to see great examples of video sidebars. For example, there’s a great one in the online version of this New York Times article today on new approaches to the design of acoustic stringed instruments. While you can click off the page to view the video, scroll down and you’ll see the embedded video sidebar: a 3:30 minute overview of how sound is created on a guitar (and more). In this case, the video sidebar is a slowly paced NPR-ish story in which the reporter and “expert” are jamming in a workshop. The production values are excellent (perhaps better than necessary for the web), but the reporter seems a bit uncomfortable with the medium — which, frankly, adds to its believability. He comes off as someone who is passionately interested in his story and genuinely excited about sharing what he’s learned with the reader/viewer. As the story is about sound and music and design, the video displays concepts that are impossible to convey in text only.

While I’ve only been noticing video sidebars for the past few months, here are some early observations on how they are best used:

1. Use a video sidebar to enhance, rather than re-tell the main story.

2. Use a video sidebar when sound and movement are central to the story. (A sports highlight, for example, or, as even I’ve tried, a software feature).

3. Use a video sidebar when a short “how-to” will help the reader comprehend what you are trying to explain.

4. As a video sidebar merely enhances the main story, it is different than a video-blog post. On a video-blog (or other video-centric web space), the main story is told with video. [On a video-blog, the sidebar is text (i.e., links mentioned in the video) or graphics like maps, or even a transcript of the video.]

5. If you make the reader go to another page to view the video, it’s not a video sidebar. (If your boss’s metric-of-choice is page views, a video sidebar will make your reader happy, but maybe not the boss.)

6. You should allow the reader/viewer to start the video. It shouldn’t startup just because someone has landed on that page. In fact, you are a bad, bad person if you do that.

In a coming post, I’ll review some tools for creating and adding a video sidebar to an article or blog post.

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