Is “Govtube” in Our Future?

In February of 2005, a couple of guys went to a dinner party and shot some videos. After the party they wanted to share the videos and realized there wasn’t an easy way to do this (at least this is how the story was said to have started). They guys saw a need and Youtube was founded. The first video that was shot and uploaded to the site was called Me at the zoo.

Now, Youtube is the 3rd most popular website on the internet.

Pretty significant, wouldn’t you say?

In terms of social media sharing/transparency within the government, lately I’ve been thinking about the use of video. Recently I heard Jay Berkowitz, author of 10 Golden Rules, speak and he confirmed my thinking that despite the benefits video can offer in educating an audience or promoting a product, it is the most underutilized channel for information sharing (& not just within the government).

Lately, however, I’ve been hearing more and more buzz around using video in the government. In fact, today I got an email from Government Computer News for a webinar tomorrow @2pm EDT called “Top 5 Strategies for Using Online Video.” The webinar outlines participants will learn:

* 5 Strategies that will help you to make the most of having video on your website
* Real-world examples of how some Government Agencies are already using video on their website both internally
and externally
* The value of viral sharing – enable your constituents to help spread the word and educate the community
* Building a community with online video – Expand your audience for meetings, speeches and announcements
* Educating and informing the community of new programs or laws with online video
* How you can add video to your website quickly and easily

I’m rather curious why video is so underutilized. We blog, twitter, email, photograph…but clearly not as many of us shoot video. Like any public speaker knows, speaking in front of an audience is much more difficult than it looks. Is this one of the roadblocks? Is video simply a format many of us are not accustomed to? Are we concerned about privacy issues? Do we feel for a video to be successful it has to be very well scripted or humorous?

And as the title of my post suggests, I am most interested in finding out if you think there is a real opportunity for video in government? Is Govtube in our future? Do you already use video in your agency or company?

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Scott Horvath

There is a HUGE opportunity for video within government. Video is a great tool for story telling…for making a more intimate connection between the audience and the subject. It’s the only medium, in my opinion, that has the ability to really draw in the audience if done correctly.

Video can be used in a number of places in the government. One under utilized area is in job recruitment. If you were applying for a Federal job and saw a boring job post that bled of governmentease, you might lost interest or might not understand what the position is actually about. Now, take the same job post and embed a 30-60 second video showing people in that specialty doing actual work. Not just a talking head, but something compelling. In the case of USGS, where I work, it could be a post looking for a vulcanologist with a video showing someone taking lave samples from Mt. Kilauea in Hawaii, or standing at the edge of the caldera in Mount St. Helens talking about the dangers, excitement, and importance of that position and how that work contributes directly to the safety of the people around those areas. That would be more appealing than a simple text-based announcement. Why aren’t Federal agencies doing more of this???

Part of the problem is the initial cost and investment. Although it’s getting cheaper and cheaper there’s still an initial cost in the hardware, software, etc. You also need to have good writers for your scripts, good a good video producer who know how to record, cut, edit, etc. There’s much more involved than that, of course, but it’s not as simple as an audio recording (for example). There’s also the time investment required to put together one video depending on what quality of video you’re trying to accomplish. You also have the issue of hosting the video, serving it out on a site, making sure it’s cross-browser/-platform, etc. Sites like YouTube, Vimeo, etc break down that barrier but you still have to get them established. Also, making sure your videos are Section 508 compliant with closed-captioning…or at least a transcript. All of that takes time and money.

At USGS, we’re using more and more video all the time. We’re moving more into video podcasting, lectures, etc. But it’s a slow move b/c it does take time. We’re getting there though. But the importance of video in government should really be pressed on management in every organization. From HR and training to news stories and podcasts…there’s use across every area of the organization.