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WhatTheyThink Celebrates Ten Years Video Milestone

April 20, 2017

April 2017

Andy and Julie Plata, Co-CEOs of the OutputLinks Communications Group, recently had the opportunity to discuss a major WhatTheyThink milestone with our colleague Eric Vessels, the company’s president.


The WhatTheyThink 10-Year Milestone

April 2017 was the ten-year milestone for WhatTheyThink’s launch of its video interview service for the print and graphic communications industry.

WTT logoOver the past decade, the WhatTheyThink video team has created and hosted almost 3,000 print-industry specific videos using a professional, but casual, interview platform. The platform’s success quickly established WhatTheyThink as a vital and respected video chronicler of the industry, its technologies and most importantly its people. To the best of our knowledge, WhatTheyThink now owns the world’s largest online archive of print-industry specific videos.

The WhatTheyThink team, Eric Vessels, Adam Dewitz and Cary Sherburne, have attended events all around the world interviewing the industry’s thought leaders, innovators, technical experts and business champions who share their thoughts and ideas around the innovation drivers – be it in print, marketing, technology and even human behaviour.

WTT staff

WhatTheyThink is a world-class media group with a mission of providing insight and market intelligence about the revolutionary and evolutionary happenings in the world of printing and publishing.  The added element of video chronicling opened a new appreciation of WhatTheyThink’s value to the print communications industry.

WhatTheyThink’s video booth at industry events is a must-stop for industry thought leaders eager to share their views and news on topics as diverse as technology, process, marketing and business innovation.

Creating

The evolution of WhatTheyThink’s video practice followed a path many creative businesses follow with a “ready, fire, aim!” approach. 

Eric takes us back to the beginning of the video journey – at the On Demand 2007 conference in Boston.  With a consumer-grade video camera and a couple of lapel microphones, the team set out to create great videos.  Perhaps a bit naïve, but not afraid to take some chances. 

WTT lightDuring a pre-show video session with the esteemed, Frank Romano, they quickly realized the lack of understanding of the complexity of creating good video interviews. Recognizing the problem with the Romano interview to be a lighting problem, they quickly dashed to a local camera shop, looking for technical help.  Fortunately, they shop was staffed with knowledgeable reps who asked the right questions and set them up with a portable lighting kit that would meet the need.  The shop was located near the finish line for the Boston Marathon – which became the starting point for ten years on video evolution of what is now a firmly established segment of the WhatTheyThink communications platform.

 WTT AmazonAdam shares how embracing new technology afforded them the opportunity to break new ground in video delivery, “When WhatTheyThink launched video in 2007, video hosting technology was expensive. There were a handful of Web 2.0 companies that wanted large sums of money to use their platform. Even though Amazon Web Services was just developing, we recognized its potential and used AWS to enable us to build a world-class content delivery system without a lot of programming and expensive infrastructure investment.”

Growing by Learning

The next few years were an on the job learning process. With each interview, the company learned and grew.  As with any new endeavour, many advances were built on failures.  Mistakes were turned into learnings, and never, during the 10-year journey, did they become discouraged or think about moving on from the platform. 

They kept sharpening their skills and upgrading their technology.  They learned everything they could about cameras, microphones, lighting and editing.  They learned how to improve the quality of the video and audio; how to store and host the videos, and how to be certain that what they filmed was safely carried from camera to server.  As with any technology journey, finding the right combination of tech, process and people drove constant improvement. 

Their videos were greatly enhanced when they were introduced to Adam Lee. Adam brought his video production experience and enthusiasm to the effort, and his technical and artistic skills raised the quality of the production.  His expertise in the technical arts was evident in the enhanced look and feel of the videos. Adam’s untimely passing in 2015 was and is still deeply felt by the WhatTheyThink family.  The level of quality and professionalism Adam brought to the organization set the high standard WhatTheyThink holds themselves to today.

Interviews

The popularity and success of the video series would not be as strong without the talents and commitment of the WhatTheyThink contributors and editors who arrange and conduct the interviews.  Leading the way is respected industry expert and Senior Editor Cary Sherburne.

WTT clapAfter initially being hesitant, Cary has embraced the video experience and quickly turned it into a signature piece of her robust industry presence.  Over the past ten years, she has interviewed hundreds of industry leaders, innovators and educators, and her relaxed yet laser-focused interview style has allowed viewers to get a deeper understanding into her interviewees messages. 

See the WhatTheyThink Video Interviewees

The experience of hearing - and seeing what thought leaders have to share gives viewers a more complex understanding in a non-complex medium – real conversation.  Cary has excelled in her craft while conducting important interviews in some of the least hospitable locations, from noisy trade show floors and booths to crowded corporate offices and company conference rooms.

 Regardless of venue, the goal of every WhatTheyThink video is to get to the heart of the topic, so viewers can learn not only what the interviewed person thinks, but also the how and why they think as they do.  Some of her most enjoyable sit downs include a conversation with Marketing and Publisher writer and guru Seth Godin, and author/historian/publisher/educator Walter Isaacson, whose biographies of Benjamin Franklin and Steve Jobs live on the smartest bookshelves in the world.  Cary has mastered the fine art of asking a great question and then getting out of the way, so the focus is on the answer – not just on the words spoken, but on the person delivering the response.

As the evolution continues, each focus area that WhatTheyThink covers expands its content to include growing video segments.  Jennifer Matt, a WhatTheyThink Section Editor, is now building quite a library of thought-provoking video essays in the print software world she covers.

WhatTheyThink offers its contributing editors the opportunity to create video content that is interesting and relevant and will stimulate thought and discussion related to print and communications technologies.

Value to Vendors

WWT Value to VendorsThe video platform also offers the team at WhatTheyThink opportunities to provide industry vendors and marketers specific, targeted videos that they can use in their marketing and educational strategies.  These productions allow the client to drive the discussion and shape their message in the context of a larger event.  Whether running on big screens in a tradeshow booth, embedded in a presentation, or featured on a company website, these WhatTheyThink videos are becoming more and more a must-have piece of a vendor’s product messaging.

Eric shares, “We have a series that we offer vendors called thought leadership videos, and those essentially are ... where the conversation is led by the interviewee and by the sponsor. We've had some vendors and sponsors really use that in amazing ways.”

Technology

WTT quote

The WhatTheyThink approach to technology is similar to what industry contributors follow – educate, evaluate and adopt.  Over the years, the video teams have adopted a continuous learning attitude that includes keeping current on the latest advances in technology.  Much like a manufacturing facility, each part in the video production chain must work with the surrounding components.  This includes the obvious – cameras, microphones, and lighting, to the critical but perhaps less obvious, like SD cards, drives, editing systems, servers, networks and high speed internet capabilities.  These components have to work reliably and consistently from the trade show floor to the boardroom. 

The video team has benefitted greatly from a great collaboration with Canon USA.  The team produces video content at Canon events and in return has access to the best HD Camera technology that raises the level of video quality to the industry’s best.

Workflow

Another critical part of the production business is the workflow itself.  With so much content, it becomes impossible to remember what clip has what content, and which take had the best combination of lights camera and action.  A well-designed and managed content management process is a must, and this lesson was learned through the iterative process, or as Eric says “‘ready, fire, aim!”

Culture and Attitude

“We've grown, and now I would say that we're very proficient in not only developing but shooting, producing, editing, publishing video content all the way from an idea through to a finished video on the website.

“The video business has been fun, it's been challenging, but it's also been super beneficial for our business.” Eric shares.  “I think video was something that really set us apart. Personally, I always consider it a huge compliment we start seeing other publishers with video cameras running around events. I love it because that tells me, we led the way.”

Eric sums up WhatTheyThink’s culture and approach to the Video Content strategy.

“I think a key part of our overall success is the WhatTheyThink work hard, play hard ethic. We never take ourselves too seriously, but seriously enough to get the job done and do it well. I think our experience in video content is then a microcosm of that larger ethic. Hopefully, that comes across in how we do what we do when we're out there.”


We and the OutputLinks family offers our heartfelt congratulations to the Entire WhatTheyThink organization, and we look forward to many more years of the excellence and innovation represented by their innovative video content practice.

Thanks for reading,
andy Julie
Andy & Julie Plata
The OutputLinks Communications Group

 

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