In 2017, during the peak of the “pivot to video” craze, I worked as an editor for a digital publication. This movement began with a big restructure at MTV to focus on video and de-emphasizing long-form journalism. After a few studies made hyperbolic claims about the no-fail success of video, newsrooms and media companies around the world downsized their writing staff and “pivoted” to video, without much regard to video strategy, content editing, or what actually makes a good video.
And it was a bad idea. Here’s some research to back up my strike-down of the pivot-to-video strategy:
- Facebook is encouraging publishers not to focus on video, and changing their algorithms to follow (Fast Company: For Digital Publishers, the “Pivot to Video” Bloodbath is Here)
- An “ill-considered” video strategy leads to, well, bad videos (Columbia Journalism Review: The secret cost of pivoting to video)
- For some, pivoting to video has led to audience shrinkage (Digiday: Side effect of the pivot to video: audience shrinkage)
- Okay, food videos might be the only type of videos that work (Fast Company: Maybe Don’t Pivot to Video Unless You Want to Pivot to Food Video)
But we’re past that now. We all learn from our mistakes, right?
For many publishers and websites, this failure in video strategy has led to a fear of it. But video can work well, especially in platforms that are controlled by you, like your own website! On Facebook you’re beholden to the algorithms that are determined by Facebook; on your website, you determine how, when, and why your audience interacts with video.
Note: the image above is from the WordPress theme The Ken. If you’re looking for WordPress themes that are designed with background video in mind, check out video background WordPress themes on Themeforest.
How to Use Video Backgrounds on Your Website
Video backgrounds are one of the most popular ways to incorporate video into a website. It’s (usually) not overbearing, especially if you add a video that is uncluttered. I recommend reading this article from Unbounce, Do Video Backgrounds Help or Hurt Conversions?, which uses data to back up their claims about video backgrounds.
According to Unbounce, video backgrounds work well if you avoid distractions, and make sure it’s easy to read (like increasing the contrast if you have text on top of a video). Unbounce also recommends a short, looping video of 5-10 seconds, with no audio.
The TEDxMelbourne website is a great example of compelling background music. Best experienced on their website, tedxmelbourne.com.
Video can be a great way in increase engagement on websites. According to an article in Forbes, embedding videos in landing pages can increase conversion by up to 80%, and 90% of customers say that watching a video about a product helps their purchasing decision.
Why Stock Video?
You might instinctively shy away from using stock footage. But increasingly, stock photos and videos are created by professional photographers and videographers. Using them is a great way to get a professional result at a fraction of the price–ideal, especially if you’re looking for a 5-10 second clip for a background.
You can download some great stock footage from Mixkit, which offers some truly professional video clips helpfully organised into categories like travel, nature, city, etc.
There's also a huge selection available through Envato Elements. Here’s a roundup of standout stock video that would be ideal for websites:
Stock Footage: Food
For food bloggers, restaurants, and recipe websites.
Perfect for your next food video, without having to do the dishes.
For a summer music video, perhaps?
These look delicious. Mmm, noodles.
A clear, crisp video that would be difficult to replicate on your own.
Stock Footage: Landscapes
A landscape can be a compelling background, especially if you pick one that’s geographically relevant to your website or business.
33 seconds of swirling, dramatic fog.
Buying a drone is a bit out of your video budget? No worries–there are lots of professionals who can do the filming work for you.
This footage is of Hong Kong, but it would probably work for any sort of generic cityscape clip.
I’m a little obsessed with these time lapse videos, which take an incredible amount of time and patience to make. This one’s particularly cool, with Machu Picchu emerging from the fog.
Pollution billowing into the sky is dramatic and devastating - especially with the sepia-like filter applied here.
One thing that video is useful for is metaphors. Making a video about, say, today’s political climate? Throw in this storm scene for effect.
Stock Footage: Objects
A stock video of an object is an interesting way to get across an abstract concept (like using a match for your new product launch called “Ignite”, for example).
An ideal backdrop for a story about fire–or things that ignite.
For your inevitable “people are addicted to their phones” and/or “check out our new app” video.
Stock Footage: People
Images of people are shown to make your website more personal and compelling. Videos are more engaging than photos. So, videos + people = extra personal, compelling, and engaging.
Because downloading this 21-second video is less creepy than filming random strangers at the beach.
Well, the title of this one says it all.
For the promo video of your next podcast.
Great for dance scenes or music videos.
Many stock video libraries are plagued with cheesy, staged videos of “beautiful woman does [activity]”. Here’s one of those–she even gives, for some reason, a thumbs up at the end. But, I think it’s fun to watch–maybe for use in a somewhat ironic way?
Stock Footage: Space
This whole section is dedicated to the work of SpaceStockFootage, who has an incredible portfolio of nearly 300 space-themed stock video. Is it computer-generated, or is SpaceStockFootage in a spacecraft somewhere above the earth, uploading stock video on Elements from afar? We’ll never know!*
*Just kidding. Here’s an interview with SpaceStockFootage that we wrote for Space Day a few years ago.