Scaling the rich media mountain

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The PDF was invented 21 years ago. That means that a vast majority of the content that companies put online would have been right at home back when I Will Always Love You was in the Billboard Top Ten. It's like two decades of technology never existed. Why?

One of the main reasons is a lack of time. It's far faster to generate a PDF of a report than to make the effort to produce rich, interactive media more appropriate for online and mobile devices. 

So, clearly companies need to think through how their rich media production is scalable and sustainable given the organization's capacity. Either that or keep producing content as if the advances of the last 20 years never happened. 

Let's tackle scalability and capacity separately. Scalability simply means that you begin as you mean to go on. It involves using tools, workflows and templates that make it possible to quickly and repeatedly put out quality rich media without having it suck your resources like a black hole in a Dyson. 

The biggest barrier to scalability is captured in the old adage: "great is the enemy of good." If you begin creating rich media (say, a video) and try to make it an "all-singing-all-dancing" high-production-value piece it will take you so much time and drain so many resources it will be a long time before you have the energy or budget to do it again. And, if it happens to be the first video you produce, you've set the bar so high that you've effectively destroyed your ability to scale. You can't repeat the feat on a regular basis. 

The solution? Avoid great. It makes more sense for most organizations to produce good but not great video in a way that you can do week-in and week-out without each video taking two days or more to produce. You do that by keeping the videos under two minutes, using simple intro and extro clips (Keynote is great for this) and keeping the b-roll to a minimum so that your post-production time is decreased. Better that you get a good video a week online than a great video online once every six months.

Scalability is all about being pro enough to sacrifice the ideal for the doable. 

That doesn't mean you can't have great-looking videos. You can, just have budget to outsource those occasional gems to professional videographers.

Next, capacity. In order to produce rich media in sufficient volume, you need to remove production bottlenecks. If only one person in your organization can shoot video, (let's call her Jenni) then Jenni will be your bottleneck. Your capacity can be no greater than Jenni's capacity. And, even if your communications team can all shoot video but Jenni is the only one who can edit video, then, once again, Jenni's capacity is the entire company's capacity.

You don't want to give Jenni all that power. It will just go to her head.

It makes more sense to train your entire communications team to shoot and edit good, but not great, video. They won't always do it, all the time. But, every time they do, you've increased your capacity.

Now, if you increase your scalability and your capacity, you're in a better position to create good, rich media on a regular basis.

If your next question is: "How are we supposed to do all this rich media stuff along with all the other things we do?" You're asking the wrong question. The better question is: "What are we doing now we wouldn't have to do if we were all producing good rich media?"

Ask Jenni, she seems to be on top of this.

Listen to an audio version of this column, read by the author, here.

Wayne MacPhail has been a print and online journalist for 25 years, and is a long-time writer for on technology and the Internet.

Photo: Scott Maxworthy/flickr

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