Investing in video at YDN

We’ve been playing around with video as a communications mechanism on Yahoo! Developer Network for a while now. Our casual attempts to generate interest in Yahoo! technologies through interviews, screencasts, tech talks, etc. have worked really well.

So, we hired a full time videographer/filmmaker named Ricky Montalvo and got him some decent gear to push the envelope a little further. And today we rolled out YDN Theater on the YDN web site to establish a home for all the work he has been producing.

The journey here started with a pretty lame but surprisingly successful screencast that Dan Theurer and I did to explain how browser-based authentication worked. It was blurry. We made mistakes. The subject matter was pretty abstract. And neither Dan nor I have particularly strong camera presence.

Regardless, it has been viewed over 19,000 times, so far.

We kept pushing with new types of videos such as partner showcases with people like Joyce Park, Adam Rifkin, and Leah Culver. We brought the camera to our various Hack Days and produced a particularly funny recap of the London event. And we recorded tech talks from our own staff at Yahoo! and presentations from guest speakers like Grady Booch, Joe Hewitt and David Weinberger.

By the time we found Ricky, we knew we were building a program that was going to be really interesting. Yet, we hardly spent any money other than a few cheap cameras and some basic editing tools including Camtasia at that point.

The success to date I think has been in large part due to the fact that we haven’t tried to pimp out our videos with any professional plastic gloss or staged demos. We also try to have a little fun with them. Jeremy Zawodny is a really good interviewer. His unassuming yet pointed questions get people to say things they otherwise wouldn’t include on any planned script. And the fact that the videos are raw with few cuts or edits make them feel real, too.

There are some good video program ideas floating around here that could be a lot of fun, but now we’re torn between how much time we want to spend building out the video offering and how much time we want to spend on all the other ways the team can evangelize Yahoo! technologies.

I’m not sure how to measure that decision just yet, but as long as people are consuming these shows we do with such enthusiasm we’ll probably tilt the scale in favor of doing more video whenever possible.