Why Use Video

The skyrocketing popularity of video

In the recent past, bandwidth, technology, cost, and unfamiliarity with the variety of tools and interfaces stood in the way of widespread use of online video. Today, video is one of the strongest forms of media in our society.

The Obama administration has been pushing universal broadband for all U.S. citizens as part of its national agenda. According to Microsoft Studios, the majority of North American households have broadband connections (68% according to the Department of Commerce) and one study [1], found that 92% of households with Internet also have broadband.

Online viewing of video content is much simpler and more streamlined than it was just a few years ago. A testament to user comfort with launching and viewing online video is the fact that YouTube serves 1 billion videos per day* [2]. There are 48 hours of video uploaded on YouTube per minute: from consumers sharing their creative expressions to companies uploading how-to videos about their products and brands. [3]. And with tools like Jing, Moviemaker, and Camtasia, the simplicity and low cost of producing video makes it accessible to almost everyone.

A study conducted in 2008 (see Figure 1) showed how quickly video consumption was growing and predicted growth over the next five years. The study predicted that by 2013, 81% of the US online audience would be viewing online video. In actuality, we reached 86% in 2011!

Figure 1: A study from 2008

Consumers love video. The rise of online video consumption in the past four years has been profound and goes way beyond a rise in Internet usage in general.

  1. The average person watched 182 online videos per month in 2010 [4]. And the number of online videos has risen to 5.5 billion, a 37% increase since 2010 [5].
  2. In the United States, 180 million U.S. users watched online video for an average of 18 hours per viewer. The total U.S. Internet audience engaged in a record 6.9 billion viewing sessions [6].
  3. In Europe, unique video viewers continues to increase: Germany 44 million, Turkey 21 million, U.K. 33 million, Spain 19 million, France 39 million, Italy 19 million, Russia 40 million [7].
  4. Across the world, viewing of online video content has significant reach:

Figure 2 Source: comScore, 2010 and 2011

Research findings

Within Microsoft, we have a lot of anecdotal evidence that supports the use of video for instructional content - our customers tell us that they find our video content valuable and that they want more. We also have the evidence of research conducted by other teams at Microsoft. Other groups at Microsoft have already invested heavily in video and have conducted research about the effectiveness of video for both a technical and IW audience. We don't need to reinvent the wheel or duplicate their efforts.

Video effectiveness research

Microsoft-conducted research

  1. Windows found that videos get higher customer SAT than text.
  2. Channel9 gets 6 million visitors per month for videos and on-demand events.
  3. Channel9 found that their site's NSAT is approximately 38 points higher than a typical developer NSAT number.
  4. Channel9 also found that their users rank 'watch video interviews/podcasts' as the most-used and most-important feature of the site.
  5. Developer Guidance Team met with customers at the PDC in Redmond and videos were a popular topic of conversation. Developers do use video. They find video helpful in Getting Started, architectural overviews, conveying abstract concepts, and to replace a lot of detailed instructions. Developers will watch a series of related videos.
  6. Many SQL Server and BI websites and blogs offer video content.

    • SQLBits: "While I'm sure some of the other guys will be able to provide you with hard figures about how often our videos get viewed, I can tell you from my own experience that it is absolutely not true that video learning is just for the IW audience. Almost all of my customers, whether they attend SQLBits in person or not, tell me they watch videos on the SQLBits site and are very enthusiastic about them." - Chris Webb, SQL Server MVP
    • Ssas-info.com: a website for developers and ITPros. On this site, 139 pages of video content had 22,323 views in 2011 to date." To me these numbers (the metrics he collected) tell that videos are popular." –Vidas Matelis, SQL Server MVP
    • The question of whether video is more successful for an IW or more-technical audience is irrelevant, according to Buck Woody. "Actually, (video) isn't even a tech audience differentiator. There are a few learning styles, such as experiential, demonstrative and cause/effect. Video training usually resonates with folks that use a demonstrative model for their learning."
  7. Research has shown that adding video to a site can drive 36% more clicks, 20% more inbound calls, and more than double time on site. A Kelsey Group study found 55% of people who view a video visit the company's Web site; 30% visit a physical store; and 24% make a purchase because of watching. Viewers only do this if there is a reason to do so [8].

Community-conducted research

  1. From 2007 until 2009, the amount of American adult viewers of online educational videos rose from 22% to 38% [9].
  2. Google released a study via Double-click which states rich media ad formats with video outperform all other types of ads by an overwhelming margin.
  3. To engage consumers in this fragmented new landscape, companies must elevate product strategy, elevate content strategy within that, and integrate video at its core [10].
  4. In a study of 1,001 U.S. and European business technology decision makers at companies of more than 100 employees, participants were asked "Considering the info channels that influence you, which matter the most?". Vendors selected video 2nd only to in-person events and virtual events. Consultants rated video #1 and #2 (webinars/webcasts and online videos) [11].

Where do Internet users go for video?

Microsoft properties are already popular video destinations. For CSI this means that half the battle has already been won for us. According to statistics from 9 countries, Microsoft is already one of the top 10 properties for viewing online content in 6 of those countries: U.S., Mexico, Australia, India, Spain, and Germany [12] .

Figure 3 Source: comScore (Russia, Turkey, New Zealand are also included in this study, but Microsoft did not score in the top 10)

Why is video so successful (when properly implemented)?

We don't often think about why it works or why learners are drawn to video. We go by our 'gut' or jump on the bandwagon following the lead of other Microsoft teams and competitors. But if we're going to be successful in selecting the right content for video and be successful in how we deliver that video content, it's worth our time to examine the why of video's success.

And the why isn't just looking at why video has the ability to achieve better success in learning – but also looking at why learners are drawn to video in the first place.

Why Video Works (If a picture paints a thousand words…)

There are just so many reasons, and a few important ones are listed below. But in addition to explaining why video works, this list should also guide our creation of videos . For example, if video has the advantage of being able to convey emotion – then we should make sure we take advantage of this benefit by adding enthusiasm, encouragement, excitement, pride, caution, etc. to our videos -- and not simply read from a script in a monotone. If video can capture and keep the learners attention with action – we shouldn't use video to show a bunch of PowerPoint slides but, instead, use it to show the learner how to do something.

Now, on to the list:

  • The eye has the ability to capture in a few seconds what would take many paragraphs of text to explain.
  • Videos create a stronger connection with the viewer. Video puts a face (or at least a voice) to the content.
  • Video is a more sensual experience. Text is limited to words and images. Video offers so much more. While you're talking about something in a video you can instantaneously show your learners exactly what you're doing, you can add background context, color, motion, music, sound, narration, personality, and more (see below).
  • The combination of talking and showing leaves much less room for misunderstanding or miscommunication. A process with many steps looks daunting when written but quick and easy with a video.
  • Video makes the online experience more compelling. It offers options for different types of learners. It leads to longer time spent on a site.
  • Video is more digestible for learners with short attention spans. These types of learners find the videos more entertaining and thus more palpable. The more senses that the content engages, the better the concentration and engagement.
  • And, studies have shown, the more senses being used to learn – the more likely the learning will transfer and stick.
  • Video has personality . Why does this matter? It is more entertaining and more engaging. It creates a connection with the learner. The learner doesn't feel as if they are doing it alone – we're on this learning journey together. Microsoft goes from being a monolithic uncaring corporation to being a friend helping me learn how to do something. Learners become more-forgiving and more invested. It builds trust.
  • Video is intimate . It can convey emotion. The feelings expressed on a person's face or in their voice provide context and add robustness. Using video to foster a warm friendly atmosphere while delivering a message makes the experience that much more positive. When something is done through text, you can only read it. With video, the emotion (sometimes passion) of the presenter shines through.
  • Video can be used to establish expertise . Once learners get to know you and/or are successful with your videos, they will seek out your other videos. They will forsake other videos in favor of learning with you.
  • Video shows a level of commitment to your learners. The simple presence of a video conveys a level of commitment to your learners since videos are considered above-and-beyond the basic level of Help. Learners also understand that the investment in producing a video is much higher than producing text.
  • Video is pervasive and portable. Video reaches learners across devices and platforms. It both entertains and teaches.

OK, where's the downside? What are the roadblocks?

I hate to admit it, because I love video so much, but there are some real challenges.

  • More expensive to produce videos than text – expensive in time and resources and bandwidth.
  • Relies heavily on work outside our control (STO, YouTube channel owners, Showcase, transcription services, etc.)
  • Learning curve
  • Hey, I signed on to be a writer, not a video producer " – some people just don't have the same desire or skills to produce video (and, I believe, shouldn't be expected to).
  • Lots of moving pieces - wading through the various Closed Caption and transcript and localization issues.


This whitepaper has covered a lot of ground. It started by describing the pervasiveness of video in the U.S. and other key markets around the world. It then took a look at research into video effectiveness and explained some of the strengths of video content that make it so successful. Finally, it reviewed the history of video in CSI and laid the groundwork for moving forward more purposefully and with an eye on measurement and improvement.

For additional information on video content in CSI, please read Video versus Text and When to Use Video and When Not to Use Video.

  1. National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) and conducted by the Census Bureau
  2. 2 billion YouTube video views per day according to ReadWriteWeb.com
  3. Forrester Research, August 26 2011
  4. digitalbuzzblog.com, Statistics: The State Of The Internet Video
  5. Source: comScore, 2011
  6. Source: comScore, August 2011
  7. Source: comScore, 2010
  8. Microsoft Studios
  9. Source undocumented
  10. Forrester Research, 1/26/2011 "Putting Video at the Heart of your Content Strategy"
  11. Forrester Research
  12. I could only find reports for a total of 9 countries.