A Glimpse Behind the Scenes at TCTV’s “In the Studio”

I began 2012 with a hazy idea to create video content in addition to written content. I floated the idea to friends at TechCrunch, and they said, “go for it.” In particular, TCTV’s Jon Orlin (who used to be a producer for CNN) helped me craft the format, a 1:1 weekly show, black background, roughly 10 minutes in length, broadcast once a week on the same day at the same time. Since mid-January 2012, we’ve produced one segment every week, pushing it out every Thursday at noon. And, now that the requests to be on are starting to come in a bit faster, and because I end up explaining this over email or in person so often, it’s a good time for me to write out how I go about creating a format, picking the guests, framing the conversations, and what I’m looking for.

As a background, it’s worth keeping in mind that the bar to get someone to watch a video is significantly higher than other pieces of content. There’s a reason Instagram didn’t incorporate videos. Therefore, if I’m asking viewers to focus their attention on a video for 10 minutes, I have to make sure that video is good. Really, really good.

What makes a video good? Three things. First, the guest has to be someone that I know and have talked to in person before. I’m strict about this requirement. The reason is that once I’ve talked to someone a few times, the likelihood of producing a real “conversation” on video is significantly higher. A better conversation leads to better content. People don’t want to watch interviews — they want a peek into conversations.

Second, the guest has to be someone that I think is compelling. This is my one indulgence. I get to decide. My promise to those who are watching is that if someone is “In the Studio,” I think they’re interesting for a very particular reason, and you should watch.

Third, for each guest, we primarily focus the discussion around one long-tail topic. The rationale here is that because its hard to organize an online audience to watch a video to begin with (when blog posts are much easier to consume), picking an interesting long-tail issue with an expert helps a smaller yet more engaged audience find, consume, and interact with the content. This takes a *long* time to refine. I spend a good deal of time trying to pick these topics and boil them down into a frame that people can absorb in 10 minutes. As a classic example, I invited angel investor Manu Kumar (see below) to cut a taping session today, and despite announcing a much larger investment fund (which is big news!), we focused our “In the Studio” discussion around one simple topic: the evolution of the iPhone camera, since he’s made investments in six (6) companies that focus on imaging.

Finally, each Thursday, I write 2-3 paragraphs of context around the video before posting it. That usually takes 20-30 minutes, and rather than summarizing the video’s content, I try to frame its essence so that the right audience members will find it and hopefully watch it.

That’s it, that’s how the sausage gets made, folks. A few months ago, I wasn’t sure if I was going to continue doing it after this year, but Orlin took me aside and smacked some sense into me. Anyway, that’s it. Thanks for watching!

P.S.: Many, many people have helped me with this. First, the TechCrunch TV folks help me so much. Orlin, of course, and also John Murillo and Ashley Pagan handle all the taping, graphics, and editing. Second, I got great advice from Emily Chang and Chris Dixon before starting the show, as they have so much video experience. And, some of the earliest guests, especially John Lilly and Danny Trinh, went out of their way to help me and come onto the show without really knowing what it would be.

 

Haywire is written by Semil Shah, and is published under a Creative Commons BY-NC-SA license. Copyright © 2014 Semil Shah.

“I write this not for the many, but for you; each of us is enough of an audience for the other.”— Epicurus