Video Money Ball: Getting on Base with your Video Program

This past week I got the chance to check out the baseball flick, Money Ball. Brad Pitt stars as the Oakland A’s General Manager, Billy Beane, whom creates a winning team out of an “island of misfit toys.” The movie begins with the A’s losing their biggest stars, Jason Giambi and Johnny Damon, to free agency.  Beane is forced to fill their vacancies with a budget that is a fraction of their worth. The scouts begin discussing the possibilities, analyzing everything from batting average to looks.  But Beane is hesitant about their old school ways.  Frustrated he addresses the team’s situation, “What’s the problem?” he asks. “That we need to fill the spots of Giambi and Damon,” the scouts reply. “No,” Beane says, “The problem is that there’s rich teams and there’s poor teams, and below them there is us.” How do you compete against the Yankees when you’re the poorest team in baseball? But when Beane brings on the young economics nerd, Peter Brand, the team approaches the situation mathematically.  “You don’t need to buy players,” Brand says, “You need to buy wins, and what do you need to win? Runs.”  And from there, the A’s built their team around on-base percentage and utility, creating a scrappy team with a humungous ROI.

As a video producer, this got me thinking in terms of production. Theoretically the internet lays out an even playing field for all businesses to utilize video. But as video becomes the all encompassing future of the internet, the corporate giants will always have advantages in running hard costs against production value and distribution. I’m not saying they will dominate the playing field, but that the smaller businesses need to play scrappy to succeed and maximize ROI.

Before producing any video, the situation needs to be addressed: What’s the video’s intention? Is it to drive sales, inform, educate, entertain, engage, or inspire.  What kind of video is it? A product video, branded entertainment, an advertisement, etc? And where will the video live? A company’s website, Youtube, ecommerce page, Facebook, private player?

In the online video realms of entertainment, engagement, and inspiration, the playing fields are even, but the objective of the videos are clouded by the realms’ subjectivity. If your video sets out to entertain, it needs to be entertaining. If its sets out to inspire it needs to be inspiring.  If you made a funny video for yourself or for your company, and you did the search optimization research and you shared it with everyone you know yet the video just didn’t perform as well as you thought, then your video probably wasn’t very funny. You struck out. No offense. (No pun intended)

In these realms, larger companies may have the upper hand because they can afford to seek out writers, talent, and directors to create the all-star videos they achieve for. When dealing with the realms of information and education, video is a more objective play: the videos just need to provide information and answer questions. And every business, small or large, has its area of expertise and wealth of knowledge to make an effective play in this field.

At the 2011 Liveclicker Video Commerce Summit this past summer, John Schroeder from Crutchfield told his own “moneyball” story. In efforts keep cranking out product videos with a quick turnaround, flashy motion graphics and production value were the first on the chopping block, and the videos took on a user-generated kind of feel. But what they found was that the new “authentic” feeling videos performed better without all the sheen. (Check out the interview here.)


The videos don’t “knock it out of the park” nor do they strive for mediocrity. Instead they are videos that maximize utility.  The videos answer questions and educate, whether they are a product demonstration, a product comparison, or a “how-to” video. On one hand, the videos aid customers in their online shopping experience, and on the other, they provide expert information for anyone seeking it on Youtube. The videos do not stray from their intended purpose.

You can’t ignore the value of experts. You should not only try to utilize experts in video, but build communities around expert content beyond the video. So its not just hitting the ball in play, but structuring a line-up that drive the videos home to niche audiences.

There will always be a valuable need for delivering expertise in video format, especially as video continues to take over the internet. There’s a lot of under developed real estate in the land of informative online video that just needs an expert to commit to developing it. So in one corny baseball analogy: Though every business wants that homerun hitting viral video, they can consistently get on base and score runs through commitment to expertise.

Chris Logan Harley is a Video Commerce Consortium Blog guest expert from