Introducing The Weekly UsabilityTube Review: Slate V

Today we launch a new weekly feature, in which we review the use of video on the Web.

We’re not reviewing specific videos, nor analyzing the biz or buzz of various video platforms. We are looking at how video is being deployed on Web sites that are trying to accomplish something other than just streaming video to eyeballs.

We’ll open the action with a look at Slate V, that online magazine’s month-old video service. That’s Slate V as in video, by the way, not Slate the Fifth, though that name would offer some faux regal mojo.

[Interest revealed (to borrow Slate media critic Jack Shafer’s phrase): Slate is owned by washingtonpost.newsweekinteractive, a division of the Washington Post Co. I am a former employee of the Post’s newspaper division.]

The Sell

Slate V is not just a holding place for video on the Webwe will be producing new video daily in the unmistakable Slate voice our users have come to love. . . .Slate V will offer daily web video with the unique Slate voice: smart and topical, yet also irreverent and fun. — Slate V editor Andy Bowers

Medium-Message Match  Downgrades for inane video fad-mongering; upgrades for content best conveyed by video rather than another medium.

Video significantly improves the print features Bushisms, Advertising Report Card, Bad Movies and Damned Spot. But the vid version of Dear Prudence–a high-IQ upgrade of Dear Abby with a wavering layer of faux-upperclass irony–fails as video. As a epistolary Q/A, its ideal form is print. And it’s great in print. But the video version is a classic medium-message mismatch. Score: 4 out of 5 rabbit ears

Respect for users’ time and attention Upgrades for tight editing; downgrades for excessive length and production incontinence.  

About half the videos abide by the [hereby proclaimed] best practice of holding Web video to under 2 minutes, except under extraordinary circumstances. There are too many 4- to 6-minute presentations that don’t earn their precious seconds. The recent Bad Movies: Kid Flicks Pt 1 is spittle-on-the-screen hilarious, but at 5:16 it’s at least a minute too long. The 4:16 Google Earth Downside (a satire whose comedy is undercut by the acknowledged fact that Google Earth images are not live) is at least 90 seconds too long. Score: 3 out of 5 rabbit ears

Commercial Time-Suck Upgrades for space- and time-efficient ad presentation; downgrades for tedious, excessive commercials that cannot be avoided.

Slate V currently has a single sponsor, a foreign automaker. Each video presents a silent 5-second ad, followed by a 3-second, beautifully executed Slate V logo-dance. But the latter is more annoying. Users may indulge ads, since they understand, at least dimly, that they pay the bills. But 3 seconds for self-promotion is hard to forgive.  Score: 4 out of 5 rabbit ears 

Innovation Upgrades for inventive use of the video medium; downgrades for pack-trailing production habits. 

Please Watch Media Curves: Contrite Cardinal. It presents a clip of Cardinal Roger M. Mahony apologizing on behalf of the Catholic church after the recent $660 million settlement with victims over abuse charges. While the clip plays, 400 viewers provided real-time feedback assessing his sincerity. A bar chart of results follows the clip; the gap between Catholic and Protestant viewers is remarkable, as is the pattern that shows when the Cardinal’s perceived sincerely rises and falls as he speaks. Maybe I don’t get around enough, but I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a more original and brilliant use of video. Score: 5 out of 5 rabbit ears

Net score for Slate V: 4 out of V (oops, I mean 5) rabbit ears

Explore posts in the same categories: UsabilityTube Reviews, video

One Comment on “Introducing The Weekly UsabilityTube Review: Slate V”


  1. […] back the serious task here of critiquing the 24/7 video, using the format established last week in this space. […]


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