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The Times Takes Up Our Kind of Interactive Video

by Whit Andrews  |  January 12, 2014  |  Comments Off on The Times Takes Up Our Kind of Interactive Video

My colleague Adam Preset and I recently mused in research about how, as video gets shorter, organizations must prepare to assemble it in new models — and we chose broccoli and brussels sprouts as our metaphors. Broccoli has branches that branch again and then end; you travel down a broccoli branch and eventually you’ve made choices you can’t back out of easily. Putting lots of little videos together that way is like a configurator — a viewer who makes choices eventually might find the perfect video, but imperfection makes the viewer feel frustrated and trapped in the shrinking fractal prison he grew for himself.

This image brought to you by Steven Lilley, who made it available under the Creative Commons license at flickr.

On the other hand, there’s Brussels sprouts. That’s a somewhat different perspective, where the stalk stretches in one direction, and the sprouts offer brief single diversions off that inexorable progress. We think that model makes more sense for most assemblies of short videos, because as you travel down a definite linear path, the detours you might choose to take don’t ramp you somewhere you can’t get back from. Things feel less final.

Brussels Sprouts Stalk

This image brought to you by Arnold Gatilao, who made it available under the Creative Commons license at flickr.

I was truly delighted to see last week that The New York Times picked a slight variation on the Brussels sprouts model for a very interesting new news delivery model. The “story” (or video, or whatever) is about high-rise buildings in the city and elsewhere.┬áThe story has a linear path, but the viewer can branch out and then return at various designated locations to get more complete or detailed information about particular areas they may be interested in. Perhaps not a Brussels sprout stalk as much as it is cucumber vine, since some branches have more than one segment, but you get the picture. Maybe. (Grape arbor? Work with me.)

The video is delightful. It’s easy and a little quirky, nice matched to its topic (a diagram of it feels a bit like a skyline, not coincidentally) and you can treat it as a sit-back or a lean-forward experience. Oddly, the narration rhymes, although with a rhythm-less spirit that removes it from the realm of the singsong. It’s an excellent model for what informative, and possibly inspirational, video should look and feel like. I imagine it took a significant amount of resources in its conception and possibly also its execution, because it uses some interesting visual tricks like subtle animations of historical imagery. Most organizations could never spend the money that I’m sure it cost more than once a year on executive messaging, but less spiffy efforts are certainly achievable for training and customer service.

How videos will develop is being shaped by consumer behavior daily, and we don’t know how people will react to such art or how that will affect their expectations in their organizations. But consumerization means that such reactions will tell us where to go next.

If you’re a Gartner client, you can find more detail in Enterprise Video Must Be Short, Specific and Searchable to Suit Viewers’ Tastes.


Whit Andrews
VP Distinguished Analyst
14 years at Gartner
18 years IT industry

Whit Andrews is a vice president and distinguished analyst in Gartner Research. Andrews covers enterprise search and enterprise video content management.Read Full Bio

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