Interview With Video Communications Entrepreneur Michael Skigen: YouTube, Consumers, Vampires


It started as a way to preserve family memories; 25 years later Videofiles is a full-fledged media production company founded by Michael Skigen. In his interview with WashingtonExec, Skigen explained how and why social media through online video popularity is fueling the non-advertising business model as well as what the fastest growing sector is in his business: live event streaming. Naturally Skigen provided some powerful arguments as to why every business and corporation must incorporate video into their marketing and outreach plan.

WashingtonExec also asked Skigen what his oddest video request was…it involved black and white vampires.

WashingtonExec: What led you to work in video and run your own business?

Michael Skigen: I have been in the video business since the mid-1980s.  I think the catalyst was that my mother must have taken over a million pictures of us (my brother and me) and we needed a way to safeguard all those memories.  We started Videofiles as a home movie and photo to VHS transfer service.  In the late 80s and early 1990s we transitioned to a commercially oriented video duplication company.  As technology emerged and our client based expanded, Videofiles has grown into a full service video production and post production company, providing our clients with services that range from live and on demand streaming to video editing to translations and closed captioning.  When we started we were really preserving memories, now we are helping business of all kinds and sizes tell their stories, reach bigger and broader audiences and achieve measurable results.

WashingtonExec: What do you think has had the biggest impact on the video industry?

Michael Skigen: Clearly the Internet has had a huge impact on the industry.  Organizations of all sizes are taking advantage of the Internet to use video as a tool to communicate with customers, employees and stakeholders.  Early on, bandwidth limitations prevented high quality video from being delivered over the Internet, but now that broadband is almost universal (at least in our country), companies now have the ability to deliver near HD quality video over the Internet.  Live event streaming is the fastest growing segment of our business.

As technology continues to advance, new (non-advertising) business models are emerging and the convergence of video and social media is starting to explode. Leveraging the power of video and the reach of social networking is allowing our customers to reach new audiences, expand services and achieve business objectives in new and more effective ways.

WashingtonExec: Why should a small business or large corporation be interested in working with this type of media?

Michael Skigen: Video is one of the best communications tools available for organizations to effectively communicate with their audiences.  There are several benefits of using video in today’s business climate.  Video is engaging and viewers can relate to the content much better than they can an email or PowerPoint presentation.  Using video on your website can enhance search engine rankings and help organizations meet their business objectives more effectively.  Using video helps your prospective clients get to know you better without you having to be present physically. Customers tend to want to know a little more about you and your organization before they agree to meet with you in person.  An effective video presentation can literally help open doors.

We always start our new engagements by asking what business objectives our clients are hoping to achieve (increased sales or membership, internal efficiency, grass roots awareness, etc.) then we help them create or perfect their message and utilize the best delivery methods to achieve their goals.

WashingtonExec: How has changed the outlook or requests of your clientele at VideoFiles?

Michael Skigen: We actually have a funny story related to YouTube.  Several years ago, we had a client tell us the quality of our work was too professional looking and asked if we could “Dumb it down” for YouTube.  I think what he was saying, at the time, was that the YouTube viewer demographic was young, had a short attention span and was looking for entertainment value over content.

YouTube has always been a free service relying on advertising to offset its costs.  Clients initially flocked to YouTube for two reasons.  First, the price was right and companies trying to get involved with Internet video could do so with little or no financial risk.  Second, for a while, it was the only game in town. Now that online video platforms have matured and new business models have been tested and implemented, our clients are looking to us to help create similar functionality but with the added benefits of protecting and strengthening their own brand versus promoting the YouTube brand.  Additionally, expectations on quality have come back and professionally produced video is as important as ever.

WashingtonExec: What has been your strangest or most unique request?

Michael Skigen: One of the best things about our business is that we get unique requests all the time.  There are two that stand out.  Last year we were asked by a customer to help them create a 3D version of a 1920s black and white vampire movie.  It was a fun project and the client has sold 1000’s of copies.  The 2nd unique request was that we reformat a promotional video that was to be shown on the big screen in Times Square.  It’s not as easy as it sounds because the big screen is vertically oriented and normal screens have horizontal aspect ratios.

Videofiles has a diversified client base, from associations and non-profits, to government agencies and Fortune 500 companies, and the one constant across all of the markets we serve is that there really is no limit to what can accomplished using Video as a business tool.

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