4 min read

Business Insider Head of Video Talks Pitching on Storyhunter, Tips For Video Journalists

On the third episode of season four of The Rough Cut, Storyhunter co-founder Alex Ragir met up with Erica Berenstein, head of video for…
Business Insider Head of Video Talks Pitching on Storyhunter, Tips For Video Journalists

On the third episode of season four of The Rough Cut, Storyhunter co-founder Alex Ragir met up with Erica Berenstein, head of video for BITV, the newly launched video arm of Business Insider. Erica, who previously worked at The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times as a video journalist, spoke with Alex about the evolution of video journalism, pitching story ideas to Business Insider via Storyhunter, how to craft a winning video pitch and how to improve your story structure.

On the go? Listen to the full interview on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Play, and wherever you listen to your shows!

Below are edited highlights of the conversation:

Mistakes Are Rarely One Person’s Fault

“I read in a cheesy management book that my boss told me to read, that the couples that stay together the longest, when one person does something that upsets the other, they’ll give the most generous explanation in their mind of why their spouse did that. Because very often, mistakes are a result of a miscommunication. That’s very helpful because whether I’m working with a Storyhunter or I’m working with Claire who’s behind the camera, very often if something doesn’t work, it’s probably partially my fault. It’s partially your fault. And it’s not about what went wrong. It’s about how you solve it and move forward.”

Bring Passion and Excitement to Every Task

“This is the cheesiest thing ever but I love hiring team players. They know that sometimes they’ll be working on their own passion project, but they’re just as excited to work on a project that never would’ve interested them, and they jump right in and they just go full force on it. I always, to a fault, work on a project like it’s a passion project. Even if it’s super boring and I hate it, I can’t let go of it until it’s as good as I would make it if I loved it. You need people like that. If it’s your story and you need me to jump in and throw your transcripts into the computer, great. If that person isn’t happy to help you, that’ll just make your job harder.”

Know How To Structure a Story

“Just be really good at story structure, whether you’re only shooting or only editting or only writing. Whether you are the creative lead on the project and you’re structuring the story, or you’re the editor and you say to the producer, ‘Hey, what if we put this here instead of here?’ or that there’s a line missing that could help answer the overall question. Anyone who can contribute and help make the storytelling better, that’s going to be the same no matter what the medium is.”

A Good Pitch Briefly Explains The Big Idea

“The top of a pitch should be: why is this a video and not a podcast, and what’s the story. In two or three sentences max, what’s the big idea? Our editor-in-chief Nich always asks ‘What’s the big idea behind this?’ which is basically the ‘Why now?’ or ‘So what?’ of a story. You can find me a great anecdote or a great individual story, but is this person one of many? Are they indicative of a trend? Is there some kind of big idea as to why you’re telling me this particular story?”

You Need To Satisfy Customers Beyond the Paywall

“A lot of the video that will go behind our paywall is meant to complement the other niche stuff that we have whether it’s about entrepreneurship, finance or areas where you have a highly interested audience. The big thing where we work really hard on our paywall is that once someone pays to cross it, we want to make sure they’re really happy when they get there. And so a lot of it is not necessarily that you want to pay for this video, but if you’re a paying subscriber, we’re providing a great video product that is just for you.”

Creating Video Is About More Than Just Getting Views

“I feel like I’m seeing a little less text on screen, less stuff that is just ‘clicky-grabby’ with nothing behind it. I think places are trying to, everyone was trying to do thoughtful stuff and then tried to get a ton of clicks. Now in general, whether it’s Wall Street Journal, New York Times, Business Insider, everyone’es trying to make sure that what they’re producing delivers on the promise that you get when you see the headline. When you see a great thumbnail and you click on it, you don’t want to get there and after three seconds think this is not what I thought it was gonna be. This isn’t interesting. This is not compelling.’ It’s about more than just pulling people in. It’s about getting people to stay there.”

Previous episodes of The Rough Cut:

Season Four:

Noah Mallin, Head of Content & Experience, Wavemaker

Jason Xenopoulos, New York CEO & North American CCO, VMLY&R

Season Three:

Riyaad Minty, Director of Digital, TRT

Stacey Grier, Chief Marketing Officer, The Clorox Company

Alan Schulman, Chief Creative Officer, Deloitte Digital

Jeffrey Wisenbaugh, Head of Content, Instagram (Part 2)

Jeffrey Wisenbaugh, Head of Content, Instagram (Part 1)

Kate Whitney, Director of Digital, Pernod Ricard

Charlie Chappell, Head of Integrated Media, The Hershey Company

Season Two:

David Weinstock, Chief Creative Officer, RF|Binder

Bonin Bough, Founder & CEO, Bonin Ventures

Mary Kate McGrath, Chief Content Officer, Gallery Media Group

Barri Rafferty, President & CEO, Ketchum

Stacy Minero, Global Head of Content Creation, Twitter

Ari Halper, Chief Creative Officer, FCB New York

Mickey Meyer, President of Network, Group Nine Media

Season One:

Courtney Coupe, VP of Content, Great Big Story

Stone Roberts, VP of Global Video Strategy, Refinery29

Jason Beauregard, Head of Studio, VaynerMedia

Zahra Rasool, Editorial Lead, Contrast VR

Warren Cohen, Head of Video, New York Post

Greg Gilderman, Global Head of Video and Editor-in-Chief, Weather Channel

Jamie Bolding, Founder and CEO, Jungle Creations

Craig Duff, Video Journalism Professor, Northwestern’s Medill School of Journalism

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By Jake Watkins, Head of Stories