• Writing Descriptions for Media

    An introduction by David Knox

    Writing a description for media is an odd thing. Although the internet is awash with visual and sound resources, it’s searches have a heavy bias towards the written media. At present, it’s (almost) impossible to search within an item of media, be that sound, photography or video. We then depend on text to describe it.


    As with most media production, producing your pre-production is always concerned with the who, where, what, when and how of the production. These questions in planning, are also exceedingly important when distributing your content afterwards.  You need to know who your subject is, what they will talk about, where the interview will be held etc.  These things will go a long way to describing your media. No matter the site you’re submitting to, or the type of content, the vast majority of these rules apply.


    The major search engines all work in a very similar matter.  They search for valuable content and their criteria for what is deemed valuable, is very similar and simple. They will want, and as a result you will want your content to be well ordered and well formatted.  You want the sentences to be short and legible (see Flesch-Kincaid readability test).  And start at the start.


    The most valuable information for search engines is at the beginning; the title, the first sentence, the first paragraph.  The focus of the description should be mentioned in these and throughout the body of the text.  The focus of your media should also be the focus of your description.


    Writing a Title for a Media Description


    Often when titling a piece of art or media, there can be a tendency to write the title in an abstract or ethereal manner, describing a sense of the piece rather than the content itself.  If you think of film titles, often they have no direct descriptive relationship to the content of the film.  For the purposes of search, unless someone knows exactly what they are searching for, these are largely useless.


    The focus of the media should be clearly outlined in the title.  The title will be considered, by most searches, as the most important signifier of what the content is.  If your piece is on interculturalism, the syrian conflict or whatever this should be contained within the title.  Put yourself in the mind of the searcher.  How do you connect your audience with your media and what will they be looking for?  Always be: think of the who, what, where, when etc.


    If the media is part of a series, put the series name in the title. If it is part of a larger event, add that also.  Connect your media to other media items by relating themes, events etc.  Ask yourself, what will people who are interested in your content be looking for? Theoretically your title can be as long as you like, at least as long as the word count that is imposed by the site you are using.  In the case of a title, attention should be paid to how the results are listed.  If we take the example of Youtube: you will notice that when results are listed, if the title is longer than 60 characters (give or take) with spaces, the title then becomes clipped.  If your title is longer than that limit, order the title with the most valuable information for the viewer first.


    Writing the Description


    When writing the description of media, reiterate the key points that are used in the title: the focus of your media.  If the characters that appear in the piece are renowned in their field, use their name, their title or their area of expertise as it relates to the piece.  Mention the key points that are raised within the piece.  It is not uncommon for almost entire transcriptions to appear within a description.


    To increase the likeliness of being found, your description should hammer home whatever the focus of the media is.  In search engine optimization terms, the density of your keyword focus can be very important.  If we take for example the focus of your piece is interculturalism, you will want to mention this word in your title and in your description.  For the purpose of this example, the word ‘interculturalism’ is the focus of your piece and thusly the ‘Focus Keyword’.  Keyword density should be 1-3%.  Less than that and search will not consider your piece as being about interculturalism, any more than 3% and search engines can consider your piece as spam.  It will assume that you are attempting to cheat the system.  The focus of your description should also relate to the title so there is coherency between the two.


    Always keep in mind the focus of your media and relate that to your description.  Repeat that word or phrase.  Always keep in mind the who, what, where, when etc. and think then of how people will find you.

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