Photography vs. video vs. text vs. interactive content

At Orbitist, we produce a lot of multimedia for our clients. Each piece of content requires costs in the form of production time, and benefits that are measured in traction with audiences.

We decided it would be a good idea to conduct an experiment that looks at the cost-benefit ratio of creating different types of multimedia content. The charts below represent our initial hypotheses regarding various mediums and estimating cost-benefits on a scale of 1 to 5. 

Over the coming months, we'll be collecting data from all of our projects to prove or disprove these assumptions.

Let's start with some definitions:

Production (cost): Resources spent on anything related to the initial capture of the content. We assume that research is complete and we know what the subject is we're capturing.

Post-production (cost): Resources spent on anything related to editing or preparation of content before it is published to an audience.

Consumption (benefit): This is a measurement of average levels of audience engagement per content type.

Stickiness (benefit): A measurement of how well the content type tends to settle into the minds of or has intended impact on audiences.


Old fashioned still-photography is a trusted go to.

Photography, in our initial (albeit anecdotal) analysis, was a real winner. We feel that the cost and speed to produce photography mixed with its high share-levels and lightweight file size make it a strong medium to invest in. We also feel that when audiences see a photo, they will often 'get it' right away.

Photography on its own does have its weaknesses. A photo will usually only scratch the surface of a topic (there are obviously exceptions), leaving a mild impact on the audience. That's why we feel that photography mixed with other media types is best.

Highly Produced Video

Video production that involves a mix of professional equipment, multiple team members, interview subjects, and many hours of editing.

We hear a lot about the importance of video. But when you look at it through the lens of a cost to benefit analysis, it becomes clear that it shouldn't always be the first choice for communicating a message. Produced video is expensive and requires a lot of resources to create. It can also be less accessible than photography. Where a photo is consumed almost instantly, a video requires more audience attention.

With that said, if you have audience buy-in and stickiness is the top priority, video is by far the most effective content type that we are looking at.

Short-form Video

Video that basically comes straight out of a camera (or cellphone) and onto the web. It might have slight modifications like time-warping, color-correction, basic audio etc., but the emphasis is on speed-to-launch.

Shorter-form types of video have much better cost-benefit ratios than produced video in our model. Short, aesthetic clips of video shared on their own as 'motion photography,' often autoplaying with minimal sound, scored very high in levels of engagement and audience impact. Short-form video is also relatively cheap to produce.

Like photography, short-form video is best when paired with other multimedia.

Written word

Any kind of written content that presents complex ideas. This includes blog posts and articles.

Blog posts and articles take time to produce and are the least engaging in our opinion. But like longer video, they are very sticky when audiences are bought into the topic.


Content that has an interactive component, like interactive maps and data visualizations .

We are extremely interested in interactive content. The trick with interactives is the initial investment into the technology behind them. Staff must understand the tools, relevant data, etc. for creating interactive content. Once the tools and templates are in place, interactives can be produced very efficiently.

We think that interactive components have a 'flash factor' to them which makes them very sharable. Better understanding comes with the audience participating in the content, making interactives very sticky.

The main issue with interactive content is that there are no mature channels for publishing them. When shared on social media, interactives appear the same way articles are presented, as opposed to photography, text, and video, which are presented natively on social channels.

We are working on ways of optimizing interactive content for current social media platforms.

The Takeaway

Our initial hypothesis suggests that short-form, visual content, and interactives have strong cost-benefit ratios. We think that when combined, these types of media will lead to highly sharable and impactful storytelling.

We are interested in your input! Do you have data that can backup these hypotheses? Have you experienced something to the contrary to this initial analysis? Feel free to agree or disagree with us! Please leave a comment or get in touch with us.