I've said for as long as I can recall that rules are around for one reason: To dare you to break them. However, after shooting, editing and publishing videos to the internet for nearly fifteen years, these are the ones that I always come back to when deciding if a piece of content is good enough to hold its own out in the wild, and I've never, ever found a way around any of them. So here they are: The Three Cardinal Rules of Internet Video Production.
Don't Waste Anyone's Time
It's a cliche that time is precious, but it's the most important currency on the web. Respect the time that people spend with your content, and understand that your patience is going to be longer for something you made than anyone else will. If a part lags, cut it. Allow moments for thoughts to develop and sink in, but don't overdo it. If you've shown something, you might not need to say it. Don't repeat yourself. Stay on topic, script, rehearse and revise. This doesn't mean that the internet is no place for long form content - I've made my share, and I'm very proud of it. But make the time people spend with your content worthwhile. They'll thank you for it.
Audio Fidelity is More Important than Visual Quality
This is the one I see overlooked the most. With the ubiquitous nature of cellphone videos capturing everything from citizen reporting to cat videos, or expectation of visual fidelity has dropped quite low - and, the quality of accessible video recorders has risen quite a lot in the past few years. Quality audio recording unfortunately hasn't grown along the same curve, and is one of the first indicators of an amateurish production. Spend time and money on microphones appropriate to your production. Think about how audio sounds in your recording room - hang blankets to soften echoes. And be aware of what's happening in the background. Audiences will stick around through rough footage fi the audio is clear. But if you're shooting on a RED camera and recording audio on a GoPro, people will bail.
You Can't Bullshit the Internet
This is the big one - and it's derived from a quote from Gabe Newell, president of Valve, who understands a little bit about how the internet works. The internet is an amazing collection of intelligent, impatient people who love to call out mistakes, misinformation, and bad advice. As a collective, they are smarter than you. This doesn't the information you have to share isn't valuable - to some, it may well be vital. Do your research, take the time to get it right. If you don't know something, just say it, but don't make a false claim. If you think a joke is tired, then it is. It's okay to be wrong, but never lie. Once you poison your own credibility, you'll never claw it back.