Do you think the media's coverage of investing is misguided? Would you like to find an easy, inexpensive way to get your message to clients that does not involve writing? Would you like to find a way to use your Web site more effectively for marketing? If you answered "yes" to any of these questions, then you need to check out the latest generation of camcorders.

These micro cams may not be great for recording memories of your daughter's wedding or son's bar mitzvah. The picture quality of recordings cannot be compared to handheld high-definition camcorders. They'll display video on a big-screen TV but won't give you anywhere near the clarity of a conventional camcorder. But they are inexpensive ($100 to $150) and smaller than a pack of cigarettes. Most important, they record MPEGs, and that makes it a cinch to upload your recordings to your own Web site. These mini-camcorders are perfect for creating your own video blog, or, as the digerati say, "vlog."

If you think cable TV already has too many channels and still read TV listings in the newspaper, then just throw your remote control at the wall right now because just about anyone can have his own TV show by using one of these gadgets. And if you're an advisor with a friendly, engaging manner, this is the opportunity you've been waiting for to leverage the Internet smartly.

Vlogging is not new. But slow Internet connections kept video from being commonly used on the Web in the late 1990s. And even when high-speed connections became widespread by 2001, 2002 and 2003, uploading a video from conventional camcorders was still a technological challenge. So using the Web for distributing videos had largely been limited to geeks and businesses that hire professional production companies. Converting videos was a hassle and producing professional videos was expensive.

YouTube changed all that. Founded in February 2005 by three former employees of PayPal, the ubiquitous Internet payment processor, YouTube takes converted video files that can easily be downloaded, buffered and streamed over the Web. YouTube made it easy for anyone to upload content. Innumerable unforgettable moments have been etched into the nation's psyche as a result-including the androgynous Britney Spears fan screaming, "Leave Britney alone"; the sultry "Obama Girl" singing, "I Got A Crush On You"; and the 2007 Miss South Carolina Teen USA's  incoherent pageant monologue about why some Americans can't locate the U.S. on a world map (in which she concludes that they "don't have maps"). Each of these videos has been viewed tens of millions of times and their "stars" are now cultural icons.

With the advent of inexpensive, easy-to-use mini-camcorders, you can now create your own TV channel on a Web site. When the market plunges 5% in a day, you can create a 60-second or two-minute video telling your clients what you think about the day's news. If, God forbid, terrorists strike a major U.S. city, you can get online that day and put events in perspective. And even if nothing earth-shattering happens and you just want to address your clients quarterly, your vlog could be the perfect vehicle.

Advisors should be good communicators. If you can't articulately convince people of a point, then you'll probably not succeed in this business-unless you partner with a person who will be the "rainmaker" in your firm. If you have the skills to convince people to give you their money to manage, however, then you can probably master the art of vlogging without difficulty.

To create my first vlog, I purchased a Sony NSC-GC1 net-sharing camcorder at Best Buy for $149. I considered purchasing the Flip Video Ultra Series, and that probably would have been fine, too. In fact, it may actually be more convenient because the Flip has a USB connector that pops out of its side, allowing you to connect directly to any computer. However, the Sony GC1 has a 4X digital zoom, whereas the competing Flip Video Ultra has only a 2X zoom, and it has a rechargeable battery, so I won't have to worry about running out of batteries every two hours. In addition, the Sony allows you to record onto a memory stick that plugs into your computer. Since I use a Sony Vaio laptop, the Sony memory stick plugs right into my machine.     If your computer does not have a slot for a Sony stick, you'd need a USB adapter, which costs about $20.
After charging the Sony GC1's battery for two hours, I started recording my first vlog. The camera allows you to flip the 2.4-inch LCD screen around so that you can see yourself while you're recording-a nice feature for vlogging. When you're done, you can't play back your videos on the GC1. To see the video, you must remove the memory stick from the camcorder, insert it into your computer and then play it, or you can use a cable that is supplied with the GC1 and plug it into your computer's USB port. Once it is on your hard drive, you can view it using any video player on your computer. You can also edit it, adding a musical introduction, disclosures and credits advertising your credentials and showing your logo. You can also upload the video to your company's Web site.

After I uploaded my video, I navigated to the site where it was posted and played it. It took under a minute to upload a two-minute vlog, and about ten seconds to begin playing. The file created is an MPEG4, which is an industry standard and automatically compresses and streams to a video file. You are not required to download it and then play it; the video automatically plays and keeps downloading while it is playing.
The picture quality as it appears on the Internet is fantastic, as clear as you could ask for. The color quality was also fine. But I must admit that despite my loveable personality, it was difficult to watch my presentation, and I was very critical of my "uhs" and stumbling. So let me offer you some common-sense tips on creating your own vlogs.

Know your stuff. Before vlogging, write down the major points you want to cover. If you don't have a clear idea of what you want to say, chances are it will come out jumbled. (Just ask Miss South Carolina Teen 2007.) Jot down the key points you want to make.
Don't read. You don't want to read your vlog. If you've ever been to a conference and had a speaker read a presentation, then you know how boring it gets. If you need to write out your vlog word for word beforehand, that's OK. In fact, if you want to take the time to do it, it's great. But don't read it on camera.

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