In an interview with the New Musical Express 8th December 2007, Thom Yorke talked about the recording of this song about a dying man saying goodbye to loved ones on old-fashioned videotape: 'We would have these days where there were big breakthroughs and then suddenly... no. 'Videotape' to me was a big breakthrough, we tried everything with it. One day I came in and decided it was going to be like a fast pulse-like a four to the floor thing and everything was going to be built from that. We threw all this stuff at it. But then a couple of months later I went out and came back and Jonny and (the producer) Nigel Godrich had stripped it back. He had this bare bones thing, which was amazing'.

Thom Yorke expanded on the recording of this song in an interview with Mojo Magazine February 2008: 'We were looking for something that had a real effect on us, an emotional impact, and that happened when we were doing 'Videotape' and I was semi kicked out of the studio for being a negative influence. Stanley (Donwood who did the album's artwork) and I came back a bit worse for wear at about 11 in the evening and Jonny and Nigel had done this stuff to it that reduced us both to tears. It completely blew my mind. They'd stripped all the nonsense away that I'd been piling onto it, and what was left was this quite pure sentiment'.

This song was used by the British charity Shelter to soundtrack one of their commercials. The campaign was titled after another Radiohead song, 'House of Cards'. It was the first time that the band had allowed one of their tracks to appear in an UK advert, however the band have also donated music for the National Coalition for the Homeless ads in America.

In July 2010 Radiohead donated the use of this song to UNICEF's new five-year initiative Put It Right, which aims to provide children worldwide with schooling, clean water and health care.