Video Journalism will save newspapers in 2009

January 15th, 2009 by Dave Leave a reply »

In the past twelve months we’ve seen the amount of people watching online video go through the roof. But, unlike the YouTube boom that potentially signalled the end for professional journalism (citizen this, citizen that!), this new round of video habits has one crucial factor: length.

The success of the BBC iPlayer has shown that people are prepared to watch video online for a long time. Half an hour or more. And, in the same way the blogs took off once people were used to writing and conversing on the web, I believe that long-form online video will have a similar such boom, where masses consider half an hour spent watching something on their PC a good use of their time.

What’s more, sites such as the brilliant Vimeo show the eagerness of viewers to lap up some full-screen, HD-quality stuff. There’s no sitting around for big downloads, or trying to keep your eyes strained on an awful, grainy clip so tiny you could put a stamp over it.

Video journalism has finally come of age.

As I write this, the Guardian has no less than three pieces of video on its homepage. The NYTimes led with video earlier today — and has a HUGE video section. So too does the Telegraph. Soon, I’ll predict we’ll see video blossoming into the primary content on newspaper sites. Lead headlines always complimented with a video.

Why? Because for the reader, it’s easily digestible, engaging and interesting.

But more importantly, for the publisher, it could prove to be the money-maker they have long been searching for

Many have written about David Carr’s ludicrious statements suggesting an ‘iTunes for news’. Most are saying it’ll never work — and I agree. Why pay to read news on NYTimes, when I can read the same news in the LA Times? Or the Chicago Tribune? Or ANYWHERE?

But wait a second. What if there was a way to make your news better than everyone else? What if there was a way you could cover the same stories, but cover them so well and in such a way that people come flocking to your site; not because they can’t read it in other places, but because they really want to get your coverage.

Video journalism offers this chance. It doesn’t allow for lifted quotes, for recycled copy or for blind churnalism. It promotes good, inventive journalism.

And the reward? Advertising. Loads of it. Think of it like this: When I was in New Zealand, I regularly logged on to the BBC website to catch up. Of course, being abroad, I got BBC.com, the international, advertising-laden edition. When clicking to watch a short (<30 seconds) clip, I was presented with an advert.

I clicked away. The advert was almost as long as the clip.

But on the other hand, when I’m at home, I watch a lot of 4-on-demand, Channel 4’s catch-up service. Before and during the show, there’ll be adverts a plenty. Do I turn away? No! Because in a half an hour show, two minutes of adverts is more than acceptable. Just like in traditional media, it’s all about ratio. 30 min programme = 1 break. 1 hour programme = 3 breaks. A film = 30 minutes of trailers. Or more if you go to Cineworld.

Video journalism finally solves all the problems:

- How to stay unique — no-one has your pictures

- How to save money — no big production projects here, folks. One man, a camera and a laptop

- How to make money — people don’t mind watching adverts when it comes to long content

In time I’ll be posting my plans for how I aim to get stuck in to video journalism. I drawing inspiration from the likes of David Dunkley Gyimah, and hopefully by utilising my job at the BBC as a means for getting training an experience.

Over the next year, me and a friend will be testing the water. Baby steps, if you will, with the aim of selling two pieces of video journalism to the world’s press. Two isn’t a big number, but it idoesn’t make it any less of a task. All in good time.

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17 comments

  1. Nice post Dave. You said:

    Video journalism finally solves all the problems:

    - How to stay unique — no-one has your pictures

    - How to save money — no big production projects here, folks. One man, a camera and a laptop

    - How to make money — people don’t mind watching adverts when it comes to long content

    And I totally agree. There is opportunity there, for sure.

    What worries me still, though, is whether it will work so well on a local level. I have the sneaking suspicion that local news is forever loosing readers and all the video in the world won’t make a difference. But I could well be wrong. This transition phase from largely print to online AND print is going to painful/interesting/revealing. I am a NCTJ student at the moment and really worried that there just won’t be the jobs out there for me on local rags…I am blabbering…good post and good blog dude.

  2. I still think there’s a while to go before everyone’s entirely comfortable with long online video. Most people will need to get shiny widescreen monitors first, and for anyone living in Hull there’s no hope while the KC monopoly ensures we all have crap broadband speeds!
    But you’re totally right-VJing is on the verge of becoming something more potent. My only worry with it being the saving grace of newspapers is that most papers are just giving their reporters cameras. They’ve had some training, but you just got to look at the videos on, for example, the Hull Daily Mail website, and there’s a long way to go before they get watchable.

    Good luck with your project-I’m just getting some kit together myself with a similar plan in mind. Here’s to 2009 being the VJ year!

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