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Quality Journalism in the Digital Age

Tow Center study focuses on video journalism

Video NowOnline news video continues to rapidly grow, but how are newsrooms producing video? What formats are working? How important is mobile and social media? And what is the return on investment in allocating staff and resources to produce video journalism?

A new report, Video Now: The Form, Cost, and Effect of Video Journalism, produced by Professor Duy Linh Tu, of Columbia University’s Tow Center for Digital Journalism, has examined the video production of several American newspapers and online media organisatons.

It’s well worth watching the whole report.

The responses from producers and editors are both candid and insightful, especially regarding time and staff required to produce video and the number of views their pieces attract.

The report is divided into separate chapters that explore video produced at newspapers, digital media outlets such as Mashable and NowThis News and long format video journalism producers such as Vice, Frontline and MediaStorm.

A number of quotes in the report stood out.

Mashable’s Bianca Consunji spoke about producing fun and shareable video to attract high user clicks/views that in turn subsidize the journalism that her colleagues want to do.

“The best way to get more views is to get people to react to it. It’s something that they could either relate to, something that they feel is important that they should share with their friends. And I think that’s really the direction of video right now; it’s about social sharing.”

OnMedia has previously looked at the trend of producing news video for mobile platforms such as Instagram.
Steven Belser of NowThis News sums up why they concentrate on producing for video content for smartphones:

“We wanted to create a product that lived on the platforms that everyone lived on. And so it was targeted for your mobile devices, it was made specifically for the consumer who is kind of on the go. And I think we assessed the landscape and we found that the content that really performs well on those products is short, and it’s to the point.”

And while producing short online video is something we hear a lot about, it’s encouraging to hear how media organizations such as MediaStorm and Vice have clearly demonstrated that quality long form video has a huge online audience.

Vice’s Shane Smith says:

“People want to watch longform video. They don’t want to watch things that are two minutes long. They want to watch things that are 20 minutes long or an hour long.”

Lessons learned

And while this study focuses on US media organizations, it offers some very useful recommendations that could be applied or adapted to newspapers and online media outlets in other countries that are producing web and mobile video.

These include:

– Online video news producers should meet and share their knowledge and experience in dedicated conferences;
– People consume news by subject not by the medium. Video should accompany other content rather than stand alone in a video section;
– Newsrooms should think about producing both long and short videos;
– New viewers should be attracted and engaged through social media such Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Vine;
– Newsrooms should try a two team approach to producing video. For example, reporters can shoot and send video with smartphones, while trained VJ’s can produce more sophisticated video stories.

Importantly, the report reminds us that online news video is still evolving.

“It is still early, and video has not reached maturity. This is a great time to experiment. The technology costs are low. The potential continues to grow, and there is no clear leader yet in the field.”

Along with the Video Now report, the Tow Center also hosted a panel discussion The State of Video earlier this week.

Author: Guy Degen


Tuesday 2014-04-15