If you don’t believe web video is having an impact on journalism, just ask John Sweeney.
But it’s not just Panorama reporters embarrassed by YouTube (9) who are waking up to the fact that moving digital pictures are going to play a huge part in the way their new world works.
For the majority of print journalists, this means a fundamental reassessment of our working lives.
It’s an exciting time, and for most journalism businesses it’s all about experimentation. Some experiments are working better than others.
The nationals are really beginning to hit their stride and, particularly on setpiece news events, starting to show some imaginative use of video and Flash interactivity. There was plenty of video around on the day of Tony Blair’s resignation announcement, but I’d pick The Guardian’s (2) and The Times’s (1) interactive timeline (although it was rather short on video content) as the best of the bunch. This more creative approach to how video can be presented as part of a new storytelling structure is surely the way forward for journalism on the web.
The Telegraph has been having fun with its video content, and the FT (3) is quietly going about building an impressive amount of video – although much of it is sourced in the States. Its Daily View video converts its print pundits into video pundits (with varying degrees of success), and the paper has gone the extra mile with its View from the Top series of chief executive interviews by also providing full transcripts to get over one of video’s inherent weaknesses – searchability.
But for really sticky video content, there’s only one winner among the nationals. Yes, it’s The Sun’s Dear Deidre (4) in full cheesy digital glory. Fingers crossed that Cliff gets his cross-dressing under control soon.
In the regions, most newspaper groups are now spending significant sums training staff, and the results are only just starting to filter through.
One of the initial reactions has been to follow the grammar and style of television news bulletins. At the most basic level, this means little more than a reporter reading out headlines from the day’s paper while the newsroom clatters away in the background – although The Belfast Telegraph (7) has taken the TV bulletin model to impressive heights.
But now, The Lancashire Evening Post’s much-vaunted multimedia newsroom is starting to produce some well-crafted video pieces (10). Others I’d pick out would be the Liverpool Echo (5), the Hull Daily Mail (6), the Yorkshire Post and the Northern Echo.
Good marks must also go to the Westmorland Gazette and the Southern Daily Echo for their efforts to involve readers in video newsmaking.
Less sure is the Birmingham Post & Mail’s video offering, which is labelled as being produced in conjunction with BBC Birmingham, but in truth seems to be a rather baffling collection of videos from YouTube, without much in the way of contextual explanation.
Meanwhile the Eastern Daily Press – which is generally very thoughtful about integrating video into its web stories – can’t be accused of not trying to innovate. Having already sacked its first virtual newsreader, the frankly terrifying Brian, it has brought in a successor, Karena, whose features are based on a reader from Norwich. Unfortunately, she’s almost as frightening as Brian, with her thousand-yard stare and lip-synch technique learned from Milli Vanilli. I’m all for technical experimentation, but not when it keeps children awake at night.
The world of magazines has been surprisingly slow so far to wholeheartedly take the plunge. Although plenty of sites have a “web TV” section, I don’t get the feeling many are really putting it at the front and centre of their plans.
Of those that are, VNU’s Computing (11) is one of the real trailblazers.
Its Roo video player (used also by titles including the Daily Mirror) gives it masses of aggregated video content from sources including Reuters and AP, but it’s also putting its own staff very much in the video frame with innovative web seminars, hot seat interviews and short technology demonstrations.
Of the B2B titles, Media Week also deserves a mention for its high-production-value (and Microsoft-sponsored) studio debates – even if it does go on a bit.
In consumer magazines, FHM’s site (8) is arguably the richest source of video, with various “channels” featuring celebrity interviews and varying degrees of sauce, while both Nuts and Zoo prominently feature women with tattoos rolling about on sofas.
Elsewhere, the New Scientist is experimenting with a more serious weekly video format.
What’s clear is that we’re really only in the foothills with this medium.
Over the coming months and years, stars will be born and reputations made by those who dare to give it a go.