Expert Eye: Video use is now central to online publishing

At CNET Networks UK, the past 18 months have seen a dramatic shift in the way we treat video content across our sites. On both our consumer and business brands, our video offering has shifted from being a supplement to text and images, to being a central part of our content strategy.

This positioning of video content as an integral part of a publisher’s arsenal was reflected in the best use of video nominees for this year’s Association of Online Publishers Awards – a new face mixing with a number of familiar on and offline brands.

Video Jug‘s community-based how-to guides use a mixture of professionally produced video content and user-submitted content. A video-based ‘guide for life”, Video Jug presents short tutorials on everything from making the perfect floral centrepiece for a dinner party to the world’s best banana trick. It’s a compelling site that lays out its video guides in a clear format with accompanying text instructions. There are many sites trying to corner the Q+A on the the web (Yedda and Grupthink are two new additions to the market), but few have done it as attractively and simply as Video Jug.


It’s no surprise to see that the remainder of the AOP Awards’ nominees are familiar faces from the world of on and offline publishing and broadcast. We all know the success the BBC has had with its online strategy, but it was impressive for the AOP to single out the Get Cooking BBC microsite, which I use regularly and that sets out to do one thing well – short video recipes presented by some of the channel’s flagship cooking personalities. It’s a perfect example of a traditional broadcaster using its resources to create original video content that’s compelling and suitable for the online environment, without treading on the toes of its long-form programming. The other traditional broadcaster nomination was BSkyB’s Sky News site. While I use the site on a regular basis, its attempts at online video news are below the mark when compared to the BBC. For example, simply repurposing offline headlines in five-minute chunks does not necessarily make the most of the online environment and I’d like to see Sky stretching its legs a little and exploring the possibilities of the format more.

Traditional print publishers also made an impact in this year’s awards with three nominees of varying degrees of success. Guardian Unlimited‘s advertising feature with Zurich – ‘House of the Future’– is a slickly produced online documentary that examines the future of building designs and boasts an incredible level of production values. It proves the point that commercially instigated content doesn’t have to be dry, dull or unengaging.

The Business Show, by The Telegraph Media Group, struggles with the age-old question: how do you present business news content in a way that cuts through its inherently dry nature to engage an audience? The Telegraph’s slightly curious response to this conundrum is to have an uncomfortably stiff journalist reading out the headlines, while dramatic Eighties’ news stings imply distinctly lacking drama. I thought we’d left this type of content behind, along with Real Player and attempts to stream video at 56k.

Telegraph: The Business Show

And so we come to this year’s winner: The Sun Online. It has successfully translated its populist appeal to the web with a simple layout and a broad implementation of video. With more than 44 channels and 80 per cent of content either filmed or exclusively acquired for the site, it’s clear that The Sun is taking online video very seriously and is making it central to its offering both on and offline.

The Sun Online

Take the release on the site of the US Friendly Fire video,, which was linked to across the world by various media organisations and generated almost a million views in days. This commitment to exclusive online content, as well as the most successful implementation of ‘citizen journalism’I’ve seen to date, demonstrates that The Sun not only understands how to use online video but makes it work for its audience.

That’s the key. We can shout about how ‘content is king”, but when it comes down to it, it’s not just how slick, professional or well-produced our content is, it’s how relevant, useful or engaging it is for our specific audience.

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