The Independent Adds Video. Why?

We know the web blurs traditional media boundaries – broadcasters do text, radio does pictures, newspapers do video.

But sometimes those doing the doing forget to ask why?

Take the Independent’s tie-up with the Press Association. The deal provides the paper with over 100 90-second clips a week, each focusing on a single news item.

Jimmy Leach, editorial director for digital at The Independent, describes the deal thus:

“The Press Association’s expertise in providing quality news video quickly and professionally will give our video service some real immediacy and depth.”

No doubt PA makes high quality video and, yes, the deal may provide real immediacy on occasion. But depth? In 90 seconds of coverage? I’m not convinced.

If a newspaper is going to do video (or audio for that matter) it should:

  1. add value
  2. reflect its personality / agenda

I’m not sure the PA tie-up provides the Indy with either.

Why would those reading the text of a story be inclined to click the play button? Only if there’s a some killer footage in the piece (Lord Mandelson getting gunged, protesters on the streets of Tehran, Obama swatting a fly to name three random water cooler events).

In which case, why not just show that? 

The truth is most stories aren’t picture-led – producers scrabbling around for library shots to illustrate the latest interest rate decision or select committee report can vouch for that.

So in the majority of cases the paper is asking readers of a 500-word article to click and watch 90 seconds of video consisting of a 270-word script, at most, and some ‘wallpaper’ images.

If you want to watch high quality news analysis on video there are other sources including, dare I say it, from my former employer. And if you want water cooler there’s YouTube.

There’s definitely a gap for providing Indy-style reporting in video form. Unfortunately, this isn’t it.

(Kind of) related:
Five Ways News Organisations Should Use Twitter
 – The Guardian, Daily Telegraph and BBC: Lessons in Crowdsourcing
 – Scarcity, Abundance And The Misapprehension Of Online Advertising

9 thoughts on “The Independent Adds Video. Why?”

  1. Too true. There’s a lot of trade title “webinar” stuff that seems redundant, too, expect that it provides media owners with a revenue stream and marketing budget-holders with another line in the all-important “web activities” section.

    If it’s visual, it needs pictures and maybe video. If it’s verbal, sound will do. For everything else, words are cheaper for the producer and quicker for the consumer.

  2. I think you’re right to some degree, and maybe fully in this example. But I think sometimes you should applaud experiments, even if there’s no real justification behind them. I think the industry has, in a long time, been too analytic and too scared to just do stuff. I don’t think you always need a proper reason to try something new.

  3. Kasper, I buy your Just Do It argument. And the Independent is absolutely right to experiment with video. But when you’ve got a stable of highly talented journalists why not work out how you can use their expertise (Robert Fisk on the Middle East, Steve Richards on Westminster etc)?

  4. …especially with the prevalence of high-quality, low-cost, small-size cameras. I know many TV hacks resent having to be available all the time for live uplinks, and TV-broadcast-quality equipment is often bulky. But imagine Fisk using a Flip Ultra HD to capture a demonstration or simply local colour to accompany a feature piece on life in Damascus. It needn’t be much extra work, but would be far more worthwhile than 90 seconds – which would have to be edited – of an interview he’d done that might be better summarised as copy. And it’s stuff that might be lengthy (and perhaps even boring) to read as a description.

    Or, to put it far more succintly: horses for courses.

  5. As you say, the key is the value that the footage (see how old I am – still thinking in terms of film or tape) adds to the content. I’m perplexed at the vogue for sites such as the BBC’s creating slideshows for example. Mostly they add nothing to the narration, which would be easier read than watched.

    Can newspaper sites add video in a meaningful way? Only if when I’m reading something I think “what does that look like?”. If you’re describing something in 3D but have only words and 2D images for example. Weirdly, product reviews would make a more compelling case for video-based content than a lot of newspaper coverage.

    And while the prevalence of cheap, pocketable digital cameras means it’s easy to shoot video material, it doesn’t mean the material is worth watching. Creating compelling video content in 90-second slugs that’s fit for small screen viewing is tough. Sounds to me like a whole new module in the journalism BA…

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s