Tuesday, January 6, 2009

British Videojournalism Dissected

In-depth research of British videojournalism, carried out by Neil Thurman of City University London’s Department of Journalism, has found that newspaper editors believe that adding video to their websites provides “huge opportunities” to increase revenues as TV ad spending moves online.

The study also found that:

• Online news publishers should embed video at the page level where it can gain up to 20 times more views than if it is only available through a stand-alone player;
• Newspaper editors believe that they have an opportunity to compete with broadcasters in online video because of their access to exclusives and their journalists’ expertise;
• Editors urged journalists to focus on developing skills to allow them to select and edit video to complement their written work;
• Online publishers should focus on creating original video content which proves popular with news audiences.


Web editors have found that video content produced for TV doesn’t work well online, as users prefer ‘real’ and ‘raw’ footage rather than the ‘polished’ type produced by broadcasters.

On the whole, newspapers are very positive about their use of online videos. The only concern was that popular online video stories tended to be “lightweight”, “visual” and “quirky,” fueling worries that the increased prominence given to video will lead to less in-depth coverage and investigative reporting.”

Related findings:

• The BBC’s admission that, despite having offering online video for more than 10 years, for most of that time it had not performed “a very useful function at all”.
• The head of BBC News Interactive thought that some of his colleagues in TV news and newsgathering “didn’t really get” what the News website was doing.
• Online editors were dismissive of the idea of the ‘robo-journo’, and were not convinced that it was possible to be an exemplary journalist in print and video.
• The BBC will be doing “far less video” on their News website than in the past as they seek to bring the “right kind of video” through to the site, video that complements their textual output rather than duplicates it.
• Users are turned off by mid-roll advertising and ads of more than 10-15 seconds.
• Online editors believe that the role of the anchor / presenter is diminishing in the world of online video, and the skills of the camera operator are likely to remain a specialist domain, one that is not necessarily complementary with producing text.

The intensive study of online video at UK news websites includes in-depth interviews with nine top editors of the UK’s national newspaper websites, as well as Sky News and the BBC News website.

A 34-page pre-publication draft of Thurman's study, "Convergence Calls: Multimedia Storytelling at British News Websites," can be found here (PDF file).

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