A few weeks ago I promised that once my editor had cast his verdict on my list of radical or ridiculous (I still can’t decide which ones are which!) ideas, I’d post them here. So this is number one.
I know it’s heresy to say it. But are we wasting time concentrating on video journalism?
On average, in our newsroom, videos take at least six hours to make. They are watched by maybe 1 per cent of our online audience.* So why do we do it?
I’m not saying there’s no place for video in local newsapers, far from it. But say you’re reading a story about the latest in a spate of arson attacks. The story is online, with a video. You finish the story, then click play.
What you get is a reporter reading you the story you’ve just read, over some footage. Maybe a talking head, saying the words quoted in the story you just read. Is there any point in that?
Instead of making a TV version of a story you’ve already told, why not just post a 20 second clip of the fire, and spend an hour putting together an interactive map of the previous arson attacks, with links to pictures and previous stories?
Job done, five hours to spare.
We don’t have the equipment, experience, production skills or staff to be TV stations. So why do we try? We should stick to videos that add something extra – footage of things actually happening and save the big labour intensive jobs for the occasions where it can make a difference – an interview with a controversial figure, or quirkier, entertainment videos.
Instead of a photographer spending hours making a video at your local Race4Life, isn’t it a better use of resources for that photographer to take LOTS of pictures (you know, that thing we used to do because ‘faces sell papers’?) that you can publish on an online gallery and then sell?
The only problem with non-contexualised video is that it doesn’t really work off-site. So if your video for the fire, for example, is embeddable, it doesn’t work so well without the story. But we’re in an era of extreme cutbacks. Surely we should be asking what the best use of staff time is?
The bottom line is: most readers don’t watch them, even the good ones. So maybe we should think about why we make them. Is it for the audience? Or is it because it’s become the thing local newspapers do to show they’re multimedia?
If it’s the latter there are dozens of less complicated, more useful ways to add to our stories. We shouldn’t overlook them in favour of video without thinking very carefully about why.
* (From what I can tell we’re not unusual but I’d like to hear about it if we are – there’s always the possibility we’re just doing it wrong…)