The state of video journalism today

April 15, 2014 · Posted in A-Roll · 1 Comment 

What’s the status of video journalism in 2014?

The TOW Center for Digital Journalism at Columbia Journalism School released a report today on the state of video journalism. Professor Duy Linh Tu and his crew put together a multimedia report by visiting newspapers, digital media properties, and shows like Frontline and Vice.

From their description of the project: “From October 2013 until February 2014, Tow Fellow Duy Linh Tu and the Video Now film crew visited newsrooms across the United States to interview and observe reporters and editors producing video journalism. Video is an important editorial tool and a potentially large revenue source for newsrooms, but there seemed to be no consensus on how to produce or profit from it. With that in mind, Video Now, set out to answer three main questions: 1) How do news organizations define video 2) How do they produce video? 3) What is their return on investment?”

Duy introduced the report with a live panel discussion Monday night, April 14, which is replayed in the video above. The panelists include:
Raney Aronson-Rath, Deputy Executive Producer, FRONTLINE
Danny Gawlowski, Photo/Video Editor, The Seattle Times
Kathy Kieliszewski, Director of Photo and Video, Detroit Free Press
Jason Mojica, Editor-in-Chief, VICE News
Andy Pergam, former Senior Editor, Washington Post
Duy Linh Tu, Tow Fellow, Professor & Director of Digital Media, Columbia Journalism

Some of the take-aways from the report and the panel:

* While most sites are investing more in video, the return on investment is still very low. The reward for video is engagement and social sharing, and high CPM’s still don’t come close to covering the costs of production.
* Most videos get modest traffic on news sites – 500-1,000 views.
* Viral cat videos get traffic, as does long form in-depth video (which is consumed on tablets,) while the mid range filler that most sites produce may not be worth doing.
* Vice and Frontline both attract large and young audiences – perhaps because they produce content that targets their audience?
* There is no clear consensus on what works with video. Most of the sites they surveyed are putting efforts into lightweight, reporter-shot immediately-posted news clips and also into high-quality, long-form evergreen documentary work, while doing less of the mid-range daily stuff.

It’s interesting that tablets seem to be the preferred medium for long-form video consumption.

They also made a series of recommendations for video production. Some of those recommendations I liked:

Subject Not Medium
People consume news by subject, not by medium. Audiences don’t say “I want to watch news video.” They come for information on specific topics: Syria, Ukraine, Obamacare, sports.
Video should be embedded with other content, inside a blogpost, next to a graphic. Videos posted with other media get more plays. Those left in segregated “video” sections get ignored.”

Long and Short
Videos don’t have to be short, but shorter videos tend to get more play. That said, viewers will watch long videos — 10, 20, 30 minutes — or an entire series if the content is good enough. Length of video does not predict success.”

Two Teams
In your newsroom, have everyone shooting video, just not the same types of video.
Print reporters should shoot fast, raw iPhone clips to accompany their text. These unpolished videos should be posted instantly from the field.
A second team of highly-trained video journalists should produce in-depth, more sophisticated video stories.
Avoid the in-between. Stories should be up-to-the-minute fast, or deeply important.
Also, instead of replacing photojournalists, train them to become better print and video reporters. They’re the best eyes in your newsroom.”

The Video Now site that houses this report has a number of videos that give insight on the media properties they visited to produce the report. Well worth a visit for anyone doing video journalism.

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