The Lofi Podcast: Should newspapers bother with video journalism?

It’s been the big trend of the last 12 months, with every newspaper rushing to slap video onto its website – with varying results. But given the stretch on resources, should newspapers be doing video at all? And why are they doing it so badly, so often?

I took advantage of the latest Association for Journalism Education (AJE) conference (“Convergence, and how to teach it”) to discuss the issues with two people who’ve been training the new breed of video journalists – Andy Dickinson of the University of Central Lancashire and Andy Price of Teesside University.

The result is the first Online Journalism Blog ‘Lofi Podcast’ (recorded on a digital dictaphone, and edited using Audacity). It’s not the BBC, but there’s 26 minutes of informed discussion ranging from problems with the term ‘video journalism’ to why newspapers started doing video in the first place, and whether they should keep on doing it now. Here’s the link:

http://media.switchpod.com/users/onlinejournalist/ojPodcast01_videojournalism.mp3

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18 thoughts on “The Lofi Podcast: Should newspapers bother with video journalism?

  1. Neil Benson

    Just listened to the podcast involving the two Andys and yourself, regarding video journalism. A more mountainous pile of pompous, tendentious, ill-informed claptrap is hard to imagine. I’d suggest that you get out of the academic ivory tower, start talking to some real-world publishers and build an accurate picture of what’s happening before you pontificate any further. But, hey, why let the reality get in the way of your preconceptions?

    Reply
  2. paulbradshaw Post author

    Thanks Neil – any particular parts you want to pick out? Andy Dickinson works closely with Johnson Press journalists, and Andy Price with Trinity Mirror, so they spend a great deal of time talking to real-world publishers and are far from ivory tower academics. I would appreciate any more information on the areas you feel they’re ill informed on so we can flesh it out.

    Reply
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  4. Neil Benson

    I know and respect Andy Price, having worked with him closely on digital media development within Trinity Mirror and most recently as one of our video journalism training providers – which makes some of his comments all the more disappointing.

    Specifically, Andy P says publishers need to establish a strategy. He also states that editors don’t understand, that ‘nobody cares about the reputation of their newspapers’ (vis a vis the quality of online video), that there’s ‘no joined-up thinking’, and that we ‘really don’t understand the web audience’. Oh, and there’s a ‘desert of thinking’ editorially.

    He also takes up Andy D’s doom-laden theme that ‘central control’ will dictate everything, with the upshot that newspaper brands being removed from the front pages of our web sites.

    I can’t speak for other publishers, but here’s a snapshot of the reality in Trinity Mirror.

    Firstly, there’s nothing – absolutely nothing – that our editors care about more than the reputation of their newspapers, and that means online as well as in print.

    Secondly, we do have a strategy. It’s fully-formed, and was created with input from many people inside and outside the organisation including – most important of all – our users.

    Over the past 18 months, we have launched and/or improved numerous newspaper-branded web sites, adding functionality such as breaking news, podcasts, video, blogs, photo galleries, and improved forums. And we measure the performance of all of them.

    We have also launched a series of hyperlocal sites – the first in the UK by a newspaper publisher – majoring on user-generated content. So much for the ‘command and control’ allegation.

    Our sites are about to be relaunched – a rolling programme starts this month. Some of the new features are stronger branding of the newspaper on the home page and throughout the site, increased interactivity, more opportunity for users to generate their own content, ‘most popular’ functionality and more localness. All of this was driven by our users, who were researched using the current web site and again testing the various iterations of the new design.

    Our revamped sites have a centrally-built wireframe, based on our ‘best of the web’ research and taking into account the enhanced functionality demanded by our editors. This ensures that our sites will be constructed to a consistently excellent standard. Deciding what content goes into the sites is the job of the local editorial teams. The thinking is utterly joined-up.

    Turning to online video specifically, if we don’t understand the shelf-life of this material, why do we have video archives on our major sites? We are entirely aware that video can build up an audience over time, as witnessed by the Cup Final video on our Liverpool Echo site (along with many others) which is gaining new users more than a year after it was posted. Check out chroniclelive.co.uk or gazettelive.co.uk for plenty of other examples.

    We also spend time ensuring that we are NOT ‘little telly’, as a cursory examination of our sites will show. As for being like You Tube, what’s wrong with that, if the content engages and interests our users?

    There’s also an assertion that publishers believe video = full multimedia strategy. In our case, nothing could be more wrong. The range of activities listed above didn’t happen by accident but because we identified areas where we wanted to experiment, and have done so in a proactive way. For example, our blogs have been massively expanded, producing an explosion in the number of blogs, an improvement in quality and a boom in response, thanks to an initiative called Blogathon.

    These initiatives have been supported by broad awareness sessions, specific training (video journalism being an example) and numerous multimedia workshops.

    Paul’s comment that ‘a lot of newspaper strategy has been defensive’ could justifiably be levelled at the print side of the business over many years gone by. But the online development we have undertaken, particularly over the past year, has been incredibly stimulating, precisely because it’s about assertiveness and growth.

    This is evidenced by other, offline innovations, such as Taxi TV, launched this month in Liverpool.

    Nothing I have written is a state secret – it’s all in the public domain, and most of it has been thoroughly covered in trade publications, both on and offline.

    Hence my ‘ill-informed claptrap’ comment about your podcast. I’d go further, and suggest that the podcast is a great example of the worst of online journalism, where poorly-researched opinion is presented as expert opinion or – worse – as fact.

    Reply
  5. Pingback: hackademic.net — journalism • learning • teaching = journalism education » Convergence in journalism -- online video

  6. Andy

    Let’s take these points as they come with the understanding that I’m talking, as I think we where in the podcast, about newspapers in general not TM. I think we can all accept that there are some groups/newspapers doing good things.

    Firstly, there’s nothing – absolutely nothing – that our editors care about more than the reputation of their newspapers, and that means online as well as in print.

    Wasn’t my comment but I agree. In some respects I think the point there was the perception is that, in some groups, the rush to the web often feels like just that, a rush and standards slip. But I do agree that shouldn’t be leveled at the editors door.( I don’t think it was. I think Andy was expressing concern for their mental health having to take all this on)

    In that rush the editors can often feel left behind. It isn’t that they don’t care. More that they are not confident enough in the change to digital to feel like they can do the job properly. Hence my comment about editors maybe not needing to worry about all of the things they need to do. They can delegate some of this stuff as long as there is a) training for those they delegate to and b) training for them so they feel informed and confident with what they are delegating.

    Secondly, we do have a strategy. It’s fully-formed, and was created with input from many people inside and outside the organisation including – most important of all – our users.

    I appreciate that TM have a policy. TM’s policy has its supporters and its critics. That doesn’t mean it’s wrong or isn’t fully thought out. It’s a strategy that fits you. If only all newspapers groups followed suit and at least had a coherent policy.

    Over the past 18 months, we have launched and/or improved numerous newspaper-branded web sites, adding functionality such as breaking news, podcasts, video, blogs, photo galleries, and improved forums. And we measure the performance of all of them.

    The point about performance is a good one and one where I’m happy to admit that my ivory tower existence might be open to fair criticism. We began to discuss the idea that numbers (page impressions etc) may mean an early death for video and multimedia because, in the climate of an hourly metric, it may be called to financial account sooner than a print product. Something is judged a success or failure an hour after it goes online in some places. That may be a hard and fast financial decision.

    But in my position where I don’t have to worry about the bottom line that doesn’t seem like a good environment to nurture and grow innovation.

    ’m not a newspaper exec, I accept that. But I don’t think that’s academic naivety, it’s just not my problem. I just want to see good content and new ideas. So as a consumer the finances of the corporation behind the paper are not my business.
    Again I’m happy to concede that may not be the case at TM . But across the industry as a whole I think that its fair comment.

    We have also launched a series of hyperlocal sites – the first in the UK by a newspaper publisher – majoring on user-generated content. So much for the ‘command and control’ allegation.

    I’d like to hear how you are managing the blogs and UGC that appears on your sites. It’s a really tricky subject at the moment as papers embrace ‘community’.

    A lot of local and regional papers are moderating all content that appears on their sites from UGC. I can see why that’s a corporate decision but that strikes me as a bit of controlling model.

    Likewise within the newsrooms of a lot of papers there is no direct control of the website. Elements of presentation, including the placement of ads are centrally controlled.
    I can see why organizations would do that but that’s still a centralized command and control model. If you talk to journalists (which I’m sure you do more than me) a big percentage of their concern in the response time of central IT provision including web provision to editorial needs. Again, I’m not saying that’s the case with TM and what your doing with the sites is and sounds exciting. But beyond TM I know it’s an issue in the industry.

    Turning to online video specifically, if we don’t understand the shelf-life of this material, why do we have video archives on our major sites? We are entirely aware that video can build up an audience over time, as witnessed by the Cup Final video on our Liverpool Echo site (along with many others) which is gaining new users more than a year after it was posted. Check out chroniclelive.co.uk or gazettelive.co.uk for plenty of other examples.

    Andy’s broader point here was how content in general can have a lifespan through more interactivity and I agree with that. Just having an archive isn’t giving it a lifespan. Cross promotion and interlinking with related content are key. But I’m often aware that, given the time I have ponder on these things, I don’t give credit to the pace of development large media organizations are up against and I know all of this will come.

    That’s why I’m positive about the majority of online video the locals are producing themselves. Some people are very negative. I’m happy to see people being given the space to try stuff even if it isn’t the greatest stuff on earth.

    But there is always more and there is nothing wrong with suggesting that people can do better. If you feel you are, then I’m happy to support that. But as I have said, lots aren’t.

    We also spend time ensuring that we are NOT ‘little telly’, as a cursory examination of our sites will show. As for being like You Tube, what’s wrong with that, if the content engages and interests our users?

    I have no problem with that. I didn’t say there was anything wrong with you tube style. But users aren’t the only constituency to think about here. Some journos equate you tube with unprofessional and if they are making stuff that they feel is unprofessional then they feel de-motivated. We know there is a big problem in the industry with people engaging positively with the digital changes and making them feel like they are being forced to generate poor quality content is an issue that a lot of journalists complain about.

    There’s also an assertion that publishers believe video = full multimedia strategy. In our case, nothing could be more wrong. The range of activities listed above didn’t happen by accident but because we identified areas where we wanted to experiment, and have done so in a proactive way. For example, our blogs have been massively expanded, producing an explosion in the number of blogs, an improvement in quality and a boom in response, thanks to an initiative called Blogathon.

    These initiatives have been supported by broad awareness sessions, specific training (video journalism being an example) and numerous multimedia workshops.

    I’m bound to say that a blog isn’t multimedia but I appreciate that it’s a really big experiment and one that I think is in the right direction. As I said I would rather see proper investment in community before flying down the video journalism path.
    As for multimedia, the cynic in me would say that there isn’t more multimedia on sites because there haven’t been projections of 4 billion in advertising revenue from pre-roll ads on slideshows. Rather then just lots of video, where are the slideshows, text, image and video packages? Again, I’m sure some TM titles do this but the industry as a whole?

    Paul’s comment that ‘a lot of newspaper strategy has been defensive’ could justifiably be levelled at the print side of the business over many years gone by. But the online development we have undertaken, particularly over the past year, has been incredibly stimulating, precisely because it’s about assertiveness and growth.

    Can’t disagree with that. As I said I think a lot of the problems are long standing. My point was that just as you have to give credit to newspapers for waking up to this (I have said before on my blog that newspapers have done this right compared to broadcasters) but at the same time a lot of them are using the web as a whipping boy.

    Hence my ‘ill-informed claptrap’ comment about your podcast. I’d go further, and suggest that the podcast is a great example of the worst of online journalism, where poorly-researched opinion is presented as expert opinion or – worse – as fact.

    I suppose the key here is that if we were only talking about TM then, Neil, I could see why you would think it is all claptrap. I admit I’m not the most erudite of speakers, I do ramble and it was a wide ranging discussion. But I honestly don’t think that there was much in there that when taken in the context of the newspaper industry as a whole that was wrong. Opinionated, yes. But wrong?

    Reply
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  8. Pingback:   Pompous, tendentious, ill-informed claptrap. by andydickinson.net

  9. Dr. H. S. Thompson

    Listened to this podcast a few days ago and enjoyed it. Thanks!

    I think one of you mentioned someone in Norwich who was doing interesting work online – any chance you could provide a name and/or link?

    Cheers!

    Reply
  10. Pingback: hackademic.net — journalism • learning • teaching = journalism education » Newspapers' online video: it depends where you look…

  11. alastair machray

    The two Andys should know that TMR papers are full of journalists doing their level best to produce brilliant websites in accord with the values and quality of the brilliant newspapers they already produce.
    And I’m sure this applies throughout the industry.
    We are on a learning curve, for sure, but learning we surely are.
    My journalists are doing more things and doing them faster.
    As Neil Benson points out we have already added TV to our multimedia portfolio – scripted, filmed and edited in house by print journalists.
    We do not have the luxury of endless strategy debates and gentle contemplation. We are producing news, views, and entertainment across a range of channels 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
    There is no stopping to admire our work, no getting off the treadmill whilst we think great thoughts.
    We are flexible and we will change as fast as our audience changes.
    And we are proud of what we have achieved and will achieve.
    Cut us some slack, guys.
    As Thumper mum’s told him: ‘If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all.’

    Reply
  12. Andy

    Alastair.

    Of all the things that you could accuse the podcast of. bashing journalists was not one of them. I think it’s clear that journalists are working hard to maintain a level of quality and professionalism in the face of big, fast moving changes. If anyone should be cutting slack it’s execs who don’t train or demand more things faster. If nothing else, more focus and a chance to step back and see what works and what doesn’t is the least journos deserve.

    And no that isn’t aimed at TM or any other specific group. Its a general comment on what everyone accepts is a problem with the often unseemly haste to embrace digital and video in particular.

    Reply
  13. Pingback:   Great Expectations by andydickinson.net

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