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Newspaper video; here, there, everywhere.... or not
Erik Markov, Photographer
XXXX | IN | | Posted: 8:56 PM on 10.05.11
->> found this link today about newspaper video. I've never read the blog before, don't know anything about it, or the person writing the piece. I'm not coming down either way on it, I'm just throwing it out there.

the comments are kind of an interesting exploration of both sides of the debate.
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Richard Hamm, Photographer
Athens | Ga | US | Posted: 11:17 PM on 10.05.11
->> My thought on video is this. A compelling story, whether print or video, will draw an audience.

A less compelling story, say a cute kid feature or something, will draw a smaller audience, again no matter the platform. Thankfully the page view data from the past few years proved this so now we don't have the "always shoot video while your there" mantra anymore.

The feature story can be written in a few hours. A gallery can be done in a few hours. Video takes hours, or days if your working on 6 year old computers that often take 5+ hours to render a 3min video.

If a story is really compelling and befitting of video, great. Shoot it and people will watch.

If it's cute kids dressed as pilgrims and indians for Thanksgiving (every newspaper shooter has been there or something similar in their career) the parents will check out the video, pass it around to friends and family and it will fade away in a few days.

Quality, not quantity.
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Chris Curry, Photographer
Houston | TX | United States | Posted: 5:05 AM on 10.06.11
->> I agree with that article 100%.

When I was a full time staffer t I produced a video on Blackwater, which was our lead story of the entire week.

After about a week of it going live I asked how many hits it got.

An editor told me, "186".

"Thousand?" I asked.

"No, just 186', was the response.

"Don't we claim to have half-a-million readers a day?", I asked.

"Well", the editor said, "You should be happy, because it got more hits than any of our other online pieces online".

It was disappointing because I spent a complete work week for not even 200 viewers when we have claim to have a circulation of 200,000 daily. In my mind this was a complete mismanagement of time and we were calling it our greatest success of the week.

I realized then that our days are numbered as newspaper photographers. I lost interest in the career and decided to find a new cliental that would appreciated my talents.
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G.J. McCarthy, Photographer
Dallas | TX | US | Posted: 10:37 AM on 10.06.11
->> So I feel like I have something to add here, since I work for the paper many associate with this whole newspaper video thing turning into what it is. First, I'd like to clear some things up.

We do not publish frame grabs. Period. While a certain person who used to work here made the prediction that frame grabs were "the future," in my time here (a little over four years), I can only think of a handful of times that a frame grab was used, and it was basically because there was NO other option. As far as I can tell, the few times we even do frame grabs any more is because we're trying to get the video up online and we need an image for the thumbnail that readers click on.

Secondly, yes, we are using iPhones for stills and video, but it's not that frequent, and it tends to be for breaking news, or any assignment that the editors feel needs to be on our site fast. With the advent of the Eye-Fi cards, it's become a lot less frequent, because now we can ship higher-quality stills directly from our Mark III's and IV's.

I came here specifically because I was interested in learning video and further developing my skillset as a multimedia journalist. At my previous job in Missouri, I'd spent about two years developing my chops at audio slideshows. I felt it was time to move onto the next thing.

I do not think, nor have I ever thought, that video (or multimedia in general) would "save" newspapers. There is no one thing that will do that, if it even ever happens.

I think that because the technology is there, and because our society has become VERY dependent on the Internet, which is inherently visual, we're foolish not to embrace it. Now how much effort we put into it, and it what manner, is entirely different.

There was a time here, at the DMN, that there were almost as many video assignments on busy days as there were stills. Maybe half to three-quarters, but that's still a high number. We were throwing video at tons of stuff. Some things stuck, others didn't. I think that's the nature of new media -- you have to test as much as possible to see what gets the eyeballs interested.

Nowadays, there's probably only a couple videos per day, and it's usually things that lend themselves to it, or topics that always draw attention in this town (Cowboys, DISD, Parkland Hospital, etc., etc.). Every once in a while we get an in-house email that tells us how certain videos are doing, and truth be told, there are no surprises.

To my mind, there are about three basic kinds of videos. A.) Big project stuff -- we hope it raises awareness, affects change, etc. Truthfully, it's usually only of interest to our peers (contests, etc.). B.) Solid features -- fairs, parades, events with strong public interest. The response to these is wildly varied. Some things click, others don't. Seems like the more quirky or emotional stuff does better. Just depends on the day, how it's played on our site, and if it gets any attention out of our coverage area. C.) Crazy shit. Dramatic police chases, huge fires, livestock on the loose on a highway. You get the idea. It's the newspaper equivalent of a YouTube meme.

It's no surprise that the "hits" tend to be an inverted list from that -- the A group does the worst, C does the best. It's sad, but it's life. People are under constant media bombardment these days. If it doesn't get their attention real quick, it ain't gonna stick.

Back to point, the one thing I've found that has helped me to produce stronger videos that produce more feedback (both in the numbers we're given, and in direct response from readers) is to scrap everything I know about traditional videos (think TV) and do the exact opposite.

Unless it's damned compelling stuff, I don't go over a minute. I scrap the traditional narrative of exposition, development and recapitulation (hi fellow music nerds!). I don't completely break from it, but I augment the hell out of it. My goal is to create an experience for the viewer that is totally engaging and unique; I try never to duplicate myself as far as structure goes.

For me, it's the cutaways that are most important, and that's what I spend most of my time on. I don't even like to include traditional interviews any more. I don't want the person to give their name, explain the obviousness of the situation, etc. It's something I've borrowed from documentary filmakers I admire -- folks like Errol Morris, Werner Herzog, etc. We HAVE to give the viewer more credit than we do. They're not idiots -- they get what's going on. Stop spoon feeding them what they already know, and instead guide them into deeply personal, telling and surprising things about the subject.

And ya, not every video is going to have potential for this. Hell, I'm shooting one of a car show this afternoon. No idea what I'll get from that, if it'll be any good. But, I'll go in with an open mind and desire to give the viewer something they never expected. If I'm lucky.

Guess the point is, for my fellow newspaper shooters, don't give up on this yet. Keep trying, don't lose faith. Adapt and improve, but don't give up. I really do think this will click at some point. Maybe tablets and the like will help. But, keep at it.

And as Richard put it, much better and faaar more concisely, quality, not quantity. If you give me 45 seconds of solid stuff, that beats out two minutes of mediocrity every time.

- gerry -
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Peter Huoppi, Photographer
New London | CT | USA | Posted: 12:30 PM on 10.06.11
->> Maybe it's just because I'm primarily a video shooter for a newspaper, but I take issue with pieces like this. The main thrust seems to be "I don't like to watch video online, and neither do the handful of people who I asked, therefore it should be done away with."

The writer says "Newspapers should give up their largely feeble attempts to draw readers with web video." I would argue that newspapers should give up on feeble attempts at anything. Our audience is far smarter than many people give them credit for. If you give them something they;re interested in seeing, they'll watch it. Do it well, and they might come back and watch something else.

I don't agree with 100% of what Gerry wrote (we actually publish frame grabs somewhat regularly, but that maybe a discussion for another time) but his points are well thought out and based on actual experience.

The author seems to be arguing for only focusing on Gerry's type A videos. Big projects are great for contest judges and journalism professors, but in my experience the viewership almost never justifies the time spent producing them. Instead, how about we ask ourselves "What would people like to see?" Or more specifically "What would our particular viewers like to see?" and "What can we show them that they can't see anywhere else?"

I'm sorry, but just because a lot of companies handed their reporters Flip cameras and then discovered that the resulting pre-roll sales didn't turn around falling profits, I'm not prepared to abandon the medium.
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Nic Coury, Photographer
Monterey | CA | | Posted: 2:03 PM on 10.06.11
->> I think as others have said that it's more based on a compelling story rather than the medium. It's simply a tool.

I do think that some things definitely lend themselves much more to a video/multimedia piece that just a still photograph. It's a visual thing, but like anything else, it's how you tell the story that makes it compelling.

I taught myself video purely because it helps my newspaper and it helps my future as a photojournalist. I even landed a large video job with Ferrari this year for my skill set, so it paid off and it's fun to play with as another story-telling medium.
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Kevin M. Cox, Photographer, Assistant
Galveston & Houston | TX | US | Posted: 4:27 PM on 10.07.11
->> Here is a related article from the current issue of The Digital Journalist:

"The State of Video at Newspapers" by David Proeber
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Matthew Hinton, Photographer, Assistant
New Orleans | LA | USA | Posted: 3:03 AM on 10.08.11
->> Another take on the future of video

". . .there are two types of video that make it online: the cat videos and well-produced stuff (…and the porn, but we won’t get into that). Often times, newspapers fall into the middle ground. They’re not usually shooting the real-life raw footage of natural disasters, but they’re not producing amazing, high-quality works of art. They’re that middle noise; the five-minute mediocre footage. And often times, they precede their mediocre video with a 30-second ad. This isn’t where I see the future."

This article was linked to by a blog doing a roundup of newspaper video that has many other ideas.
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Thread Title: Newspaper video; here, there, everywhere.... or not
Thread Started By: Erik Markov
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