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Calgary Herald finds engagement success with photographer-led video initiative

By Paula Felps

INMA

Nashville, Tennessee, USA

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Calgary Herald’s On The Road series began as a photo and text-driven feature that explored the beauty of the region. But as video became increasingly accessible, it made sense to migrate from static images to moving ones that could provide a better experience for viewers and increase their interest in — and loyalty to — the news company’s brand.

The weekly video installment was seen as a way of creating a regular habit to draw visitors to Calgary Herald’s digital platforms, and it also created a subtle association between the brand and impactful visual storytelling. And, importantly, it highlighted the beauty of the region in an unusual way and gave viewers ideas for day trips.

Photographer Mike Drew has been sharing his images of southern Alberta for some 30 years, and with On The Road, he adds observations of what he was experiencing during the shoot. In many ways, the videos transport viewers to the location as if they’re standing alongside Drew, experiencing it in real-time.

In Better Lands, he gets wet and muddy in the badlands of Dinosaur Provincial Park while trying to capture the unusual nature and formations; his video Lunar Light sees Drew chasing the beauty of the full moon rising as daylight fades.

“I grew up here, so I know this country. I know it in winter, in spring, in summer, and in fall,” he said. “I know its places and its people.”

But despite that familiarity with the land around him, he said that he discovers something new every time he ventures out. And it’s that sense of wonder and discovery that shines through and has helped make the series so successful.

“It’s the joy of searching for and finding those things that I try to convey to my audience through my words and photos and video,” he said. “I try to show them that we live in a truly unique part of the world, to help them understand that there is so much more around us than what we normally encounter in our daily lives.”

Mike Drew captures creatures such as this ground squirrel in their native environment.-
Mike Drew captures creatures such as this ground squirrel in their native environment.-

The video series has generated a tremendous amount of traffic and buzz for the Calgary Herald. During the pandemic, it provided a way for the newspaper to ensure uplifting content every week. It also checked the box of “news you can use” for people who were looking for ways to get outside and safely enjoy the world around them.

The videos draw tens of thousands of views shared across Calgary Herald’s Web site, social media platforms, and YouTube channel. Additionally, the organisation earns revenue from pre-roll ads.

Mike Drew's imagery and narration have made him a sought-after presenter and an authority on regional daytrips.
Mike Drew's imagery and narration have made him a sought-after presenter and an authority on regional daytrips.

The series has also helped make Drew a go-to guy for information on road trips and places to visit. He has become a sought-after presenter for community groups that request presentations on the video project. And that, he said, is icing on the cake:

“I hope that my adventures encourage my audience to get out and explore for themselves,” he said. “They are welcome, of course, to retrace my tire tracks, but I hope that in doing that, they find things on their own, things that I may not have seen — or familiar things, but in a new light. Because we live in a truly magnificent part of the world.”

About Paula Felps

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