Publishers consider audience, platform in short-form video strategies

Publishers are using short-form video in a variety of ways.

Although there are some basic ground rules for creating good content, each publisher must discover what resonates with their particular audience. And what works in the print world does not always translate well for users in the online space.

“It’s a different group of readers online, so you need to do things differently and set yourself apart from everyone else,” says Mike Power, publisher of the Toronto Sun. “Print and online are totally different. To extend your reach online, you have to have innovative, quality products that cater to your strengths. And you have to be willing to try different things.”

Just as Web site design conveys a particular message and attracts a specific audience, video packaging must appeal to each publisher’s demographics. Some examples of how newspapers are incorporating video into their coverage include: 

1. Daily Telegraph (U.K.): The Daily Telegraph’s emphasis on video makes it one of the current leaders in short-form video. It also excels at using it several different ways: as stand-alone content, as an illustration to a story, or as a live stream of breaking news.

“We’re doing a lot more live video than our competitors — something we have invested a lot in,” says Jamie Weeks, head of video. “It’s unusual for a newspaper to have the immediacy that this brings us, and it is a real distinguishing feature.”

The Telegraph also has done particularly well by providing niche videos catering to special interest groups, and Weeks says the success of that approach has come as a surprise.

2. Expressen (Sweden): Expressen has been using video since the early 1990s and has streamlined its short-form video operations. Photographers who cover a story must shoot video as well as still images. Short pieces are most often published in connection with articles published on the site — they have very few stand-alone video stories — and the pieces are produced by print photographers and video reporters. Expressen also runs some user-generated videos.

3. Guardian News & Media (U.K.): Guardian has made great strides in the use of video. A partnership with RosenblumTV led to the creation of its own Media Academy that offers four-day courses on how to shoot and edit video footage.

RosenblumTV staff provides the training and the company splits the revenue with the publisher, while the newspaper cements its reputation as being on the cutting edge of video. 

In January 2013, the publisher made headlines when it struck a partnership with, the luxury Web site owned by LVMH Moet Hennesey Louis Vuitton. The Guardian began hosting select videos on its site, the first of which was the innovative “LED Surfer” video by fashion photographer/filmmaker Jacob Sutton.

Supported by pre-roll ads, the two sites are sharing the advertising revenue in an even split. 

4. Fairfax Media (Australia): Like many publishers, Fairfax uses short clips as extensions of its news stories. Much of the news media company’s traffic comes during the lunch hour, and video provides a good way for users to “catch up with the news quickly.” 

Video segments are short — less than three minutes — and news reporters generate the bulk of the content. The company also has a partnership with a national television network so it can provide video coverage from major news conferences and events as well. 

5. The New York Times: In addition to providing video both as an extension of stories and as stand-alone pieces on its video page, The New York Times launched a separate channel on its site in 2010 called TimesCast.

TimesCast features daily news and analysis pieces from Times reporters and editors. In February 2012, the Times began running a morning business newscast as well. 

But perhaps the biggest buzz for The New York Times recently has been its incorporation of short-form video into a multi-media format. 

“Snow Fall: The Avalanche at Tunnel Creek,” was a multi-chapter series that ran in December 2012 and integrated video, photos, and graphics with long-form text. The presentation illustrated that text and video could be used in a visually appealing, completely integrated format, and immediately lit up the Twittersphere with proclamations that the Times had just unveiled “the future of online journalism.”

6. The Straits Times RazorTV: This online television service broadcasts from Singapore Press Holdings’ multi-media centre and uses a YouTube-inspired format to deliver hip, youthful, and hyper-local news. 

The informal tone appeals to young audiences, and short stories make it easy to digest in quick visits. It focuses solely on video storytelling, leaving the use of text to The Straits Times, although the two often share video clips. 

7. Toronto Sun: The Toronto Sun has integrated video into every aspect of its operations, whether it’s covering news, sports, or politics. 

Reporters now write two versions of their stories — one for the Web, then a final version for print — and create a video to accompany the story. For the past two years, the Sun has seen a 30% annual growth in online readership, and video has become “an increasingly significant component” of that platform.

Sports coverage has provided a natural outlet for the Toronto Sun to provide a wealth of original video, with reporters shooting video at practices as well as games. When readers visit the Web site to read a sports story, there is typically video embedded in it so “it’s not a static experience anymore,” says Jamie Wallace, editor-in-chief.

Most of the Toronto Sun’s programmes are less than two minutes, and staff is exploring ways to do more “mini-programmes,” such as a cooking show featuring the lifestyle editor preparing quick meals.

8. Wall Street Journal: Embracing video with the channel WSJ Live, the Journal is providing stories from reporters around the globe and original video programming on demand. 

The site combines short videos with long-form segments. Scheduled programming at set times includes “D.C. Bureau” on Fridays and a daily “WSJ Lunch Break” from noon to 12:20 p.m.

About Paula Felps

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