The newspaper Gjesdalbuen is located in Ålgård, a village in rural southwestern Norway. The print edition comes out once every week, but it publishes around the clock every day. Its editorial staff of five covers the Gjesdal municipality with some 12,000 inhabitants, 3,000 of whom are subscribers. The village is about half-an-hour’s drive from the country’s oil production capital, Stavanger.
In many ways, it is a typical local newspaper in a small community.
The staff’s willingness to try new things is perhaps also typical for the area. Since oil was discovered off the coast in the 1960s, the Stavanger area has been home to numerous innovators both in and outside the oil business.
New KPIs for video driving the change
Amedia is ramping up its efforts on efficient use of news video. All our news outlets have been given video KPIs to meet each week. A set number of news videos has to have more than a set number of viewers. The threshold varies according to the size of the outlet.
We have our own definition of a video viewer: A logged-in subscriber who has seen more than 25% of the video. (For long videos, it is enough to watch five minutes to be counted.)
The Gjesdalbuen strategy
The team has been working with live video for several years already. Editor-in-Chief Eugen Hammer and his team have been producing a number of the local handball team’s matches for Amedia’s live sports vertical, Direktesport. (See, for instance, how Amedia live-streamed 830 Norway Cup matches from a shipping container.)
When the new KPIs were set, Hammer was ready and eager to turn the staff’s efforts toward news and edited stories. All video stories are part of the digital subscription offering.
The power of video in their local journalism is evident, Hammer said: “Video is becoming an increasingly important part of our journalism. It drives both subscription and ad sales. And it works really well for younger segments of our audience, the below-40 group. So, we are adapting our journalism to enrich our news coverage with video.
“Our goal is to inform, document, enlighten, and engage. Video is great for that, especially for younger audiences.”
Gjesdalbuen used to shoot video with traditional cameras, but is now using a 100% mobile phone-based workflow.
“We’ll still use the big video cameras for live-streaming sports, debates, and events, but not for news,” he said. “Our main tool for news video is the mobile phone, because it is always at hand. Our reporters have to produce text, pictures, and video. The mobile phone can be used for all of this.
“Also, traditional video equipment is a hassle to carry with you. That which is a hassle is not used. Instead, every reporter has their own iPhone, a small tripod, and a couple of microphones with them at all times. It fits in your jacket pocket.”
This has also made it easy to interview ordinary people about current issues, such as in the example below.
Another boon is that mobile phones allow reporters to produce and publish the video quickly. They shoot, edit, and publish on location, and they use it for live-streaming.
They base their workflow on iPhones and iMovie, Hammer said.
“The technical quality is first rate. The software in the iPhone makes sure every shot turns out great. It’s breathtaking, and it is so easy to use. There is a minimal need for training. That is important.
“To reach our goals the whole staff has to make video stories, not just a few enthusiasts. It is a new way for us as a small local newspaper to think about video.”
What they have learned
They are still at an early stage — in a test phase, as Hammer calls it. But the results prove they are on the right track. The team has surpassed its viewership goals and gotten several new paying subscribers from their videos. Here is what they have learned so far:
- Video works well for breaking news, accidents, crime stories, weather stories, and vox pops on current local issues.
- It is important to have one or more video ambassadors on the staff, leading the way and motivating others.
- Video must always be on the agenda in every morning meeting to make sure it is top of mind at all times.
- Video opens new possibilities. The reporters now have story ideas they would not have had before.
- Focusing on video has given the staff a boost in their efforts to have a digital-first workflow.
“The staff have acquired new skills and that gives them more motivation in their work,” Hammer said. “We are challenging them, and they find that interesting and exciting.”