Monday, October 23, 2006

Video killed the etc etc part 2

Second piece came on the UK Press Gazette's AOL sponsored discuss journalism forum and, yes, Mr Osato is well aware that AOL is the work of the devil but it looks like the UKPG needs the cash at the moment, so we'll let them off.

In his post, academic Paul Bradshaw makes a powerful case about the unseemly rush by newspaper groups into the world of video and audio content. To give you a taster:

Trinity's editorial director Neil Benson has been quoted as saying "we're basing the new website design on interactivity".

But making news interactive and putting video online are two different - and contradictory - things.

Video is, if anything, even less interactive than print. You cannot scan-read a video, you cannot skip to the last paragraph, or look for the intriguing subheading.

And with video online, you lose the number one and number two ways that people navigate content - search and links.

What is presented as a rush to online news is becoming a rush to TV news - a form of TV news which just happens to be broadcast on the web. And in that rush, newspapers are in danger of not exploiting the real benefits of the web - giving users control, providing extra information and context that wouldn't fit in a print or video version of the story, creating communities between readers, or a forum for them to express their knowledge and opinions, communicating complex concepts in a way that can't be done with words alone, engaging the reader through innovative formats, or by connecting them directly with interviewees.

Give that man a cigar. It's the concept Mr Osato has been banging away at for years. It's a newspaper group. It's journalists are good at writing or taking still photographs. They're not (with some excpetiobs) broadcasters or VT operators. The skills are different, the needs are different and, for years, newspapers been failing utterly to make the most of what they already do by doing it better on the web.

There is nothing wrong with video journalism online per se. I'm sure the BBC's ultra-local services will be a hit when they happen because they'll be properly funded. I'm sure that newspaper groups, subject to getting their fingers out of their backsides and realising that this kind of thing needs investment and originl thinking, could produce a worthwhile alternative, an ITV, if you like, to the BBC's, well, BBC.

And, while Bradshaw is right to state that today's young are moving away from TV news, they ARE loving video sharing sites like Youtube (no, they're not paying me - yet). In some ways that's a better comparison with the short, snappy reports produced by an online news service rather than a TV company with a background in filling a half hour broadcast.

So, down the line, with real money behind it, the world of video journalism can be a success. But don't ruin one (already declining) product by attempting to shunt another, completely alien discipline into an already overstretched newsroom.

Video Killed the newspaper group

Two articles appear on the same day which, read together, perfectly illustrate the aimlessness of the current Newsquest leadership.

Firstly, we see Newsquest editorial Obergruppenf├╝hrer Margaret Strayton claim that the firm is 'leading the way' in the world of video journalism.

Hmm, where do we start?

For one thing, Strayt jacket, taking a rare break from her usual role, which involves trying to make even the group's most inept editors look mildly useful by comparison, to trot out the usual line: "We have accepted that multi-media, embracing all distribution vehicles for our journalism – print, digital, video, podcasts, mobile phones - is where the future lies."

We'll come on to the substance of that claim later, but let's look at the facts.

Apparently all 14 'publishing centres' are now on line. So why, when I visit the website for my local newspaper, is ther neither site nor sound of any kind of video? There isn't even a blog. Could it be that, far from the comprehensive video footage Strayton claims Newsquest is actually just handing 14 video cameras around its 14 centres and made a few wild claims because it sees others doing much better? Keeping up with the Jones? You decide, but consider this, if the multimedia efforts really are something to be proud of wouldn't you be shouting from the rooftops rather than introducing them 'quietly?'

As for the quality, I'll leave that for you to judge. They don't seem to be configured for Firefoz and Internet Explorer makes Mr Osato's computer do bad things. Had a quick look at one at work and it was pretty dire - teenagers on Youtube do better every day, although in fairness it was a one-off and by no means a represenative sample.

And they might improve, with a bit of training, although every minute spent with video camera in hand is a minute lost from the parent newspaper. Chances are you end up with two poor products. If you're serious about 'growing the business' down multimedia lines why not spend some money and hire professionals?

All of a sudden this has turned into a long post (or a rant, depending on your point of view). I'll post on the second article later.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Taking the low road

Happy news reaches Newsquestwatch from north of the border where staff at Newsquest's Herald Group are balloting for strike action.

You may remembers the original fuss when this sleight of hand was attempted in England.

Strangely, those of us down here distinctly remember being told that the reason for the pay date change was that some Newsquest centres - specifically those in Scotland - paid later and it really wouldn't be right for them to carry on treating their staff fairly.

Word reaches us that some managers in England were less than happy with the changes, not least because they had to pay their mortgages as well - not to mention the fact that they had some unhappy staff on their hands anyway because of the latest round of cuts.

Pity none of them have the courage of their convictions, unlike the management of Los Angeles Times. Could you imagine British newspaper bosses and editors throwing that kind of fire at the people running their industry? Unfortunately that is what's needed - we'll see if it's forthcoming. (via the inimitable Roy Greensalde)