Have I been over this ground before? Not sure. I think I’ve thrown around some adoption steps for newspaper video, and I’ve spouted all the necessary YMMV caveats for news organizations of varying resources.
But here’s the deal:
Not so far in the future, you’ll be sitting in a conference room trying to show a group of reporters how to use a point-and-shoot camera to shoot simple video. With any luck, you’ll even be training them to edit the video themselves. Best of luck.
What happens next, is that being good reporters, they have questions that cut a little deeper than “What does this button do?”
And the question they will ask, if they have any curiosity left in them, is the following one:
Why are we shooting video?
The short answer:
Because we can.
No, Virginia, it doesn’t matter that video isn’t terribly interactive, and I realize that to those used to opining on the state of the international media, what a paper like Bakersfield Californian does with video must seem like country bumpkin stuff.
Frankly, I don’t think the people who say video is the wrong track work in newsrooms. I don’t think they understand what the average paper with the average corporate parent has at its disposal as far as video resources go. (Read as: funding, gear, training.)
Here’s a missive from the camp I’ll call BiggerBetter, from Patrick Thornton, in a post about how not only is video not “new media,” but how we shouldn’t even be bothering with it if we’re not going to treat it with as much care and reverence as we treat the print edition:
“Doing video for new media, means taking the same standards you had for print and applying it to video. The video should look good, be edited well and be compelling. It should do something that a print story couldn’t.”
So there’s them, the BiggerBetters, who — best case scenario — would have everyone shooting HD and printing frame grabs, making big dramatic video packages with slick graphic logos dancing across them. For a small number of papers, this is an award-winning strategy that works, at places like the Washington Post and New York Times with the money and staff and travel budget to make documentary films halfway across the world. And it’s great journalism.
And in the other corner — the one I believe makes sense for pretty much any paper with a circulation under 100,000 or so, to pick a rough number out of the air — we have the FasterMores.
The FasterMores get that the ship is sinking, which makes it all the more difficult to turn around. It’s hard enough to get people to agree on a plan to adopt a new technology to reach readers in good times, much less when the layoffs come.
The FasterMores understand disruptive technology, and know that to succeed in Internet time, a news organization simply has to move faster than a printing press.
That means short video stories, in volume, shot by existing staff who are already at the scene of local news events. Sometimes they’re called “reporters.”
If you read that and still don’t understand why low-end online video serves most newspapers best, just think of how YouTube has disrupted network television business models. Is it by emulating well-lit police dramas with great actors and impressive camera work? Or is it by offering a multitude of choices for a fragmented audience?
So yeah, I’m with the FasterMores on this one.
The answer to “Why shoot newspaper video?” is clearly “Because we can.”
I’ll elaborate on that in comments and future posts, I’m sure.
So, are you a BiggerBetter or a FasterMore? Choose one – “It’s a false dichotomy” is not an acceptable answer, unless you really want to spend more time in meetings debating it.