Video survey results: Overview


The results of part 2 of this survey are now upResults are still trickling in but I thought I would publish a few results from my little video survey.

Some broad results:

  • The average length for video is between 2 -3 minutes
  • The average production time is between 2 -4 hours
  • The most common camera used in newsrooms is the Cannon XH-A1
  • The most common edit software in use is Final Cut pro
  • Daily papers produce around 4-8 videos a week compared to 1-4 for weeklies
  • Publishers with daily and weekly papers produce 2-4 videos a week
  • It takes 1 hour to produce 1 minute of video


It’s worth saying up front that the vast majority of the responses to the survey have been from the US. There is a clear bias because of this. I don’t think this limits the usefulness of the data (it was meant to be broad brush) and there are clear areas of distinction between US and the rest of the responses that go beyond statistical ‘blips’ but it would be great if more people from outside the US would take the survey – please!


Cameras in use in newspaper newsrooms

In newspaper video HDV reigns supreme and by far the most common camera in use was the Canon XH-A1. The popular HV20 plays a close second but the US bias plays a big part in those figures.

The Sony HVR-A1 has a strong showing due to its almost exclusive use in the UK and Europe.

There is a lot of use of so called Point-and-shoot cameras in the newsroom as well as some ‘lower end’ DV camcorders. Canon do really well here. Their zr800, Elura and Optura rangesseem to be popular choices.

Canon’s announcements of a scaling back on its mini-dv range may put pay to that. That may force more to move down the HDD route. A number of cameras from Sony’s HD range were a popular choice to compliment the more pricey kit. Perhaps we will see more of these now that FCP has got log and Transfer support for the AVCHD format.

One theme that was common in response to the question of what other cameras where in use, was that these lower cost cameras where specifically for reporters. The ‘high end’ stuff went to photographers. And in, what some may find, a worrying trend a few respondents noted that they were using their own kit.

Edit software

Edit software in use by newspapers

The US bias shows through again here with FCP and FCP Express the popular choice. In the UK Avid Xpress holds its own. But a common theme across the survey is the use of low and high end technology combined. Those using FCP are also using i-movie. Likewise Windows Movie Maker was common alongside Avid.

I think this says more about the platform in use than the quality of the software. In the US Macs reign supreme. PC everywhere else. However several responders listed Windows Movie maker as their only editing package. Is this disruptive technology at work or tight budgets? (I suppose given the point about people using their own kit, that one is a rhetorical question. )

Premier and Vegas have relatively low usage despite some vocal support for the packages. Again, I think it’s the platform that dictates this and I would imagine Premier making a stronger showing in future now that a Mac version is available.

Unlike the cameras there seems to be little use of anything other than the well known names. I suppose I-movie and WMM cover the bases on that one

Length and production time

Average Length of Video Average Production time for newspaper video

The numbers seem to confirm the Comscore view of online video with majority of newspapers averaging a running length of 2-3 minutes for video.

The average production time site squarely between 2-4 hours, regardless of the size of the newsroom or technology used (until you get to less than 10), which usefully breaks down to a guide line you should expect a production time of one hour production for every minute on screen. A scary stat for planning how to do video.


I still have the issue of who is producing the video to look at but I think a lot of the information here is useful, if nothing else, as a snapshot of the kit to consider and the realities of the time it takes to make this stuff.

If you consider that the Canon XH-A1 retails at around £2300, FCP and a machine to run it on would be around another £2500 . Factor in the cost of losing/paying a member of staff for half-a-day to actually use the kit and you have some tough questions to ask about video.

Going down the point-and-shoot path may sweeten the financial pill in terms of outlay but the production times have no less impact on workforce and as I and many others have pointed out, giving people consumer and semi-pro kit, whilst saving your budget, often impacts on their perception of quality and professionalism.

11 Replies to “Video survey results: Overview”

  1. “Factor in the cost of losing/paying a member of staff for half-a-day to actually use the kit and you have some tough questions to ask about video.”

    Reporters commonly spend that long or more to write a print story.

    Sometimes photographers’ assignments will take that long (because of waiting for shots).

    Professional still photographers’ gear costs more!!!

    Keep things in perspective.

  2. Angela

    I think you might be being over sensitive there.

    “Reporters commonly spend that long or more to write a print story.”

    Very true but that often means they can’t do both. A lot of newsrooms don’t have dedicated staff for multimedia. They need reporters/photographers to do it along side what they do already. It therefore often becomes an either or.

    I’m not saying half a day is too long or too short. I’m not making an anti-video point here. I’m saying it’s half a day you need to factor in to what you have to do already. A stark reality for a majority of newsrooms not lucky enough to have an Angela. Maybe they should but that’s a cold hard budget issue.

    Looking at the sums would you rather they had an over stretched photographer with a XH-A1, tripod and mic’s up the wazoo all plugged in to a top notch fcp suite. Or would you rather hire an Angela who had to struggle along with a HV20 and i movie. All issues of economy of scale. But issues of economy none the less.

    “Professional still photographers’ gear costs more!!!”

    I don’t get the point here. More than what? Thats like saying sports cars are expensive. Of course they are but what does that tell us about the way people use cars. Sports cars are great but I wouldn’t take one to the supermarket.

    Are you are saying that pro-photographers need pro kit? I don’t think anything I said agrees or disagrees with that. In fact I think I made the point that using semi-pro kit can impact on the way people perceive their own professionalism. We need to consider that. I think the survey shows a commitment on the part of many outfits to buying good gear. But that’s not the point here.

    I could play devils advocate here and say are you advocating that only photographers get pro kit? Or are you saying that a pro-photographer can only do a good job with pro-kit?

    On comment on the survey took me to task for making the distinction between journalists and photographers. A good point. But your statement seems to suggest that we should make a distinction and it’s in the dollar value of the kit. Whats the equivalent? Reporters notepads should be pro-notepads! (devils advocate remember)

    The perspective here should be more than just ‘give me good kit’ because any budget holder would look across at the competition and say ‘why? they don’t need it’. It has to be a better case than that.

    I think we can all accept that pro gear isnt needed to make newspaper video. It would be nice if we had it and that’s what we should aim for. It makes our content much more transferable (and, I think, disruptive) But do we need it?

    Every time the topic of quality comes up, be it with kit or output, it’s clear that there are many perspectives to look at . Financial, editorial, professional, personal.

  3. Hi,

    I’am working on my “Diplom” (like Master thesis in Germany) with the subject “Videos on general-interest – news sites”. Is there any possibility to get the complete results of your Video survey?
    I would appreciate it.
    Best regards,
    Dave Best

  4. Hey Andy,

    I’ll echo Dave’s sentiments. I’m working on a report on video in the American newsrooms and would be interested to see the data you collected.

    Dave – Good luck with your Diplom. I’d be interested to hear more about it, and the new media landscape of online video for newspapers in general. Where do you study?


  5. Andy, your findings are very interesting and I suspect very accurate. As a former TV journalist who has for the past 20 years morphed into what today is described as a video-journalist (albeit working for myself, principally for clients in the corporate sector), I concur with the gear/story-frequence and time-to-finished-minute output findings. My view however is that it takes longer then 2-4 hours to produce something decent – but then ‘decent’ video-journalism is pretty scarce on most newspaper sites at the moment. Newspaper-video sites tend to fall into two categories, at least where I come from down-under. A lot of content comes from Murdoch’s Sky News – or from local newspaper kids fresh out of ‘journo sausage school’ who are still trying to work out why the light on top of the police car is blue. The old tosh served up by these green-skins who (a) have little understanding about news (b) can not (and are unlikely to be ever able to) produce an in-depth TV-style news-story (c) use every clunky vid-effect because they can, and (d) have no idea how to shoot, edit or compress for the Web, does web news video a great disservice. Couple that with newspaper accountants who look at the cost-per-journo of human-being/gear/editsuite, and the future is not very encouraging. The smart owners will work out that experience, experience, technique and realistic budgets will ultimately result in real advancement of this new genre. The paradigm needs changing too. Newspaper video sites need to be more than ‘news journos words with pics’; they need to be legitimate ‘video-news’ stories in the first place. With the dumbing down of journalism generally, I fear all we’re going to get is ‘plastic news’ – and that’s not watchable by anyone. May as well stick to free-to-air.

  6. Oh and by the way…I checked out the ‘videobloom’ site. Good enough, but basically it does something that a good camera, FCP and a modicum of knowledge can already achieve. It’s basically offering an ‘edit and compression’ capability to Flash – at about $1K-per-minute (USD). This is hardly likely to be attractive to newspapers, particularly when if they hire right, the capability/capacity is already there. Great for the wood-ducks who know no better, but an irrelevancy for pros.

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