Newspapervideo: YorkNewsTimes

York news times

Last week I got an email from Eric Eckert at the York News Times in Nebraska( circ:4000). He’d read the AJR article on video where my video survey got a mention. He dropped me a line to tell me what they were up to:

This year alone, we (3 staff) have produced over 450 videos which have received over 120,000 views. Most of the videos are, as you stated, 2-3 minutes long. The numbers differ though when you look at how long it takes us to make the videos. We usually spend 10-15 minutes shooting the video and I usually spend 15-30 minutes editing the video. In breaking news situations, like car accidents, we are generally shooting photos as well. We probably average getting a 2-3 minute report and 100 photos onto our site in less than an hour.

Now I also understand that we are not making groundbreaking Academy Award winning film pieces here, but we shoot almost everything in one take and we get the information out there. Our video really started to gain popularity this summer and now we get an average of 100 views on almost any video we do, many more on the interesting pieces.

Sounded like some impressive numbers, especially on the production times. So I dropped Eric a line back and asked him to share a little more about how they work. He very kindly posted back and said I could share.

Look out for the great tip on how to shoot that dull council meeting.

Over to you Eric:

How exactly do we do it? Melanie Wilkinson, a staff writer who, prior to a year ago, had no experience with video in any way shape or form, and I do 95% percent of the video work that comes out of our office.

We have a Canon XL2 that we use to shoot a lot of our videos. It’s big and bulky, but sometimes that’s nice because people see you and think, obviously these people are important. The camera we actually use more is a Sanyo Xacti. It’s a little bigger than a deck of cards, but shoots full frame (720×480) and 30fps. The data is stored on an SD card, and our 4gb card is more than enough to cover what we need. Another nice aspect of the Xacti is next to zero time to transfer the footage from the camera to the computer. Oh yeah, and it only costs $300.

We use a PC with Sony Vegas to edit on. Really user friendly and the price is great at $100, especially considering that it has most of the features of any other editing software and can take HD.

Melanie has been instrumental with helping to get more videos out fast. She takes flack from time-o-time because she might say “uh” here or there, but we generally get the shot done in one take and that’s what we want. Our number one concern is to get the information out there.

Sure, we could spend a day making a report, but when it comes down to it, it looks real, you can tell she’s not robotically reading off a prompter and once again, we can have it online faster.

I think the biggest thing that Melanie has done to help out video, is to take the Xacti and a mini-tripod, and go to city council meetings and other long boring meetings. She simply sets up the camera in front of a podium where people will be speaking and lets it record for 1-2 hours.

After the meeting, she will record an intro, outro and segways into the speakers and then give me the footage with a list of what is good and bad. I through it all together and put it online.

Which brings us to my responsibilities. On most occasions, I go out with Melanie and shoot the video, sometimes using a tripod so that I can also hold the boom mic. A lot of times, I’m also shooting still images to upload to our photo gallery system at the same time. I then edit the footage and hand code the html into the page and update it across the
site.

Other than that, my supervisor, Lloyd Armbrust also helps out in bigger situations or when he’s around and we have a couple other staff at the paper that have done videos as well.

At the York News-Times, we see video as a major component in the future of the web and news. We don’t have a television station in our town, so this has been a great way to get hyper local media out to those who are looking for it. It’s a constant learning process, but we’ve decided not to be worried about making mistakes, and just be worried about making
videos.

Thanks Eric.

According to Eric they get at least 100 views on each video they do and offers the following links to their most popular videos:

4 Replies to “Newspapervideo: YorkNewsTimes”

  1. I visited the York News Times video site. I appreciate your work ethic, but the videos are visually weak. I don’t think you’re using the medium wisely. Melanie is a fine reporter, but I’d like to see more voiceover, more b-roll. I’d like to see the video shooters break away from the reporter to visually (and with audio) dissect the scene before them. And I’d like to see more natural sound, a few seconds with no narration, to allow the viewer to digest information.

  2. Thanks for the thoughts, folks.

    My name is Lloyd Armbrust, and I started the YNT video department back in 2006. To our defense, when we started we were focused on quality, but found that was not what people wanted.

    Here are the first two video reports that we ever released (archived on my site as they are no longer online):

    http://lloydmedia.com/archive/york-news-times-bre

    http://lloydmedia.com/archive/york-news-times-bre

    These were shot on the day that our XL-2 arrived. We had a huge fire that burned about 1/4 of our main downtown area, so we unpacked the camera and shot these video.

    Now, I learned to edit at a public access back in the days of straight-cut linear video editing, but have changed my ways and have switched to the digital NLE's. Also, I had previously a lot of experience with the XL series, so it's not like I was figuring the thing out while shooting this video.

    Like Eric Eckert mentioned in the article rabove, we used Sony Vegas to edit our videos, and both of the above videos were digitized, cut, and rendered in LESS than 35 min, after about 15 min of shooting–so a total time of somewhere under an hour from shooting to posting. I'd say that's pretty decent quality for the time spent, but this story had a lot of visual elements that were easy to shoot and edit.

    Here is a follow up video to the videos above, and keep in mind that was shot and edited in under one hour and 15 min:

    http://lloydmedia.com/archive/york-news-times-new

    Also, I don't think you could say this is poor quality. I've seen worse production value on the 5 o'clock news in Austin, TX.

    We also did a lot of feature stories back in the day, and here is an example with plenty of natural sound to help our viewers "dissect the scene."

    The following video took about 35 min to shoot and about 40 min to edit.

    http://lloydmedia.com/archive/york-news-times-new

    Never mind the copyright violation!

    All in all, the production value on these videos is pretty good. So, why did we switch? A big reason is that we bought by GHM who forced us to use YouTube to display our videos–which lowered our quality anyway. Compare YT's flash quality to the above videos.

    But the other reason was simple: people didn't care.

    They just wanted the information, they didn't want it to look pretty. And by doing this, we could decrease production time from around one hour to UNDER 15 min. Speed became the factor that people cared about, and its how we grew our traffic from under 200,000 to over 1.2 million page views in less than a year.

    To give you one example: we had a bank robbery in a York. Within 25 min, including drive time, shooting, editing, rendering, and posting video, we had the story, with just under 100 photos, posted online. And that's what our users cared about: speed.

    So, it's not because we couldn't produce, or even that we didn't want to produce, high production-value videos. It's just not what our users wanted.

    In the end, we put our users needs over our egos.

    Again, thanks for the comments, and I hope that explains some things.

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