So far, in my little round-up of how the UK broadsheets are using video, I’ve looked at The Times and The Telegraph. Today, for part three, I’m looking at the FT.com. (well as much of the FT as a free subscriber account will let me)
The video is pretty easy to find on the FT.com. The design of the actual pages over at the FT has always seemed a little cramped to me, but squashed in with all the other nav is a clear Audio Video option. This takes you to a simple, well populated Multimedia section page.
A click through takes you to their custom FT.com player and we are back in channeled video land. The player is supplied by Maven and though it’s very temperamental. I found the occasional glitch with some video not resizing properly in the player window and the constant refresh of the whole player when I switched tabs a real pain. The whole thing is temperamental on a mac and the audio level is a lottery. That said, a couple of nice features stand out. The search is effective and a clear RSS button is a bonus.
But one thing that does work is the link through to articles related to the video. The design of the page does push the link too far past the fold to catch the eye but it’s there and it works.
Another nice touch is the way that the (much trumpeted) FT Mini-player carries the video through to the article. I think the amount of overlay information spoils to impact of the image but there is an editorial balancing act here – the grab would always be of an FT employee so you need to keep that clear. That said the overlay lower third with a title and date was a nice touch.
The style of video is pretty limited, consisting mainly of stand-ups to camera and interviews. The ‘news’ comes in the form of a Reuters feed but most of the content is in house. The ‘regular’ video this tends to be with other members of the FT team. But I guess you buy the FT for their expertise so that follows through.
There are several strands of video that get daily updates. The UK Daily view is a studio based ‘corespondent view’ style segment. The presentation on this is sometimes not as smooth as it could be but the information (I’m guessing) is pretty valuable if it’s your bag. But one thing that does make it feel a little odd is a little shimmy that they do at the start of every one.
The package will open with a two shot of the presenter and the interviewee (from the look of abject fear on some of their faces, the presenter is there as much for moral support) . A short set-up by the presenter and then they move round, stand in front of the interviewee whilst the camera zooms in to create a standard over the shoulder shot. The resulting Medium Close-up/Close-up of the interviewee is great but it seems a laboured way to get there. I ended up humming the Blue Danube when Daniel Garrahan set in to waltz mode.
When I clicked through to an article page and saw the embedded video with a thumbnail of the interviewee I though, ah-ha, that’s why they do it, expecting to watch this video and find the presenter had been cut out and a good soundbite selected. But no, the whole video is there. I would invest in another camera and a cheap video switcher and set the shots up. It seems they do the thing in the same place each time so why not set up a little more.
That said, the UK version is better than the US version which sees the correspondent talking to camera. Some have it, others have bad days but all of them seem like two-ways with the presenter cut out.
Other video falls in to the interview feature category and isn’t allowed on the site unless it has the word ‘view’ in the title (I’m joking). View from the Top, Short View, View from my window (okay, maybe not). There is a lot of standard TV style stuff in here. The FTfm segment for example falls in to a pretty standard interview format, complete with noddies. This is in contrast to the slicker View from the top although I did find Chrystia Freeland’s inability to sit back in her chair annoying (I know, picky aren’t I)
The Special Reports section is where the cracks in some of the production values begin to show. The feature on Japan’s fashion industry was an overlong package that lacked a descent intro.. I’ve noticed that the title sequences for content have all but gone – Sometime around the End of May the little title sequence disappeared from the Daily view (July in the US) – which gives the whole thing a little bit more urgency. But in the features a little more set up is needed especially as almost all of the presenters went with, sometimes convoluted, dropped intro style scripts. A short sequence with a graphic flagging up the content would help place the package.
The review of the Pilatus PC-12 by Rohit Jaggi illustrates that problem perfectly and shows that the FT is in a different market to the motoring Top Gear rip offs of other papers. It’s telling that his videos are the only ones that appear in the FT wealth section. Although a little injection of top gear style pace and humour would have helped chivvy the vids along The Doing Business strand was also a mixed bag, often depending on the presenter, but I can see the real secondary market value in the content.
Video aside for one moment, special mention has to go to the Slidshows and interactive packages on the site. Thirst for Food and the Burma special section are both worth a look as is the Sellafied slideshow by Charlie Bibby. They lack a decent title screen but there is some very nice stuff in here.
I commented that watching the TelegraphTV felt a little like watching a daytime TV channel . The FT isn’t daytime TV but I do feel like I’m watching the TV in a nice business hotel room abroad. That’s not meant to be a criticism. It shows that they have a good handle on the audience they serve. This is niche, done for niche.
That means that all of the content I saw on the FT.com was always relevant, it couldn’t fail to be. But what it lacks is a little polish. Where they have got a format in place – like the UK Daily view – they need to work a bit harder at working the stiffness out of some of the people they are putting in front of camera. I really felt for Tony Barber doing is opener for the View from Europe interview with Mandelson. Once the interview got in it’s stride its okay. But man, he looked uncomfortable.
That will come with time and in Richard Edgar (now the head honcho of video) they have a good role model, he’s great in front of the camera. But maybe some work on formats that don’t rely on too much presenting will take the pressure off.
Perhaps the niche market puts the FT at an unfair advantage amongst the other broadsheets. Without the need for broad appeal they can focus on getting a style that’s right. I also think that the multimedia interactive stuff is an area they could really shine. With all that video, data and experience there could be some sterling work in that area.
Next it’s the Guardian and then, on Thursday, a round up. Who is my pick of the broadsheets and what tips can we take from what they do?