How the Broadsheets use video : The Guardian

Over the last few days I’ve been looking at how the UK broadsheets are using video. I’ve cast my eye over The Times, The Telegraph and the FT.com and now it’s Wednesday so it must be the Guardians turn for a review of their video efforts.

The Guardian Video Section
The Guardian Video Section

Platform
The Guardians has a clearly visible section for video and the page layout works well; all laid back and white spacey in the Guardians re-designed layout. Nice big pictures and inviting.

On the Homepage and section pages you’ll see a smattering of embedded players as well as the little video icon showcasing a small amount of the considerable range of content they have.  There does seem to be some issue with playback controls disappearing once you start playing.

When you get to a video, the player itself follows the standard format of main playback area and then a menu down the side. But unlike a lot of the other players around on newspaper sites, the player integrates with the page. The way the headline and second deck appear above the player is very nice.  It’s a much better implementation of Brightcove than the Telegraph

Nice to see the usual selection of social network links and I also like the rolling menu at the end of a clip – although the recommendations around videos tends to be a bit generic.

Presentation
The news video is a mix of Reuters and Press Association for the news video with the Guardian providing the majority of the feature based and exclusive stuff. It’s hard to tell with the bylines. They often credit the news agency but there seems to be a whole range of credits for the in-house stuff. It could be guardian.co.uk, staff and agencies, guardian films. None of which impacts on the viewer but it makes me wonder how the internal politics works here.

You get captions instead of VO
You get captions instead of VO

None of the news stuff from third parties (and the in-house short form stuff) has voice over. Instead they use pop-up captions so you can read it yourself. I’m, kind-of, liking this. I imagine it adds a reasonable amount of time to the process – rendering captions is time consuming. But if they have a system in place it’s probably shorter than recording a VO and you don’t have the delivery problems.

Of course it’s the feature and special report content where the Guardian gets in its stride.

The piece with Nzube Udezue relating his experience being held at gunpoint by the police,  is well put together and shows the benefit of conducting an interview to get the story, and the good quality audio,  and then doing location stuff as well.  It isn’t cheating you know. It’s just good practice in these narrative led packages.

Less successful is some of the lighter stuff. There is very little evidence of the kind of brand/theme stuff that defines the telegraph, (there is some legacy stuff – The Observer interviews thread for example was best left in the archives ). But there isn’t a unified approach in its place.

The Life &Style section piece on Manly make up offers nothing a before and after shot couldn’t and there is a lot of this style of video on the site. It’s not all bad though. There are some nice features, packaged well.

The Wine in a baby bottle piece was well put together and fun. Not that I necessarily think that packaged stuff is better I just think that some of the videos only work embeded with an article and shouldn’t be included in the player offering

Condensed milk plugs the video gap
Condensed milk plugs the video gap

I also want to mention the pudcast, Not because I think it’s any good. I mention it for the fact that the source for the clip was carnation.co.uk. Let’s hope that the Guardian doesn’t get too high horse about product placement. And that seems to be a common theme downfall of a lot of the ‘lighter’ stuff on the sight.

As I said before, there is very little brand/theme stuff on the site. When there is it tends to be hiding third party or poduct placement content. And that’s when the Guardian attempts something theme like that the quality filter occasionally slips.

Football Daily’s James Richardson and Barry Glendenning video from Euro2008 was pretty tedious. The segway vid in particular  was pointless. I never thought I would hear the Segway referred to a ‘bad boy’. Leave the brand and banter stuff to the podcats where it works.

Of course it’s what could be called the ‘world affairs’ content where they Guardian do their best work. They’ve have made no secret of their aim to focus a lot of their video work on world affairs – telling the stories that they think aren’t being told.  Guardian films really has got in to it’s stride as the new go-to commissioner for liberal, authored voice, VJ style doco.

Iraq, Afghanistan and Africa feature heavily and the process of pairing a Guardian/Observer journalist and VJ works well. It’s like having a Producer and Director/Camera working together. Of particular note is the work of Peter Beaumont and Antonio Olmos. Their Afghanistan: Other voices stuff for the Observer is first class.  It’s sometimes painfully poignant but sometimes painfully earnest.  But since when has that been a crime in documentary.

Slideshows

The Katine interactive Village
The Katine interactive Village

I couldn’t talk about the Guardian and not mention their slideshow and interactive work. High quality and interesting the range is nice. Shame they aren’t given their own section to play with. The Guardian Films produced Katine: Interactive village is a great example of what they can do.  A visit to the inpictures section of the site is a treasure trove of great images and soundlsides slideshows. Some of the navigation needs working out but It’s a shame this doesn’t have a menu link like video does.

Overall
The Guardian has a high opnion of itself when it comes to multimedia and I often feel that they have become a little more pious than they need. You could argue that, with Guardian Films, they are the London centric production/commisioning house that they rail against.  But you can’t argue with the evidence; even if you don’t like the tone.  But away from that excellent coverage are the Guardian offering anything different?

When it comes down to it, the answer is a (qualified) no.  But when it comes to the actual content the range is limited to third-party promos and agency content. Rather than variety it’ a mixed bag. But I say qualified because there is so much that they do right.

The Guardian has some great video chops. The way the player integrates in to the page and the way they subtitle rather than voice over are nice. I also like the indiscriminate way that video is presented on section pages – it’s content to use when appropriate.  There is no doubt that the way they present video and a lot of the video they present is first class. But If the Guardian wants to set the lines of video quality, it needs to do more.

If you are going to go the route of producing the high quality stuff and essentialy providing a filter to the rest ( the model discussed at the recent media summit), the filter needs to be a better quality one and less dogged by adverts.

So, thats the broadsheets. Tomorrow I’ll look at what we can learn, if anything, from the way the broadsheets use video.

And ,yes, I do know that I missed The Independent. More about that on Friday.

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4 thoughts on “How the Broadsheets use video : The Guardian”

  1. Dear Mr Dickinson,

    I am looking for best practice cases in the UK
    as far as videos on newssites are concerned. More
    precisely, I am interested in regional
    newspaper websites, regional television websites and
    websites, where a both collaborate.
    Could you tell me good examples?

    Best regards,
    David Best

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