How the UK Tabloids use video: The Mirror

This week I’m looking at the video efforts of the UK National Tabloids. So far I’ve been surprised by the variety of The Sun and depressed by attitude of The Star and today it’s the turn of The Mirror.

The Mirror has recently undergone a redesign which takes it more towards the in-your-face style of the Sun and Star. Lot’s of pictures and a scatter gun front page. It does feel a little more restrained than the Sun in terms of content- but not much. So is looking in the Mirror looking at the Sun?

The Platform

The front page version of the player
The front page version of the player

Video has got a good position on the front page with a clear link in the navigation bar and a bright and a sizable embedded player off the the right-hand-side. It’s nice and clear but the thumbnail strip across the top suffers from being too small and, because of the use of some generic thumbnails, means there is nothing to tell you what the story is about. The featured video appears in a reasonably sized window below.  The usual overlay information reduces the impact of the picture but it isn’t as bad as some.

The player sites below an embedded video ad – thankfully with muted audio. I havn’t seen much video ad content on sites until now but the Mirror is filled with it. Sometimes the audio doesn’t mute and if you roll your mouse over the ad the audio plays – gave me a shock. I guess that’s the best you could hope for.

Click through to the video page and you are greeted with a big, bright video player. All candy blue and neon colours. It’s a standard Jukebox configuration, powered by a Roo player.  The sections are clear and there is also an ‘editor recommended’ section – something that’s missing from other tabloid jukeboxes. The use of video ads continues here with an ad placed underneath the video window. This is actually pretty distracting at times.

The Mirrors video player
The Mirrors video player

The Presentation

The bulk of news content on the player is provided via ITN. You do see the occasional ITN watermark but all of the content is pre-rolled with the Daily Mirrors own bumper which is nice and short.  Some of the video, marked Raw Video, comes from the AP.  This is generally covers international stories and the olympics.  I was expected straight feed stuff but it’s actually just packaged content with the voice over removed.

When the video loads a little caption appears in a confusing New box. It’s too small and cramped and doesn’t work as a caption. I also think it looks messy in the design. As usual don’t expect any links to article pages.

The Mirror has taken a crack at embedded video but it does suffer from small player syndrome embedded halfway down an article page. Although they aren’t averse to embedding Youtube contentWhether they should do or not is another matter.

Looking for homegrown content I though the Mirror Exclusive category of the player was a good place to start. It has a mixture of styles dominated by sport content. It tends to be press conference stuff but there is some presenter led stuff. David Yates does a neat read to camera for his video horse racing tips. It’s shot against bluescreen but Yates delivers well.

Talking to camera can cause Squeaky bum for some jounos. Not these boys though
Talking to camera can cause Squeaky bum for some jounos. Not these boys though

Football Spy is also worth a look. It’s is a presenter led bulletin style round-up of the football news that runs off the back of a blog. It’s usually presented by Mirror journos from the Mirror office but more recently it seems to have moved to someone’s back garden. Who says video producers cant’ work from home.  It’s nice and jolly and the delivery is confident. But it’s Alan Mckinlay in the August 1st football spy who gets a special mention as he describes the football transfer window as “squeaky bum time” for managers.

I liked the feel and the fact that they also refer to readers comments. Maybe this would work better as a podcast, downloadable to a mobile.

The one thing that did annoy me was the large amount of useless graphic material around the screen. Why not animate the graphics, make it work for you. That way you could re-frame the shot and get more face in the screen. Just a it more thought and it really could work well.

Less successful is some of the opinion. Brian Reade on Graeme Souness was video of someone reading out loud. Interesting article but not as snappy as the gossipy style of Football spy.

Moving away from sport you get the odd feature that follows the same presenter led model. The film reviews by David Edwards are nicely done but need tighter framing given the size of the player. The rest is a mix of interview and video grabbed around Mirror stories. The Return of David Cameron’s bike (nice to see some original footage of the theft as well)  was fun for the banter but too long and the camera was too far away. They owned the story, they should have got in there tight. A case of video behaving like a photographer.

And that photographer behavior kicks in for some of the other content with a pap like snap and grab on footballer Joey Barton Leaving prison.

Overall
The Mirror offers a more refined video experience than The Sun. The approach is less scattergun which, perhaps, makes it a little less appealing to the tabloid market. Maybe it’s the Mirror’s attempt to lift the tone a little to place it more in the mid-market tabloid. The large amount of news content, even though it’s third-party, may be driving that – if that’s what you have, that’s what you are – but I do sense a ‘kind-of’ strategy here.

The development seems to be in the area of packaging the columnists. They are in predictable but sensible sections. The content is neatly produced, although it could be a little more web friendly in presentation – tighter shots please. Im sure the Football Spy garden is nice but it’s the people I’m interested in.   I can see this kind of content working well on mobile phones.

But it’s Football Spy that is really  the defining bit of video for me on The Mirror website. Keyed in to the lively and active Football Spy blog, embedded using youtube. It appears on the main website because the media  player can handle it but I’m sure that the majority of the blog readers get never visit.

This is the first time I’ve seen a real community supported with video in the tabloids. A niche served in the right way. The rest is standard fair. But as an example of a newspaper using video when it works for them, football spy is a real tabloid takeaway.

Tomorrow it’s The Express

Zemanta Pixie