How the UK Tabloids use video: The Express

This week I’m looking at the way the UK tabloids use video and today it’s the turn of the self proclaimed best newspaper in the World, the Daily Express

The Express takes us out of the ‘red-top’ territory of The Sun, Star and Mirror and in to the tabloid ‘mid-market’ which it shares with its rival The Daily Mail, which I’ll be looking at tomorrow.

The Platform

The Express front page has a number of video links
The Express front page has a number of video links

The Express flags it’s video clearly on the front page with a navigation item for video, currently marked as new, and a little graphic on the right-hand side of the page. A click on either one will take you through to the video page and (once you have cleared the really annoying overlay ad) the standard jukebox player powered by Roo.

The Express player. Dull, glitchy and full of third party stuff
The Express player. Dull, glitchy and full of third party stuff

When it first loads up, I have to say it looks pretty dull. The categories are all presented as ‘accordion’ style navigation but they are all rolled up. So you are presented with a generic splash screen on the player and no nice thumbnails to entice you in. It’s almost as if you click through and discover that Express video is closed for the summer. But I’m not afraid to click around and it’s a good job too.

Clicking news presents you with another set of roll-ups, again shut tight, and more menus. This is just too many clicks. But when I did eventually get some thumbnail action – I clicked UK news – I was greeted by the familiar swish of the Press Association and then it froze.  Something that happened quite a few times on the site. The controls failed to work for me using Firefox and a mac when it first loaded. All the way through the player skipped, stuttered and jumped videos. A bit of clicking around got it working but it was frustrating.

There is no back linking to articles from the video and they don’t do embedded video. If you want to cook along with Gary Rhodes for example, then you better make a note of the ingredients first because clicking the link will take you away from the recipe page.

The Presentation
The news content on the site is a mix of Press Association, AFP and Reuters. Most of the other content comes courtesy of the Roo network. The computer games content for example comes via Aussie company Control Freaks and entertainment (and lots of other stuff) from WatchMojo. Not much in there that looked in-house. Some of the sport stuff is unbranded but it still feels like agency footage.

So I used the search function to have a look for Exclusive and Express Exclusive content. The majority of it was exclusive but to the third-party suppliers the Express uses. Where it was obviously exclusive to the Express it was either branded stuff like Gok Wan’s competition offer or submitted stuff like the London Zoo promo.  The Hungary Grand-Prix preview is another apparent exclusive. Don’t let the branding at the end fool you. You can see the whole thing at any of the other tabloids. Try it over at The Sun for example. The player is better.

Overall
The technical implementation of video on the Express is really poor. The player’s isn’t user friendly and it’s buggy. Linking to video rather than embedding in article pages is shoddy considering the Roo player offers that technology and even when they do link, the technology lets them down. The player often jumps the linked video for a video a few items down.

The actual content of the video on the website is OK. If you are in to games then Control Freaks has a nice range of stuff and WatchMojo has so much stuff on so many subjects you will always find something but I can get that stuff anywhere. There is nothing here that is produced by the Express and that means there is nothing here that says Daily Express or shows any commitment to building a video brand. And no, paying that little extra for a PR company to get the tame celeb to say Daily Express or add a graphic is not a brand strategy.

You may ask “Why does the Express have to have a video brand?” It doesn’t. It doesn’t even need to make it’s own video. But it has chosen to have video on it’s site and it needs a better strategy than simply buying all the content options from Roo.  If it’s going to have it it could take the route of selecting the best, relevant video for their audience.

One thing is for sure, at the moment the video is a very poor bolt-on and has nothing to recommend it.

So tomorrow I’ll take a look at The Express’ competition – The Daily Mail, and see if it does any better.

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