How the UK Tabloids use video: The Mail

It’s Friday  so it must be the last day of my review of the way the UK tabloids use video and I’m rounding things off with the Daily Mail.

The Daily Mail sits alongside the Daily Express in the tabloid ‘mid-market’ apparently setting it an order above the Red top Sun, Star and Mirror.  It’s actually one of the more successful online newspaper websites considering how late in the game they where in setting one up. The Mail have made a particular point of targeting women web users which you can see from the tone and structure of the site.

The platform

The Daily Mail's video player. Hard to find but nice information when you do
The Daily Mail's video player. Hard to find but nice information when you do

When it comes to video there was no obvious sign of video on the front page of the site either through the navigation or flagged stories.  A search on the website (please get rid of that offer of an embedded search tool or add No) revealed two articles in a video category. Clicking through took me to the Daily Mail’s video section. Fully formed, large as life but not  linked.

Its the standard jukebox player but, unlike the rest of the tabloids who use Roo, this is a Brightcove player. The player isn’t the only thing that’s different. The page layout is more in keeping with the article page layout on the site rather than the ‘TV’ box style on others.  Sections are presented in one long thing sidebar. It’s a layout that, like some of the other pages, hides too much content below the scroll. I think filling boxes with reams of links is a habit the Mail need to get out of.

One nice thing to see was the content box below the video window.  There is the usual headline, short description but there is also a byline. A nice, human touch.  Better still is some useful meta. A date, time and most impressively a source for the video is given.  It is often missing which makes me think Brightcove are supplying the information for some of this data.  I think the presentation could be better (bigger) but it’s good to see.

But it’s a step in the right direction. I didn’t see any of the  other papers crediting the Bournemouth News & Picture Service for the Mini Hendrix footage. In fact, most of the agency footage is credited which slowed me down for a half-hour or so as I looked at what other stuff they had. I suppose that’s the lot of a news agency but it was nice to see.

If it's a screen grab why not just embedd the video?
If it's a screen grab why not just embed the video?

Most encouraging though was the presence of links back to articles. At last!   When you do follow the links through the video is usually embedded towards the end of the video. I think this is shame as it often duplicates pictures on the page. A story about violent yobs (good Mail fair) features a heavy number of screen-grabs from CCTV video that is embedded further down the page. One of the pictures at the head of an article is a screen grab. It is exactly the same as the poster frame of the video. Why show both?

The presentation

Unkown source or the BBC? You decide
Unknown source or the BBC? You decide

The thing that really struck me about the video on the Mail is the lack of news feed content. There is no dedicated news feed of PA or Reuters content. In fact there is nothing approaching a news feed at all on the site. All of the content can best be described as illustrative or feature based. Like the other tabloids it’s rounded up entertaining clips from the web that it thinks will appeal to the audience and the editorial line is firmly in the middle of the paper not the news pages at the front. So we get news it’s a mix of besieged middle-Englanders battling yob culture or birds that sound like ambulances and Herons learning to fly.

The only exception to that when I looked was a video of teenage Guantanamo detainee Omar Khadr. It’s illustrative video, it supports the news story. But I single it out as it’s clearly BBC footage grabbed from TV – I’m pretty sure that’s Frank Gardner voicing it- but it isn’t credited. Having seen the Mirror pull this trick I wonder what the form is here.

There is some homegrown content on the site.  Mark Lawford’s interview with Monte Panesar was interesting but the lighting was poor and the shot could have been tighter. Listen to the interview though as a good example of a print person doing a video interview. That isn’t a criticism. Listen the way he qualifies statements, jumping in, looking for stuff that can be used as reported speech later on. It’s a questioning style that gives you print stuff but it won’t stack up for long in video.

Drop one presenter and half the time
Drop one presenter and half the time

The other, consolidated, bit of video content was the Live magazine tech-review video. James Mannion and Rob Waugh do a double-header reviewing the latest gadgets. Its shot in what seems to be a photographic studio using two cameras – or some pretty meticulous single camera set up. The idea is okay but the production and format don’t work for me. The editing is too tricksy and slows the pace. The presentation is also too stilted. They have a bit of a star in Rob Waugh and my view is that they should let him do the slot without James (no offense James). That way it could be half the length and have a lot more pace.

Overall.

I get the impression that video is fairly new to the Mail. It feels cautious and the fact that the video section is so hidden away just emphasises that. But that could be a smart move on the part of the Daily Mail.

They are not selling the site as having video and then backing that claim up with feed video. This is more a site that has the capacity to use video and the video section is just a bonus. I’m not sure I would go as far as to say that they use video well; there isn’t enough of it to tell. But where it is used it seems appropriate. It could be used better on the article page and I don’t see a clear editorial line. But it’s there.

How they move forward from here will be interesting to see. My money would be on a movement more towards The Sun where the video is a mix of stuff that may appeal to the audience rather than a more broadsheet style of authored pieces. I think they may end up doing it very well.

So that’s it.  A week of tabloid newspaper video. So what did I learn from looking at The Sun, Star ,Mirror Express and Mail?  Find out on Monday.

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