How the regional papers use video: Not The Leicester Mercury

When I said that my list of regional that I picked for a review of their video was unscientific I suppose the next choice on the list proves it. Going off a mix of circulation figures and a balance of owners has, I think, worked well so far…so far.

Then we get to the Leicester Mercury and, of course, it has no video. None. Nada. Some picture galleries, and my what a fine looking bunch of people the folks of Leicester are. But no video. I suppose a smarter person would have checked.

The other thing I noticed about the site is it is still running under the old ‘This is’ design and the Leicester Mercury’s owners, Northcliffe, have rolled out a new design. First to get it was the Hull Daily Mail and their This is Hull and East Riding site. So I thought I would look that one over instead. (did I get away with that …no…oh, well.)

The platform

Video gets pride of place on the front (and other) page. A space normally left to ad's
Video gets pride of place on the front (and other) page. A space normally left to ad

When the site loads the first thing you see is a nice big video player sitting high on the page in some pretty valuable screen real estate which it hogs for pretty much every page. It stands out against the fairly week visual line at the top of the page. All this curvy edges look nice but, for me, they seem to delay the start of the content.

It’s good to see the player but I think some for of headline to tell you what they video was could be integrated in to the design as the thumbnails are sometimes less than illuminating. You can get through the main video content via this player or via the video link in the main navigation.

The main video section is the familiar grid jukebox style with a number of separate sections and recommended video panels. It’s nice to see a range of embedded and link options as well as the option to have the video sent to your mobile – a nice touch.

The video index has a nice feel
The video index has a nice feel

The player is a nice bold and clean design with a clear headline and a text area for a lead paragraph. In common with one or two other sites this is underused. If video is going to stand alone it needs a lot more than just one line and a date to key a user in the story, even with a voice over. Even when it’s a bulletin it can be used. Looking at the Belfast Telegraph yesterday this I noticed that this is used to list the stories. The same thing could be done here. It’s space wasted.

You’ll see very little evidence of embedding content on the site – no links back to articles is the obvious one – but it is there. When you stumble across some it’s okay but the player is a bit small and given the range of content they could make more of it.

The presentation

The page leads with a bulletin and it’s not just any bulletin. It’s the funky news. In the latest one the music bed just runs and runs under this. I found it intrusive and unnecessary. It’s an attempt to speed things up and, yes, music does help pace. But the addition of some whip pan transitions show an attempt the sex up something that should be short and sweet. When they are short and sweet (and the music is better balanced) they work as well as bulletins can. Just some quality control on the production.

But the bulletin isn’t written in stone. When the local team went in to the football premiership the bulletin came out in team colours with one headline and some nice location video taken on mobile phones a nice way to add some personality.

Moving away from the bulletin stuff and you have a load of different styles to chose from handily arranged in sections. Two sections that caught my eye where the Your video and Caught on camera.

Your video is a user submitted part of the site where, once again, I think some issues of copyright might come back and bite one day. But more interesting is the Caught on Camera feature.

Caught on Camera takes video and stills from CCTV and does a kind so crimewatch round up of them. The approach in one video is so overblown it made me laugh out loud but I think there is a germ of a nice idea there. CCTV is a popular ‘short tail’ on sites and whilst I don’t think it will stretch the tail much the idea that kind of appeals to my ‘lets give it a try’ side. So it’s a shame that it isn’t worked through and developed: another episode is cctv footage a badly recorded VO.

Caught on Camera is one of a limited number of ‘themed’ bits of video on the site – the first I’ve seen in a regional so far. Another is an embryonic version of out on the town style feature called Hullvibe. Think of it as a mix of youth magazine and snaps/video of local club goers. This is now a fully fledged facebook/forum/myspace style thing with its own site which looks very snazzy.  I suppose you could also count the motoring section video in that vein. But I have to say I found them over long and at times a bit dull. Sorry

Much better are the serial efforts of the site like the talent show strand which can have a really great tie in to the paper. Best of all though is the coverage of the Clipper race earlier in the year with lashings of video – via a sponsored source. Another nice tie in to the paper.

Most of the content is general packaged news/feature stuff with the usual mix of interview, voice over and GV’s and the production values are, on the whole, pretty good, though the editing often lets it down. Take the Wags boutique piece – an almost criminal bit of puffery but pacey but well put together – was let down by the lack of control over the incidental music. It should have come right down over the interview. It also snatched the end of the VO off. But the speeded up montage and the modeling was neat. A nice package. Someone has really got the hang of that style of piece. The ladies day package followed the same vein and though the vox went on a bit it was another nice job. And now I know what a hatinator is!

Some of the footage is less successful. Much of it is packaged when it doesn’t need to be. The interview with Sir Michael Pitt was neither one thing or another and would have been better served as tight clips embedded in a story. The ‘standing ovation footage from the Hull City fans at Blackburn Rovers didn’t need the VO wrapping.

Conclusion
Looking at the site in the round I have an issue with problem with the bulletins on the site. Production wise they are okay and occasionally show some real colour but they are a bit ‘stuck in a rut’. Where some have used bulletins to prime a newsroom and then opened the floor to all journos and punters, This is Hull seems to have stalled. Yes, they are flashy and I’m sure they knock them out at a wicked pace but there is a next step.

Looking at the recent output you could be forgiven for thinking that they won’t make that step. That seems to be the major output but to see an over reliance on the bulletin content and damn them for it would only be half the story.

Once you get past the bulletins and recent glut of Hull City FC (yes, they are great, can we move on please) there is a nice mix of generally well made and entertaining packages. Ok the editing may be a bit rough round the edges and mobile phone footage may rub shoulders with more polished footage but it is more dynamic for that. It often gets a good local tie in as well. I liked the odd flash of fun like the collection of Hull fans singing Old Faithful.

But I think that a bit more emphasis on the embedded content in pages would open up the range and maximise the opportunities to develop articles. The video on the Hull and East riding site gives me the impression not of video being ignored – there is too much range and content for that. No it’s more like video in a bit of a holding pattern away from the main site. When it does fly in, like the wags boutique piece, it works well and helps generate a huge amount of comment – worth a read in themselves – and I’m wondering how much video helped stoke the input there.

But I hope they don’t stay still. Like the Express and Star there is a lot of video on This is Hull and the sheer range alone is something to be congratulated. With all that commitment and talent its a shame it doesn’t leak through to the rest of the paper where it can have chance to be challenged and grow.

On a side note I may have searched harder for the embedded video but, to tell the truth,  the search facility on the site is nigh on useless. When I search Hull’s website I don’t want the first result to be from Devon! I think there is a bit of work to do on your ‘hyperlocal’ geo-journalism tagging there folks.

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3 thoughts on “How the regional papers use video: Not The Leicester Mercury”

  1. Hi Andy,

    My names Lucy and I work on the Content for Hullvibe.co.uk, thanks for your comments, glad you liked it. Feel free to pop along and have a nosey around the site whenever you want.
    Comments and feedback is always welcome.

    Hullvibe. Supporting local talent and Hulls nightlife industry.

    Lucy

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