I found myself on the Belfast Telegraph website yesterday looking at their rather nice crime map. A nice mashup but the ability to compare years visually would have really made it for me.
Still, whilst exploring I noticed a slideshow of the recent homecoming parade of The Royal Irish Regiment in Belfast. It’s shame that the slideshow was the the bog standard html click and link job (very old school next to a sexy mashup). An audio slideshow with soeme sound from the event would have been really evocative.
Especially when you have such fantastic shots like this one
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.)
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 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 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.
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.
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.
Next on the list is the Belfast Telegraph
The Belfast Telegraph is owned by the Independent News and media group who publish the UK daily broadsheet The Independent (which I looked at before). It’ picked up a number of awards over the last few years and continues to be one of the top performers in the evening newspaper circulation listings (the reason it’s on the list)
The news bulletin is just a tiny part of our multimedia approach, don’t be fixated with it. We are forging ahead with our video and audio journalism and a range of other measures. First, we need to train our staff … then you’ll see the results.
So I was eager to see how far they had come.
The Belfast Telegraph brands its video as Telegraph TV and there is a Belfast Telegraph Television link on the main navigation. But try as I might I couldn’t see anything else on the page that flagged the video content – no links or other navigation. So I clicked through, via the BTTV link, to their video player page.
The player follows the thumbnail jukebox style, split in to tabbed categories, with an embedded flash player delivering the video. There where a lot of videos here but I’m sure there are more and I missed some kind of archive access. Unless that really is it!
The player is a nice size although the poster-frame often doesn’t display leaving a faceless black box. Luckily the display of the video headline and intro paragraph is clear and neat with a nice big headline to identify the story and plenty of space for text. This space is very rarely used well though. I’d like to see more text alongside the video to set the scene. But despite some nice layout the whole effect is let down by the way the thumbnails are displayed.
The first category you see is the BTTV news section, exclusively made up of bulletin style content. With Three bulletins a day there is a lot of content but it all has the the same thumbnail. It’s a thumbnail wall registering almost zero on usability. Dull. Even if the thumbnail was the same then a date wouldn’t go a miss. It’s a daily newspaper!
Looking at the special reports section everything begins to look a lot more exciting in terms of layout but the news section really needs work if its the first block you see.
There is embedded video on the site within articles but it’s usually Youtube – couldn’t find others. The article about ‘Adorable’ Derry teenager Eoghan Quigg and his appearance on X factor takes a youtube video showing an off-air recording of his audition. Once again you have to question how long this can go on considering the crackdown on copyright material.
The Belfast Telegraph video can be considered in two halves. The main thrust of content is geared towards its bulletin which follows a very traditional news bulletin style. Produced by Macmillan Media, this is a very, very slick virtual newsroom style piece, presenter lead with video inserts. By all accounts the inserts and the studio work is all done by Macmillan and the fact that they also produce news inserts for GMTV it’s clearly visible in the style and approach. The content is technically very well produced but the whole thing is TV with a capital, well, TV.
The three bulletin (four on a weekend) approach kind of makes sense. The evening and morning bulletins key in to the papers publication cycle (there is an AM version of the paper) and the lunch one grabs the lunchtime browsers. But the reality is there is very little to tie these bulletins to the paper.
There is a brief bit of scripted ‘in todays paper’ but it tends to be very generic or promos for the papers evening sections; jobs, business etc. Thankfully TV doesn’t stretch to anything other than promos. Ad’s are few and far between bar the odd short pre-roll ad and a sting for the Magners league before the sport.
The other rest of the site video falls in to the packaged feature category. Whether it’s sport, special reports or business, you can expect a nice vo, lots of b-roll and interview. Outside of the bulletins the major offering is in Special Reports. Rather than investigative stuff this is generally light feature based stuff. The only exception to that (that I could see) was Lindsey Armstrong’s Omagh piece, mentioned earlier. A solid package, confidently put together.
The packages can sometimes be too long and would stand an edit here and there. The Belfast bus tour was a case in point. The script sets up ‘chatting to those who are taking the tour and then goes in to a prolonged montage of the tour. We have to wait nearly 4 minutes before we get the punters which is then a bit drawn out. The result is that all the best general shots have been used in the montage and Gary has top resort to dipping to black or the odd very shakey GV.
It does serve as a good example of the mechanics (and pitfalls) of vox-pops though. Check out Bill and Nancy Gaunt at about 4:45 in. The first part of that is just misunderstanding it should have been cut out. Vox-pops should be quick and flow, one in to the other – quote, quote, quote and out. The rest of the package has done the set-up.
But credit has to go to Gary Grattan for producing a nice range of content. Gary is good on camera and puts together some nice stuff. Tighter packages would push the personality to the front. Take the Big Wheel Experience package as an example. A nice idea – Gary suffers from vertigo so stick him on a giant ferris wheel and film the result. (You need better office mates Gary!) – but a ponderous execution. Twice as long as it needed to be and the whole interview with the wheel guy was another package.
Some of the filming on the wheel piece Martin Nelson whose work pops up a lot more in the sports section. In fact a large chunk of the Sports video and the odd special report seems to come from Martin via EagleEye Films. Again the content is okay and generally well shot and edited. The format gets formulaic with a music intro, some gv’s with a heavy music bed and then the meat of the package. Some of the packages run very long and again the TV influence kicks in with credits at the end.
There where obviously big plans for the multimedia content at the Belfast Telegraph so have they born fruit. In short, no.
Of all the sites I’ve looked at, that disconnect between the video and the paper makes the Belfast Telegraph’s offering the most like a national newspaper I have seen. I’m not sure if that’s a good thing.
Whilst the video is often well produced and in the case of the bulletins, I would expect nothing less, it feels very disconnected from the paper. The main thrust of dynamic content is in the bulletins but i feel like I could be watching any TV news bulletin not the Telegraph TV. The odd ‘read more in the paper’ does little to make it particular to the paper. It’s almost like they send the odd screen grab of the days pull-out and they send back a generic bulletin with the odd insert. This just reminded me of the ‘exclusive’ efforts of the tabloids.
I wanted more from the paper, more tie in and more relationship between the way stories develop through the day. The morning bulletin is a great point to flag up developing news stories and spin them through the day. There is a real chance to whet my appetite for the whole day so that I’m desperate to buy the paper in the evening. It’s a chance missed and in it’s place it’s a local newsfeed instead.
The rest of the content suffers the same disconnect. Whilst there is obviously an effort to produce good stuff the lack of tie in with the paper – good embedded video and related articles – means the video ranges off, doing its own thing. The need to split video over a few clips is a sure fire sign of a lack of editorial focus. It should be split over several articles. Each chunk complimenting the story. That’s not a criticism of the work that’s there, as I say, credit to the staff for keeping the flow of content. It’s just that without proper integration in to the online offering it seems to do it’s own thing.
Perhaps a good deal of the problems I see can be blamed on the CMS. The lack of a solid relationship between the articles and video is a sure sign of different systems fighting each other. But ultimately there is a real lack of integration on the site. It’s a opportunity missed both practically and editorially.
For me the bulletins don’t add anything to the mix anymore. I’d rather see more news and local colour, tightly integrated in to the articles – more Garys and Lindseys please and less GMTV.
Over the last two weeks I’ve been looking at how the UK national tabloids and the broadsheets use video on their websites. It yielded some interesting results in terms of getting a feel for the general practice and areas of interest.
To keep things rolling and get a little balance I decided I would continue with a look at the way the regional press are using video. But before I kick off, I wanted to say a little bit about what could be laughably be called by methodology.
Now the regional press is a considerably bigger constituency to work with, so I have narrowed it down to five evening papers. I did this on the basis of the circulation figures.
Going through the list I originally thought I would look at the top five but I’ve mixed things up a little and expanded the range to get the high circulation papers and a mix of the big providers – Johnston Press, Trinity Mirror, Guardian Media Group, Northcliffe.
So the selection was not scientific in the least and I haven’t checked all of them to see if they actually do video. So if anyone feels like something should have been there then let me know. But here is the list (with a link to the Newspaper Society database which I used to check the owner)
Here is the list of sites I will be looking at over the next few days.