UPDATE: June 2008. I’ve begun updating my look at the UK newspapers and video starting with the broadsheets. Take a look at my 11 tips for video based on a review of broadsheet papers.
I post a lot on the video/newspaper thing and I’m aware that it does have a bit of US bias. Not that I’m sorry about that. I think the debate is really valuable regardless of where it is. But, it doesn’t mean I don’t keep an eye on what is going on in the UK.
So, I thought it would be interesting for anyone outside the UK if I started a quick round up of the state of things here.
It’s by no means comprehensive, or meant to single out anyone as better or worse than others. It’s just a start.
For the most part, things are pretty static. Those who have invested in some kind of online video have generally invested in buying it in. When it is news focused it tends to be syndicated stuff from third-party providers or it comes as part of the video-package. For example, The Times uses the Roo player which also serves up content that Roo have sourced.
Some unique content does exist. The Times, The Telegraph and The Sun all have unique content generated for the site, mostly for sports coverage (coverage for the Ashes in particular). The Sun does have a wide range of SunTV badged content but it isn’t what you would call news. In fact very little effort is made by the nationals when it comes to unique content for news.
Some don’t have to make much effort. The Times and The Sun benefit from content by other Murdoch owned enterprises such as Sky and Fox. But most take feeds from well established agencies like Reuters.Some do this with more style than others. The Daily Mail for example, would seem to get video content from a variety of sources but isn’t inclined to do much with it.
A recent story about a bus crash near Heathrow airport (link to video)is obviously feed footage (sourced from Kamera, who source footage from Associated Press), starting with helicopter shots and then top-and-tailed interview footage without supers.( captions with names) Great if you are going to cut it yourself but not so great for the view who is given no context.
Surprisingly The Guardian, perhaps the most recognisable of online players, doesn’t have a huge amount of visible video on their site. That’s not to say that there isn’t anything news related, but as the Iraq special section indicates it tends, like the other nationals , to be sourced from Reuters. There isn’t anything that could be said to direct parallel with the news output.
Overall, the idea that a newspaper – and I’m focusing on broadsheet newspapers here – is there for analysis pervades the reflective, rather than responsive approach to multimedia. At national (broadsheet) level it’s picture and audio slideshows and podcasting that dominate offering comment rather than reporting.
Local and Regional
The state of video at a regional and local level looks more positive in terms of unique news content.
Ownership at this level of the industry is dominated by a few players, so the approach tends to be similar across the range as they try and out-do each other with their own versions of a small bag of tricks. This can lead to confusion. For example, two of the bigger players, Newsquest and Associated Newspapers (one of two regional newspaper groups owned by DMGT. The other is Northcliffe), have both branded some of their sites with the ‘Thisis’ brand.
But whilst I would hesitate to call it healthy (what in the industry is at the moment), the use video is growing.
Northcliffe (dmgt) has rolled out the Thisis brand for some of its websites and streams bulletins created by The Press Association. Northcliffe claims to have been the first local and regional newspaper group to have video on the site, starting the relationship with PA in 2005, but despite promises that this heralded bigger and better things, it is yet to move on.
Newsquest (owned by Gannett) has been experimenting with video. Its trial of video in Scotland, covering the Edinburgh Festival, worked well. According to Head of media development Tom Thomson
“This kicks off an ambitious programme to offer the most compelling features of the web to our growing digital audience.”
Ambitious indeed, training from Gannet Broadcast people seems to paying off. Even though it isn’t to the liking of everyone, the output is varied in terms of amount and quality across publications, video is there.
The Westmorland Gazette has some nice video. It’s Tickles the Parrot package is fun if not earth shattering in terms of news. Its fun local coverage.
The Bolton News has a nice bit of ‘from the scene’ content from a Fire Commander giving an interview in front of a burning building.
Another big player is the Trinity Mirror and their IC branded websites. Like all the other groups the commitment to interactivity seems to focus heavily on video. Neil Benson, editorial director of Trinity Mirror regional, told Journalism.co.uk
“In Liverpool, Newcastle and Teesside, video journalism is now done daily, it’s built into the everyday running of the newsroom,” he said.
“We have got 20 to 25 trained video journalist across the regional newspapers division. The plan is to increase the number, to double or treble them, to have 40 to 60 trained video journalist by the end of next year.”
For the record, I have put students on placement at the ICLiverpool site and know just how committed those guys have been with pushing the technology forward, so it’s nice to see the stuff up there in such amounts.
One video that caught my attention was a video of the Liverpool Echo’s Assistant Editor Andrew Edwards (link to wmv file), talking about why the ran mobile phone footage of a disabled boy being bullied. A nice bit of transparency even if it wasn’t clear that was what the video was about –A caption telling people who he was would have helped as well- that is carried through on to the front page as the editor talks through the days paper.
Trinity Mirror has taken the approach of separating their commercial activities from their newspapers with listings and services appearing through the IC brand whilst the ‘journalism’ is badged under the newspapers.
The Guardian Media Group has done a similar thing with The Manchester Evening News. The newspaper moved back to its own website brand after a number of years under the Manchester Online portal, which is now a brand in its own right.
I feel the Manchester Evening News is worth a mention here as it illustrates a model that hasn’t been taken up by other players but certainly taps in to the muti-platform, local focus way of thinking that is common at the moment.
Although there is a newsroom bulletin, a lot of the content on the newspaper website is sourced from Channel M. Channel M was set up in 2000 and now broadcasts on free to air satellite, cable and analogue TV as a Restricted Service broadcaster.
I’m guessing that any US journos reading this will see more similarities to their media environment with this model than with others but it isn’t without controversy. Regulation in this country does look carefully about how much control one owner has over the flow of information. Models of ownership like this may be few and far between in the UK because of that.
Again, I have to make known a connection here Channel M and the MEN have always been good providers of placements and info. In particular Matt Davis – one of our first MA Online Journalism students.)
Another big player in the involved with video is Johnston Press, who are also embracing video as part of a digital strategy they call Local E-focused. The project was pioneered at the newsroom of our local paper The Lancashire Evening Post – plenty of video to see in their LEP TV section.
Time for yet another statement of interest here. Since the project has begun rolling out across the groups papers, I have been involved in training JP journalists in using video and my Department has links with JP – including a JP Chair in Digital Journalism.
So there it is a few pointers to what is going on in the UK. As I said at the start, it isn’t meant to be exhaustive and there are others out their, but you have to start somewhere.
Reading back, I don’t think there was much, if any, politics in there. It doesn’t mean there isn’t any and the same debates that have been commented on in the US are certainly taking place here. But I hope it was of some use.