Newspaper Video: TV isn’t all crap you know.

Kevin Anderson tips his hat in to the ring on the ‘online video not TV’ debate over at Strange Attractor.

I think at the end, the opportunity for video exists, not in replicating television, but in:

  • Taking advantage of the disruptive economic potential in pro-sumer video production, not in trying to replicate TV production methods.
  • Developing a workflow that supports on-demand video not rolling television news.
  • Developing an editorial voice and grammar that works in an online, on-demand world, not one that apes CNN and other rolling news channels.

Loads to agree with in the post and very interesting points to finsih with. But perhaps they reflect more on what is wrong with TV rather than what could be right about online video.As I said in a previous posts, it seems that the digital journalism fraternity are getting bullish about video. That disruptive economic potential is too good to resist and given the quagmire that TV news seems to have got itself in, the chance to wipe the slate clean and try something new is irresistible
In his post Kevin highlights this opportunity

…on-demand video divorced from television’s high overhead will begin to pressure rolling news channels. That is where the opportunity exists for newspapers and other non-traditional sources of video, not in jumping from one threatened business model to another.

The ‘other’ Kevin is referring to is TV as framed by a Poynter article about Norwegian media company Schibsted pulling out of mainstream TV.

Commenting on Q4 figures last week, Schibsted CEO Kjell Aamot said: “TV has peaked. Last autumn, as we went out of the business, I was worried. We were almost sure that TV had peaked. Today we are absolutely sure.” The reason for this peak, claimed Aamot, is that TV will meet increasing competition from online video.

Running with the point, Kevin picks out an obit for 24 hour rolling news in the Guardian by Paul Mason, business reporter for the BBC’s Newsnight programme. It makes depressing reading for TV execs. Here’s a taste.

All the evidence suggests that audiences want a timely, authored, edited summary of what has happened – “breaking” or otherwise – updated to reflect new knowledge and events. Now they can get it on the web in an instant. The BBC website’s “Watch a summary” button takes you to a looped three-minute bulletin read out over pictures. Reuters’ website provides something similar, updated hourly.

But, in reading the obit I sense a contradiction. It would seem that, for Mason, the problem is that this 24 hour rolling news just isn’t fast enough. It’s looped 3 minute bulletins that he wants rather than looped 1 or 2 hour rolling content.

Or is it? In learning how to feed the rolling news machine with live two-ways and talking heads, Mason feels like we have lost something:

In the process, we lost the concept of “story” – an editorial process whose outcome is a narrative with a beginning, middle and end, and hopefully a meaning. During the rise of rolling news that was something we just had to live with. Now we don’t.

Am I wrong in seeing the contradiction in this?

Aren’t we in danger of simply worsening the problems of lack of story and analysis by squeezing time frames to the on-demand that Mason talks about? Just where is all the instant content and reaction that Mason talks about going to come from?

In setting out his thoughts Kevin identifies, for me, the fundamental point: Online video needs to be different and the journalists that make it need to think differently.

But he also identifies a pressure:

The bottom line is that as economic priorities shift to online, commissioning priorities for original journalism also have to shift in that direction. That’s a long term process. In the near term, media companies have to radically revamp their development process, but that is another blog post. Suffice to say, new media development cycles have to become incremental, iterative and measured in months, not in years.

I think that’s a measure that we, as journalists should resist. I think it’s that bottom, that expectation that online is faster, cheaper and more that is the driving force behind a lot of the ‘quick-fix’, tv replication that many have criticised.

It should be questioning that transfer and compression of time and money from TV that focuses our attention rather than slipping in to challenging the form of TV. In doing that, we risk throwing the baby out with the bathwater.

In our disappointment with what commerce has made TV, we may be in danger of ignoring the good, practical stuff that we should save from the wreckage.

So, I did it with Adrian Monck’s maxims and with all respect to Kevin I’m going to rewrite his opportunities

  • Taking advantage of the disruptive economic potential in pro-sumer video production, using appropriate TV production methods to drive the process,. This will help in….
  • Developing a workflow that supports effective journalism not a format that will…
  • Help journalists develop an editorial voice and grammar that works in an online, on-demand world, not one that mirrors CNN and other rolling news channels.

One Reply to “Newspaper Video: TV isn’t all crap you know.”

  1. Andy,

    Good points, and possibly some old biases on my part are creeping in with respect to TV.

    With respect to the development quote you pulled out, I probably muddied the waters of that post by throwing that in. I was talking more about technical development, not necessarily editorial development. It was in my head at the time, and I probably didn’t clarify that point well. It’s a completely different issue that is marginally related because newspaper companies are having to build out infrastructure to actually deal with video. That comment is about infrastructure, hosting, archival not rapid development of editorial content.

    However, I think as newspapers technically iterate to get to the place they want, they should also experiment editorially to develop skills and a ‘voice’ that reflects their own style.

    thanks,
    k

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