Newspaper Video: UK overview – Broadsheets

I thought it was about time I took another look what the newspapers where doing regarding video (and multimedia) as an update of my overview from January.The last one was a long post and, as I stated at the time, a little general. So I thought I would devote a little more depth to each ‘sector’, starting with the National Broadsheets.

The Guardian

The last time I did this I was pretty critical of the Guardian web site and its apparent lack of video. In one sense I still am.

My original post about the lack of content prompted a response from Neil Macintosh suggesting that ‘maybe he just couldn’t find it?’. Now I’ve had a good look I can see that the video is listed in a separate video part of the site. Easy enough to find. But there is little or no evidence of cross linking on a lot of the content and certainly no effort to flag it at high-visibility parts of the site, which is a shame

An example of this is a story about John Guma-Komwiswa by Paul Lewis. The video is a pretty straight news bulletin, some shaky camera and not the most exciting pictures, but it tells the story. The text version, elsewhere on the site offers a lot more detail but no obvious link to the obviously connected video.

Worse still, some of the basics of online presentation go out of the window. The video isn’t date stamped on the page. It’s only the text version that gives away the fact that the video is from December 2006.

That said, the range of content is good and production values are high.

Final Countdown for Baghdad's ChildrenThe ‘latest’ story on the site when I looked , Final Countdown for Baghdad’s Children, is a good example of those productions values. But the reason for that highlights an interesting issue with the Guardians output.

It’s was originally created as part of “A series of ITN/GuardianFilms reports from Baghdad” to run through March this year as part of the ITN news bulletins. That output shows through in the construction of the story and the technical quality of the web video (there is some obvious interlacing problems here). And there in lies a bit of a rub.

The Guardian has a production company, Guardian Films, (that’s the Guardian Films production company not the Guardian Film part of the site) which has had a steady stream of output since 2002. With commissions for channel 4, Discovery and the BBC amongst others, they seem to be doing a good job of winning slots in the ever dwindling market for documentary on TV so there is a bit, just a bit mind, of bias towards stuff they have produced for broadcast.

In the light of the Guardians investment in video (and here) they could be accused of relying too heavily on the indie production model as a structure rather than newspaper video approach, we will have to see. But that’s not to say that there isn’t a lot to enjoy here that works well for all camps.

Bobbie Johnson video diary from the Consumer Electronics Show shows what one man and a camera can do and the ongoing coverage of the Guardian allotment is good fun.

It’s also worth mentioning the multimedia output here, particularly the interactive guides, which have been breeding like the proverbial over the last year (though these are also not dated on the page).

After the riot audio slideshow

The slideshows both illustrative and audio driven are great. Although given the focus on audio that has defined the podcast savvy Guardian, some of the slideshow audio could do with some wildtrack. A bit of location sound would have pepped up Justin McCurry’s piece on Japans problems with dealing with an ageing population. The After the riots piece shows how much it helps and it even links to the text story.

The Telegraph

Like the Guardian, most of their video is sectioned off, this time in a separate Roo driven player. Unlike the Guardian this is linked from the front page.

Despite my dislike for channelling off the video in this way, I give the Telegraph credit of linking the stuff with the related text stories and the player gives good date and running length info. One point I would make would be that the intro text to each piece gets lost underneath the video window and I would have moved it to above the picture.

There is a lot of footage here in audio form as well as a decent amount of video. Unfortunately, like the Guardian, the broadcast production roots of a lot of the content shows through and it looks pretty bland. Produced in conjunction with ITN a lot of the news content is bland and lacks a distinct personality.

The telegraphs Business showThat’s not to say that some of the ITN/ T-TV stuff isn’t slick. The Business Show which is a well targeted extended bulletin style package, but it has a way to get to the level of unique video content with personality like the Timescast in the US.

It’s only when you get to the homespun stuff that the edges and the personality starts to flow. Watch poor Freddy and Charlie getting heaved around by Science Editor, Roger Highfield or see behind the scenes at the Chelsea flower show with video journalist Roland Hancock.

A mention here to Sion Touhig. As a freelance shooter and editor (he’s a snapper that does video too) he produces a lot of video for the Telegraph and in the process of chasing a story (well sailing after one) he sustained a wince inducing leg injury. Get well soon Sion.

The Times

The (new look) Times website has a clear link to its AV content and the section page is a well laid out mix of content, both editorial and medium. In fact it really did sell the idea well.

Like the Telegraph audio Podcasts rub shoulders with a mix of video through the TimesTV ‘branding’ and it all looks pretty impressive. There is still the major input from Reuters via the Roo player, and all the syndicated content that brings, but there is also a fair bit of homegrown stuff as well.

Paul Robert’s report on the Nigerian elections is an atmospheric mix of video and stills. Put that next to Catherine Philp’s report from Chad and Martin Fletcher ‘s report from a hospital in Mogadishu (nicely linked from the text story) and you have the start of a real reportage/editorial style that, although clichéd in places (think Michael Burke in delivery) has some real authenticity.

Unlike the Telegraph the Roo video player lets the Times down a bit. It’s slow, flaky and from purely an editorial perspective lacks the intro paragraph that sets the story up. If you come to the story from the text version then it works well. Load it from the player and the lack of a ‘package’ structure means there is nothing to put it in context other than a short headline.

Other video content includes the bafflingly vacuous ‘cool in your code’ which is essentially 5 minute magazine style TV based on ‘dez rez’ postcodes in London. I get it. High cost advertising. But really, local from a national newspaper? I’m not interested in a dozen films about Chelsea. No really, I’m not.

Cool in your code

Although they did produce my favourite moment on the site. At the start of each of the Cool in your code packages are two strange, almost conjoined presenters ( I’ve watched a few and I have never seen them more than a foot apart). They even get their job description in their captions. Carole Machin- Presenter and James McCourt – Presenter. No shit. Andy Dickinson – Still not interested

Still, my griping aside, it’s a strong offering content wise on the Times’ website.

The Independent

Move along, nothing to see.

Update: I’m lying. I’ve just loaded up the media page and the floating ad for Goodbye Banafa has some video in it. Oh, it’s gone.

The Financial Times<

I missed the FT the last time I looked at video, which I regretted. It’s been plugging away at video for a while and it deserved as much of a mention as the other broadsheets.

Peter Thal Larsen, banking editor, on ABN Amro does the daily viewTheir version of the much maligned bulletin format is the Daily View. It has all the problems you associate with bulletins including the variable quality of presenter (although Peter Thal Larsen and Sarah Spikes do a nice turn), but the focus of the content to the FT audience, rather than the generic news of many bulletins, makes it a valid addition.

Another feature is the ‘View from the top’ where CEO’s review the news. If it was a CEO commenting on the news, this would be gold dust. As it is its a CEO’s commenting on the news through the medium of Christia Freeland. It could be so much shorter and sharper.

Conclusion.

So that’s the broadsheets

In general there is still a reliance of outsourcing from all the national papers. But there is a clear increase in the amount of content being generated by staff. The Guardian and the Telegraph are similar examples of papers with strong self-generated content and they also best reflect different approaches of mainstream papers moving into multiplatform.

The Times works harder to cross link its content – linking video to text stories – making it feel like the video is part of the paper. The Guardian however does this badly, presenting what feels like another arm of the Guardian media empire. The video output and the paper never really seem to connect.

The FT scores high in my books for its audience focus, where the Times got it wrong for me with its cool in your code – although I appreciate that it may fit a lot of their demographic – which is a shame. The new Times design really impressed me but it was one of the few that still had WMV format video sneeking in amongst the flash goodness.

A general criticism that you could level at all of the broadsheets is the lack the basics of online presentation. No consistent date stamps for the video, a lack of clear contextual information and poor linking to existing content are repeated mistakes. Some of it, I can imagine, are the limitations of the content management systems. But it’s obvious that in terms of joined up thinking the ‘convergence’ of content still has a way to go.