Tuesday, February 20, 2007

We can't rewind we've gone too far...

I bumped into a video journalist from the local newspaper today. It took a while to recognise him as he wasn't carrying the various bags of equipment that he now needs to cart around along with his notepad and pen. But, yeah, I eventually realised who it was. It was the tired eyes and the depressed demeanour. We had a beer. Surprisingly, given his forced vocation (that's the thoroughly modern media, for you - slight increment in pay, two jobs, not much in the way of thanks, no get-out clause) and my knowledge of the medium of video the conversation didn't revolve around post-production packages or the latest pieces of kit. What a shame. When we went our separate ways post-pint I did a bit of reflecting. Seems I hot-footed it away from the world of newspapers just in the nick of time (although, as someone who used to teach video, it would have been a thrill to have been trained in the use of camera and editing equipment by someone who'd been on a course at the Press Association for a couple of weeks). Not only is the regional press dying on its arse, it's scratching its head like a little lost boy who's never seen a computer in his life. Our little boy doesn't yet comprehend how he's going to integrate video into his website because he's not even that sure what a website is yet. So he sets up what is, in effect, a separate channel on his website, housing 90-second local news stories, most of which are soft news of limited appeal (a lot of entertainment stories, mucho music and am-dram). The little boy also has a news bulletin on his video channel because he's seen them do that on the telly and he thinks that's what television is. Maybe it is, little boy, but it's not what the internet is, is it? Sadly, given his approach, the little boy doesn't actually understand the grammar of television well enough, he just has a vague notion of what it is because he's spent too much time of late in the newsroom and, thus, his efforts at making news videos end up looking like bad parodies of what little he has seen on the box. The little boy hasn't used the internet enough to realise what users of the web do. He doesn't realise that people that surf the net scan the screen at a high rate of knots - they don't want to sit there for 90 seconds watching a video with inaudible sound (our little boy likes to use his in-camera microphone and hasn't got a lavalier - look it up, eh?) shot in someone's bedsit when, in the same amount of time, given a broadband connection, they could scan the front pages of the New York Times, Al Jazeera, the Japan Times and several others, absorbing many, many times the info contained in that news video. The little boy can't fathom why subscribers to news websites only wants to view videos that add something to a story that can't be done in print, rather than a mere repetition of the online story, nor that web users want the video to be integrated on the same page and not on a separate channel (less mouse clicks = more pleasure). And he's suddenly realised that he needs some personalities - for his bulletins and for that future move into podcasts, vlogs and blogs. Sadly, he's stripped the newsroom of all personalities, replacing them with a band of devoted automatons. One day, the little boy will grow up and maybe he'll finally realise what he's been doing wrong. Or maybe another little boy that does understand will take over. From his bedroom. With less expensive kit but a lot more nous. You can call your newspaper an e-based multi-media organisation if you like, you can tell your readers that you're at the heart of all things local (although a lot of us know that the heart is deceitful above all things), you can re-brand and re-brand until your designers' fingers are sore and bleeding and you've shredded another forest's worth of obsolete stationery. You can even keep making your videos. Just don't expect to get anywhere with the whole exercise until the little boy is completely au fait with all things internet. And that doesn't just mean viewing your own site and Hold The Front Page. In the meantime, while he's still scratching his head, your little boy should read this. Good luck. And in the rush to make your videos, don't forget to keep doing the things you were always quite good at.

Of course, if all your videos featured Hannah Spearritt trotting around her Primeval apartment in her underwear, I'd happily subscribe to your news and provide you with a seriously large revenue stream to expand your empire. Regard:


Anonymous said...

So true...I watched some clips and thought that they (The Mail) would be quite within their rights to apply for a government grant.
This would allow them to buy better equipment and possibly allow some free time to watch "You've been framed" to get some ideas on how to present a polished media product.
"This is (a young) Tracey Barlow for the Mail"...Where's(pause) me(pause) Dad? (Speak in monotone with no feeling).

Music Man said...

A few years ago you could see the local newspaper had gone down the wrong route when it had special offers such as buying the newspaper and getting a free pot of noodles. As a reader you knew there was no 'value' in the paper. Rather than the internet route, where it won't compete with larger organisations, better to go down a 'Metro' route.

Benjamin said...

An interesting article, Dave.

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