A multidimensional approach is needed for newspaper video strategy

I’m confused by this post from Chuck Fadely.

On one hand, he has this gripe:

This video stuff ain’t easy nor cheap. No matter how many well-intentioned bloggers tell you all you need is a $89 camera and the will to do it, the reality is far different.

It takes good audio gear, reasonable video gear, modern computers, and most of all, time, to produce intelligible video for the web.

But later he says this:

Video clips, on the other hand, can be done by almost anyone with a point-n-shoot. We’re talking the video equivalent of a page 4B traffic accident brief. A video clip appeals to the 17 people who were affected by the wreck (unless it’s a porn starlet).

So, let’s suss this out. You’re a “well-intentioned blogger” if you say low-end equipment is the way to go to get spot-news video, and um, this video stuff isn’t easy and it takes dedicated staff and big, expensive cameras, but, um, that 4B traffic accident should be covered by a reporter with a point-and-shoot camera.

Isn’t this a contradiction?

OK, I see his post is a rant against publishers who think video is cheap and easy and won’t spend money on training, talent or equipment.

But he doesn’t name any publishers who believe that, and I certainly don’t know any publishers who believe that.

So we must be back to the well-intentioned bloggers.

But he doesn’t name these bloggers, either.

I suspect a strawman.

The only bloggers I know who advocate putting inexpensive cameras in the hands of news staff are also experienced professional journalists.

After all, the father of inexpensive news site video is Jack Lail, one of my early online mentors. He runs one of the most respected news web sites in the country. His staff created Random This, which recently won a Digital Edgie award.

But KnoxNews.com isn’t all point-and-shoot. The staff there also produces a lot of polished video shot with quality equipment.

So who is it out there advocating a cheap-only approach to video?

Here’s what Chris Hendricks, VP of interactive for McClatchy, said at an Inland Press Association event earlier this year, which I blogged:

Hendricks on video: It’s part of the critical strategic path. “We need to be in the video business.� Some McClatchy sites have studios, but many just have $99 cameras and reporters are out shooting video. Chris endorsed the idea of doing whatever you need to do to get video on your site. It doesn’t need to be big, fancy or expensive.

So McClatchy is pursuing a duel video strategy: Expensive stuff and low-end stuff. McClatchy has video studios, but also believes in buying $99 cameras.

To me, it just seems smart to do both.

As news companies transitioning to the web we need to:

  • Develop internal video literacy, so we can both produce better stuff with low-end equipment, and become better at shooting great stuff with higher end equipment, or however equipment might evolve;
  • Condition our audience to think of our sites as a go-to place for video of multiple varieties, and the only way to produce a critical mass of video is to include easy-to-produce, reporter-shot video in the mix;
  • Find our video voice, by that I mean figure out what works and what doesn’t and go in the direction of what works, and this means shooting lots of video and getting a lot of people involved in the process;
  • Get our newsroom more engaged in online, and video has some real magic in driving this transformation (I’ve watched it happen in multiple newsrooms now — give reporters the power to shoot their own video and suddenly you have a lot of reporters caring a lot more about online).

Video is too important to our digital future to pursue with just a one-dimensional strategy.

And BTW: It’s not cheap to buy a lot of inexpensive cameras to outfit an entire newsroom. And if you do that, you do need multimedia staff (meaning new FTEs, or reallocating FTEs) to help support the effort. It’s a bit of a red herring to say that publishers are trying to cheap-out by investing in point-and-shoot cameras.

I’m still not sure what Chuck is really advocating, but a quick reading of his post would lead one to believe that he’s slamming the use of low-end equipment for news video and preaching an exclusive high-end-only approach.

Obviously, I disagree.

3 thoughts on “A multidimensional approach is needed for newspaper video strategy

  1. I’m glad you brought up the point about adding FTEs. I think that point escapes many folks wanting a quick implementation of a video strategy in their newsroom via camera distribution.

  2. I love it when you and Chuck get into these spats, especially since you both seem want the same results.

    We have to start somewhere, and the truth is, by the time you compress video for the web for those itty bitty flash players, the quality all comes out the same. What you shoot with a little low-end camera and “big digital camera” end up looking the same on the web (at least for the moment). The difference is the creativity and work ethic of the person behind it.

    In the meantime, if we can put cameras in the hands of everyone, some will work hard to learn new skills, others will roll their eyes and blow it off. Some will shine. Others will produce mediocre or poor work. Is it that much different than the levels of print and broadcast work being produced in our newsrooms now? I’m betting those who don’t do quality video work are the ones who aren’t taking pride in what they do now.

    Plus with the advent of the new HD cameras coming in at less than $1,000 (such as the Canon HV20), you can have both quality, control and low cost.

    Let everyone jump into this new frontier and see who responds. I think the last thing management wants to do is discourage those with a passion and desire, and let’s face it, courage, to leap into this new age.

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