Light At The End of the Tunnel

Posted on March 30th, by Michael Rosenblum in Newspapers. 1 Comment


Keep going… we’re almost there…

My two day stint at the Guardian (UK) last week was the most encouraging encounter with newspaper video I have had in a very long time.

It was encouraging because, (a) The Guardian ‘gets it’ in a way that most newspapers and broadcasters don’t and (b), because I could, through our discussions, start to see the shape of video online for the future.

A couple of take-aways:

Online video can be a source of real quality journalism.  The folks at The Guardian have been experimenting for a long time with this, and what they have learned (so far at least) is that while the ‘cat in the tree’ video might get 500,000 hits, it is not particularly ‘advertiser friendly’. That is, advertisers don’t particularly want to be associated with the content.

This whole notion of Advertiser Friendly, Advertiser Neutral and Advertiser Negative is not new to me.  we were warned continually that even though our TLC series, Trauma, Life and Death in the ER rated high, it was Advertiser Negative. That is, the folks who bought the ads did not want to be associated with a series that showed people with their arms torn off and called Death anything.

So, listening carefully to John Ford at TLC, we dialed back on the gore factor and dropped ‘death’ from the title.  Suddenly we were Advertiser Neutral, which was better.

The folks at The Guardian have discovered that cat-in-tree videos are in fact Advertiser Negative.  What is Advertiser Positive, it turns out, is really intelligent and in-depth video reportage.

The quality stuff is so popular amongst advertisers, in fact, that The Guardian is facing a shortfall in supply of good stuff. As well, the numbers they are getting (and I don’t feel a liberty to reveal them, on a CPM basis, are absolutely mind-blowing). It turns out that the kind of person who will watch an intelligent, in-depth video on a significant subject is also the kind of person who will buy a Bentley, for example.

Second take-away:  The videos that a newspaper does should, on the whole, reflect the intellectual sensibilities of that newspaper.  That is, a newspaper known for intelligent, in-depth reporting, quality writing, features, and a point of view, should probably carry that philosophy and tradition over into their online videos.

Readers of the paper will have little trouble transiting from that kind of print article to that kind of video story.  In fact, they will expect it. What they don’t expect is the cat in the tree video, (Unless, of course, you have a cat in the tree newspaper, in which case, there you are).

Finally, one of the problems with quality and in-depth reporting in video is that, until now, it has been very very expensive to do. And even at big CPMs, its difficult, if not impossible to pay for that quality of journalism.

Fortunately, the advent of small high quality digital video cameras and nle systems means that instead of putting your money into crews, trucks, cameramen and their lunches and hotels, you can put that money into some quality time for your journalist, armed with a video camera, to really work a story,

All in all, it’s an encouraging picture for the future.

It’s not TV news. But it does open the door for a very high quality of journalism. The kind of thing that hasn’t been seen on TV since NBC White Paper or CBS Reports. And that was a long long time ago.

Hopefully, the kind of visual journalists who once would have gravitated to a national network to produce this depth and quality of stuff will now start to work for newspapers instead.

One thought on “Light At The End of the Tunnel

  1. Hi Michael:

    For the most part, I agree with what you are saying.

    I would argue though that the Guardian (while maybe ahead of the pack), still misses a critical opportunity with video.

    Instead of looking for visual journalists to work for one of the newspapers on an exclusive basis, they (the Guardian and others) should be looking for non-exclusive partnerships with small companies (in some cases, just individuals) that can supply them with evergreen stories on a non-exclusive basis. If they are truly able to leverage professional content at “mind-blowing” CPM rates, that will allow them to enjoy the best of all worlds: low risks, and lower costs, while maintaining the integrity of their brand, not at the expense of it.

    I guess the newspaper industry in the US, at least, has one thing going for them, their readership is still interested in their product, albeit more of a shift to online. I wish they would be more receptive to experimentation, and working on non-exclusive partnerships for professional content, newspaper networks are missing out on opportunities that may be “mind-blowing”.


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Every day Michael Rosenblum blogs about the latest developments in the world of video and the media as well as future trends in technology and equipment.

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