Is journalism’s final frontier online video?

While plenty of reporters are giving it a shot, there’s no rule book yet for video journalism says Tim Burrowes.

In recent months, I’ve been involved in judging a couple of awards involving online video journalism. And the more video I’ve watched, the more I’ve realised: this may be the last remaining frontier of journalism where nobody has the answers. There is no definitive rule book as to what works.

When it comes to judging these new award categories, I quickly became aware that I and my fellow judges were all looking for different things. Those from the technical end looked for beautiful camera work – it was all about the framing of the shot.

Others like the editing – were the cuts matched to the beat? Was the music choice good?

Being a writer by background, I looked for the tale that was being told. Each style of video is very different, yet all are on offer on local online news sites. You’ll also, of course, see the tackier stuff – viral videos stolen from YouTube with a quick voiceover from a newsroom journo in an attempt to crowbar the stolen content within the copyright auspices of fair dealing are popular fare.

What works? I don’t know, but I’ve learned a couple of things with the videos we’ve created. Short content gets more views than long. An interview with someone will persuade far more people to hit play if it’s a couple of minutes than if it’s 15. Even if it’s brillaint and compelling. You have to choose whether to give people the snack they want or the meal you wish they’d consume.

What you write about a video makes a big difference to viewer response. If the accompanying words are an urgent news story about the video, people will click out of curiosity. Use the words to simply announce the contents and the views will be far fewer.

Of course, with IPTV, the rules will change. And my hunch is that consumption habits within tablet newsstand apps such as Encore will be different again.

Right now, the video field is wide open.



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