This month’s Carnival of Journalism asked people to pontificate on the future of online video.
When convergence first occurred, I was somewhat skeptical about how big a role video could play in newsrooms that have traditionally been print focused. I study newsrooms transitioning to the digital world and have watched as reporters and editors initially expressed enthusiasm at the possibilities innate in visual storytelling, only to succumb to the cumbersome recording challenges and even more onerous editing learning curve. Technical, cultural, financial, organizational, institutional — the obstacles to achieving online video in formerly print-based newsrooms are many. Though a news organization might make video cameras available to its staff, the staff received very little training in shooting technique. Reporters found the cameras difficult to juggle along with a recorder and notebook. They found themselves shy about speaking in front of a camera, or even doing voice-overs. But mostly, the cultural and organizational dynamics of the print newsroom — especially the emphasis on writing as the primary evaluation measure — prevented much video work from being done (at least by print reporters).
I do think the state of news video for (formerly?) print-focused newsrooms is changing rapidly. Shovelware is long behind us. More and more websites are experimenting with online video and beefing up their use of multimedia. Over the last year newsrooms have renewed their commitment to online video. Even the Wall Street Journal has vastly expanded its video offerings and platforms. iMovie and other video editing programs have made video editing much more user-friendly. Multimedia trainings for journalists abound and are well attended. Even the recently doom-and-gloom prognoses of Pew’s annual State of the Media report have been naming more video use among news organizations as a sign of exciting development in the industry for content features. New iPad apps for video news make watching more convenient. And the statistics prove that more people are willing to spend copious amounts of time watching video. It’s just not so many of them seem to be accessing news video all that much, except the young folks (though I haven’t been able to land on any specific statistics about news use, have you?).
Nonetheless so far I’m still disappointed about how little innovation is happening around video use on newspaper websites. Most news sites still don’t let me pop out the video to a corner of my screen so I can browse off the page while watching that video (unless I am missing that function? It’s not obvious if it is there). I’d like the ability to search for video news in the archives of newspaper websites (but unless I have the direct URL, I am typically out of luck). I’d like to see more documentary-length video as enterprise features on newspaper sites. I’d like to see more video used to corroborate stories, showing snippets of telling pieces of the interview, for example. I’d like to see more reader-produced video commentary attached to stories as part of the forums and comments or somehow integrated more significantly.
And, if I may be a bit obnoxious, someday:
- I’d like the ability to zoom in on parts of most news video (without special software);
- I’d like to be able to right-click and have the transcript of the script available to me (but that’s just because I like to content analyze for my job);
- I’d like the ability to enable text captions on all my videos so I can secretly watch them during meetings without the sound on (without special software);
- I’d like the ability to pause the video, scroll over faces or building or other things and have a screen pop up with information about the person.
The future of news video is wide open. New platforms are going to make video watching preferable in some ways to reading news. Consider the prototype the New York Times is developing for delivering its news on people’s mirrors. You’re not going to try to read a feature-length news piece while shaving or putting eyeliner on. You CAN watch and listen to a video while doing those tasks. I know some people never watch video and perhaps never will, but I wonder if that’s because we haven’t hit upon the right mix of products that will appeal to greater segments of the audiences for news.