CORRECTION: Texastribune.org is not a newspaper. It is a non-profit, nonpartisan public media organization. But, my point remains, we’re seeing some great innovation in the way non-broadcast media is using the concept of the newscast. – J.A.
The idea of a newspaper web cast is continuing to evolve, even amidst criticism, depleted or dried up cash flows, and the already over saturated web video/Youtube universe.
As I’ve watched newspapers across the country experiment with online video on their sites (and done some experimenting of my own) I’ve discerned several patterns or trends:
- The newscast
This is the attempt, however feible or fun, low or high tech, to replicate TV newscasts. The Minneapolis Star Tribune’s Newsbreak is one example that has evolved over the past year or so. Most recently, they’ve decoupled their headlines segment from the interview part of the show. Their headlines are short and to the point and highlighthe biggest stories of the day. Some newspapers have opted for a less polished, Youtube-esque look to their newscasts that don’t presume to mimic TV. Take for example the newly redesigned Texastribune.org. They’ve got “video briefs” that look professional, reputable and are short and to the point. (My only complaint is lower third graphics with tiny fonts. They need to be bigger for the web).
- The interview format
This is the direction we’ve gone at Thisweeklive.com, a page out of the cable access playbook with sit down style, long form interviews with local civic & political newsmakers. The Strib’s Newsbreak is also moving to this style with the notable exception that their interviews are conducted with staff reporters who talk in depth about a story or issue they’ve been covering.
- The “news celebrity” newscast
Another direction newspapers have gone is to place a newspaper staffer with personality, style or a flair for humor at the center of their web cast. The Brooklyn Paper is of the smaller newspapers to do this with “celebrity” editor Gersh Kuntzman. The Star Tribune has Jimmy Lileks. New Jersey’s Star Ledger has Brian Donohue who hosts LedgerLive.
- Let TV do the heavy lifting
And, of course, some newspapers just won’t settle for anything but the “real deal”. Take the Florida Sun-Sentinal, which draws in it’s parent company resources (The Tribune Company) to bring TV news and programming to their web site. Southflorida.com is apparently an edition of the Newspaper’s web site and contains content aired on WSFL-TV. Many other newspaper sites are partnering with TV stations to post weather casts and news directly from their TV affiliates.
It’s still hard to say which model is the best, most lucrative or successful at gaining viewership. There are clear advantages to each path. The newscast highlights top news and provides another medium through which to consume the newspaper’s content. The interview show offers a depth and transparency to reporting, but may only find niche audiences. The “news celebrity” approach draws of the charisma of news folks to present the news and information and drive the show forward. And, of course, having a TV affiliate means little to no work for the newspaper staff, and you get polished, familiar and high production value online video.
So, the question for many newspapers is still between developing a “show” they can package (weekly, daily, etc.) or simply using spot news or feature video as needed with stories. With the show format, viewers will come to demand portability (linkable, embeddable video) and subscription (RSS & iTunes feeds, reliable video hosting platforms such as Youtube and Blip.tv).
It’s clear however, that online video viewership is on the rise. Newspapers hoping to stay relevant will have to consider the direction they want to go with video or risk losing out on a burgeoning young video-savvy audience.