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May 03 2012


November 28 2010


Online video, audiences, sharing: Putting it all together

I thought about titling this post “Another stupid way news sites waste time and effort by failing to understand the Web and how people use it,” but I thought maybe that was far too broad, since it covers so many things.

This post is really about how journalism organizations could use video intelligently:

  1. Embedding
  2. Linking
  3. Sharing
  4. Full screen
  6. Engagement
  7. Promote other pages and stories

I spend a lot of time speaking (and thinking) about online video — both journalism video and the broader YouTube varieties. When we think about how people use online video — and by “people” I mean mostly North Americans in the college and university student age group — we absolutely must consider sharing.

How young people find out about videos (and — let’s face it — a large portion of all news and information) is because one or more of their friends posted a link on Facebook, or shared it in some other way that brought it to their attention.

It doesn’t take too much intelligence to conclude that it’s very important to make it very easy to share the videos that you produce.

The video embedded above (from the Toronto Star) won an award at this year’s Online News Association annual conference, and I really love the way it tells the story in a manner that can grab the attention of almost anyone — even if you have no particular interest in Africa or in windmills.

Embedding: I had to install an extra plug-in to embed that video here (and on a free WordPress.com blog, I would not be able to embed it). That’s one consideration — if a video is on YouTube or Vimeo, it can be easily embedded almost anywhere, in any kind of blog, and on Facebook. Make it easy for people to embed your video in WordPress, Blogger, Tumblr, and anywhere.

Linking: From the embedded video above, you can’t view the original. There’s no link. That’s one consideration about linking, and here’s another — the video is like an appetizer to a bigger, more detailed story. That’s often true of online journalism videos, and often there is a fuller treatment in a text story, or even a big package of related features. But how will anyone ever find those other pieces? Even at the Toronto Star’s website, this video does not appear on the same Web page with the text story! (Yes, there is a link. But it’s asking people to click and wait, and that’s not necessary.)

Sharing: These cute little buttons make sharing on Twitter, Facebook, etc., simple — this is essential.

Lots of journalism sites are missing the boat on sharing. Earlier today I watched this video from GlobalPost: On Location: Cairo – Egypt’s pre-election crackdown (excellent work by UF grad Jon Jensen). On the stand-alone video page, it has NO options for embedding and NO options for sharing. (Note: Some GlobalPost stories have been “Liked” more than 1,000 times via Facebook.)

I had to make a screen capture from the video and upload it and link it to provide you the incentive you see above (an image that will take you to the video), and most people just are not going to do that much work to share your videos.

Journalism videos SHOULD be embedded and SHOULD be shared, but they need to LINK BACK to the journalism, to the original. The video is a promo for the rest of the story. The video is a tease, an entry point to MORE. The video should BRING people TO your site.

Does this mean online videos should not include pre-roll advertising? Maybe.

Full screen: From what I’ve seen, young people always make a video full screen if it’s possible to do it. Some videos look great full screen, and many do not. Of course, there are bandwidth constraints, etc. I’m just saying we should consider how the videos look when blown up to a width of 1200 pixels — or larger.

Downloads: If I could download the windmill video and keep it on my iPhone, I would show it to people. Too bad — the Toronto Star does not allow me to download it. If more journalism organizations treated video as (downloadable) podcasts, they might get a lot more leverage out of the video work.

Engagement: The windmill video above has some non-standard enhancements to the storytelling, and I think they work fantastically well to grab and hold the viewer’s attention. Usually I feel uncomfortable about using music in a journalistic video — I’m concerned that it takes away from the journalism, the credibility, the realism. In this case, however, I just love the music because it really does enhance the story. (Too many videos use bland music loops that add nothing.)

Most people are quick to click away from a video if it fails to engage them — 20 percent of viewers will quit a video in the first 10 seconds (source; from analyst firm Visible Measures). To me that says the crucial characteristic of every video is a strong opening. Grab people immediately; guarantee that they are going to see something interesting.

The windmill video is not too long (3 min. 10 sec.). It does not try to tell us everything. That’s why we have the text story.

Video as promo: Increasing page views

Online video is immensely popular, especially with younger Internet users, and its popularity is still increasing. That’s the reason to think about it more, and figure out effective ways to use it to bring good stories to people’s attention.

Consider the two videos linked here: The story about William and the windmills can be bringing viewers to the Toronto Star for years (because it’s not tied to any breaking news), but it ought to be linked better — not only to the Star’s text story but also to other sites and pages (inside the Star and outside) — about NGOs and Africa and Malawi and the 2007 TED Talk that introduced William Kamkwamba to the world and the book and the blog. A video with long legs is worth extra time and effort — in production AND in promotion. (Educators: Show your students the TED video and the Toronto Star video and discuss storytelling!)

The GlobalPost video about current elections, on the other hand, has a short shelf life — nevertheless, it could be linked to a zillion other stories related to Egypt and the region. The BBC has always been my exemplar for this kind of cross-linking (and self-promotion); see this example: Egypt holds parliamentary poll (two insets within the story: Related Stories and Parliamentary Vote). Why doesn’t GlobalPost have links like those on its video page? Why squander that opportunity?

If you’re not familiar with GlobalPost, read this from Nieman Journalism Lab (November 2010).

Sponsored post

September 21 2010


Teaching Twitter to students

This semester I took a course I have been teaching for 10 years and moved it to a WordPress.com blog. The students and I still meet in person once a week to discuss ideas, but otherwise, everything is on the blog.

Each student was required to start his or her own WordPress.com blog, and all their assignments are submitted as posts on their blogs.

This week’s assignment centered on Twitter, and I’m very happy with the results! My intention was to give the students an experience of using Twitter that would introduce them to new people and new sources of information and show them one of the most significant ways that Twitter is different from Facebook.

If you want to see the students’ reactions and reports about their experience, their blogs are linked in the sidebar of the course blog. Just follow the link to the assignment (above). This week only you can see a link to their Twitter posts (because of the way I set up the RSS feed) — but by Friday those links will start to be replaced by links to their next assignment.

If you’re interested in using WordPress.com in this manner for a course, leave a comment here — I’d be happy to answer any questions!

(Note: This course happens to be for graduate students, and it’s not a skills class, so I’m not teaching them how to be journalists.)

August 20 2010


Sharing and signposting: Younger Thinking for news organisations

Research carried out by university student Christopher Sopher as part of his Younger Thinking project has produced a series of recommendations for news organisations trying to reach a younger audience.

The biggest mistakes being made by online publishers at the moment? Overuse of sterotypes, publishing new content on old platforms and a lack of sharing facilities, according to his project blog.

His final ten recommendations for news outlets includes improved signposting, personalisation and explanatory reports giving background and understanding to confusing topics – which they term “wisdom journalism”.

Young people would also benefit from a more active, interpretive approach to journalism, sometimes called “wisdom journalism”. Knowledgeable journalists with a background in their subject matter could offer readers insight into what events really mean and break through the superficial he-said/she-said balance that dominates coverage of serious topics. This methodology acts on the idea that, in many news situations, it is better to be helpful and explanatory than it is to be first.

Hatip: EditorsweblogSimilar Posts:

February 01 2010


3,000 followers on Twitter

Last March I had 1,000 followers on Twitter. Sometime earlier today, I reached 3,000:

Screen capture from Twitter

I’m sure many of those folks have not signed on to Twitter since the week when they opened their account. so I’m not going to throw a party or anything. And Jay Rosen, who teaches journalism at NYU, has 31,488 followers on Twitter, so I’m not even in the big leagues.

If by chance you want to follow me, I am @macloo on Twitter.

For articles and blog posts about Twitter, see these bookmarks.

I’m often asked if we should be teaching Twitter to journalism students. I don’t think there’s much to teach, really. I do think Twitter should be discussed in journalism classes — and maybe even more in public relations classes!

Twitter is most valuable when you choose a relevant set of people to follow. The introduction of Twitter lists made it easier for a brand-new Twitter user to find those people. For example, you can just check out Patrick LaForge’s mediapeople list — there are 310 journalists on it, and the stream usually has something of interest going on. Or take a look at my media-thinkers list — it’s visible in a widget in the sidebar of this blog too.

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