GateHouse Media recently announced that we've seen a major surge in newsroom video production, thanks in part to an initiative that has put tons of video cameras in the hands of our journalists.
The headline from the post is that in January we saw 2,100 videos produced companywide. It's a big number when you consider that just a few months earlier, we were only producing about 200 videos a month. We don't blame any of our newspapers for the former lackluster figures, because we instructed newsrooms over the last few years to stay away from video. Focusing on galleries and updates was going to be key to get our digital content strategy off the ground. Video was simply taking too long and wasn't allowing our medium-to-smallest newsrooms to grow in other areas.
But by mid-2011, the company had matured past just the basics of web publishing and we were eying the opportunity that video pre-roll might bring to GateHouse. Clearly, we needed volume to make pre-roll advertising successful and needed a video strategy that would get us there. A few points on why this is all working:
1. STRATEGY: As part of our Project Apple work, we launched an initiative that outlined, pretty clearly, why video was so important to our future and how the former mentality of four-minute highly produced videos had to get thrown out the window. We wanted newsrooms to do video — and lots of it — but the only way to get to the numbers we were seeking was to establish a strategy that was quick and dirty. It's not that we don't highly respect quality video production, but to take a company that's producing not even a video per newsroom a month on average to 2,100, there's no way we could ask folks to spend three hours with each video. It had to not feel overwhelming to newsrooms, especially those who hadn't played with video before. Setting the strategy around reporter assignments or regular features they were covering, made it work. For example, after a high school basketball game, once the reporter is done talking to a coach about the game, they ask the coach to summarize on video the two keys to the game. Or if a photographer takes a photo each week for the paper's Pet of the Week feature, they ask the director of the animal association to describe the pet and its history on video.
2. EQUIPMENT: We knew we had to provide the resources to make the strategy work. That's why we purchased more than 150 video cameras and are working on another batch for those who still need them. The cameras are simple point-and-shoot and seem to get the job done. The motivation factor of not just asking employees to do something new, but to actually give them a tool, sure helps an initiative.
3. MOBILE: One of the reasons that the time seemed right for a video initiative had a lot to do with the emergence of mobile. It's hard to turn around today without seeing a stat that says mobile users want video and lots of it. We rolled out mobile web solutions for all of our newsrooms late last year, which was timed just beautifully with this initiative. Reporters and editors who use mobile devices, know themselves that they are looking at more video than ever before. That behavior made it easier to drive this initiative.
1. MORE TRAINING: The first few months of this initiative aren't about quality, they are about just doing it and figuring out what works and what doesn't. As newsrooms become more comfortable with the technology, they will start figuring out what works and what doesn't. We'll continue our training efforts on video this year with more focus on story telling and quality. While we're very proud of the progress we have made, we recognize that our readers will — over time — have greater expectations for better video.
2. POSITION: Over the next few weeks, we'll be moving video to an above-the-fold position on our websites which we're confident will bring more eye balls to the work our newsrooms are doing.
We believe we have an exciting initiative under way with our video work and if February's figures are any indication — we doubled our video plays compared to January — our website readers seem to agree.
David Arkin is Vice President of Content & Audience for GateHouse Media. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org
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