2016 has been heralded as the year news organisations really get to grips with the challenges of online news video. In his annual Media Journalism and Technology predictions, Nic Newman said it was set to be the most important development, along with mobile apps and distributed content. It has become the key battleground for the most creative news organisations in the world.

There can be no surprise, when you consider the demand for online video by a global and mobile audience. In March 330 billion videos were viewed on the four main social media platforms. Facebook is claiming 9 billion video views a day and Snapchat 8 billion. Cisco meanwhile predict that 75% of mobile data traffic will be video by 2020.

While print editions of newspapers are coming to an end, digital native news companies, such as Vox,Vocativ, AJ+, NowThisNews, Fusion, Buzzfeed News and Vice News have emerged. They are creating innovative, distributed online video and reaching huge numbers of viewers. To use just one example, NowthisNews has an astonishing 835 million video views a month. These organisations are not looking to print, they are looking to video — and investing heavily in it.

The broadcasters and big global press are following suit. The BBC, Channel 4 News, ITV, Sky, Washington Post, Walls Street Journal and the Guardian and producing some very interesting material.

The local and regional press in the UK is however lagging behind.

There are bright examples. Trinity Mirror announced it is hiring local video producers and editors. There are some very good people thinking about the digital future of the regional press. But while the same parent company, takes the unbelievably ill-conceived decision, to launch a paid-for print newspaper in today’s climate, warning bells must be ringing about how they intend to succeed in the future.

The prospect of a new collaboration with the BBC could see much more access to online video for the regional press, with video banks being created to share material. But this is not enough. There needs to be a radical change at the heart of the industry.

For more than a decade, video has been hailed as one of the saviours of the local newspaper industry. It was the reason the newspaper groups fought so hard to make sure the BBC local TV pilot was abandoned — but what has happened in the intervening years?

A tacit nod to video — and a continued concentration on the core business of print. Who can blame the regional press for this. Print advertising still holds the power, with digital spend taking some time to catch up. However it is apparent that a new direction and a new start is needed.

It is clear the audience is moving away from print. The metrics to measure the industry — the ABCs make very unpleasant reading, year on year and month on month decline.

The audience wants video that’s not just an add-on or second thought. They want distributed online video that is central part of the news process, video that is re-versioned to suit different platforms and most importantly mobile. To do this things need to change.

Cultural and structural change is vital

It is essential to rethink the entire news operation from the planning, to the production, to the staffing even to the layout of the newsroom. This is an entirely different way of working. The workflow, structure and culture needs to be overhauled. Digital and video needs to be at the heart of all stories from conception to publication.

Training and skills

With the culture and structural change comes a need for training and new skills. Editorial is still the absolute key — but it needs to be delivered in a new way. All staff need to be able to create and share compelling video. It can’t be a separate, isolated group of video producers, set apart from the core business. It needs to become the core business.

The cost of technology is no longer a barrier. Journalists taught how to film and edit using their iphones and smartphones can produce incredible material. If you combine this a team of high-end filmmakers and you have the ability to make all the video you need.

Make digital native news video

Don’t try to imitate TV. The grammar of online video is very different to the grammar of traditional broadcast and TV news. The audience engages in an entirely different manner. It is far more active and depends on the screen and platform they are watching it on.

Video produced for facebook on your mobile is a specific style, duration and impact — it doesn’t work on the big TV screen in your living room. In same way traditional TV news packages simply don’t engage on mobile. You need to make video that appeals to your platform and audience.

Re-versioning and distributing online video

Online news video is no longer about producing one piece of film to go on your website or TV channel. You need different formats, versions and clips that are appropriate for different platforms, apps and social media networks. This is vital — to engage with the widest possible audience — and there is a massive potential audience here. Look at the most imaginative and creative teams in the digital news world.

“We are spending a lot of time trying to understand there is a certain type of person that watches video and there are lots of people that never watch video. The better understanding you have in terms of what to serve to whom, you’re going to get smarter about the way you distribute,” saidLindsay Nelson Global head of brand strategy — Vox media

They have specific groups — targeting and re-versioning film and video, to suit the audience and platforms. This needs careful consideration. It begins in the planning process and goes right through to the end production. The footage required for snapchat and vertical platforms is clearly very different to the footage you will need for your website, youtube, facebook and instagram. All of this needs to be taken into account from the very start.

Business models and making it pay

Here comes the difficult part. As we are only too well aware, the media industry is in transition. Business models have not fully developed, to simply step from one to the next. The legacy press continues to have expensive production costs — but they are needed because traditional advertising revenue is still way ahead of digital. This is where the importance of video comes in. Advertisers go where the audience is and the audience is in video. We are still very much in the infancy of monetising video through social platforms but it’s beginning to happen and definitely worth investing in.

Let’s be clear print is not dead yet. It is sustainable in the short term but for how long? In a recent speech, Ashley Highfield, the chief executive of Johnston Press, told the Westminster Media Forum that the industry was far from ‘in crisis’, that migration to digital is moving forward and a valuable collaboration with the BBC had been agreed in principle.

But the regional press is certainly in need of radical change. That needs to happen now and creative online distributed video needs to be at the heart of it.


Originally published at www.themediabriefing.com