Online video news 101

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Dan Calderwood, head of video for News24 discusses online video news – what
works, what doesn’t and what the future holds:

“South Africans are connecting to the internet – more so every day. Online no
longer means just computers – it’s tablets, mobiles and any device that has an
internet connection. With the steady increase of smartphone and tablet users, online
news is hugely viewed on mobile devices and this consumer is not only the
audience – but the content creator too.

So why is this significant?

The massive, and ongoing, growth in mobile in South Africa leads me to believe
that local audiences will pursue their hunger for content, including video regardless
of the high bandwidth and data cost constraints.

Online video contains so much condensed content and is offered on so many more
platforms now – there is something for every viewer – from news reports, to candid
YouTube vloggers, to viral videos, behind the scenes and so much more, the choice
is practically unlimited. Video online, and the varying formats it comes in, is
certainly shifting the way in which the South African audience has come to expect
online video consumption. And newsrooms are taking notice.

Media houses in South Africa are investing heavily in video production teams and
creating more video content for their online audiences. All these changes in the
digital landscape are creating more of a demand and as our world becomes more
instant and more visual, I believe our audiences are just going to want more and
better video content.

Facebook has also started placing higher emphasis on video content – and media
outlets and brand marketing strategies are using video through these social media
channels to reach larger audiences. The same can be said for Twitter, which
launched the native Twitter video app late last year. Companies can now create
promoted video Twitter Cards, allowing a one-click experience and making video
consumption more user friendly. According to a recent World Wide Worx report,
Arthur Goldstuck found that “the number of YouTube users in South Africa had
reached an active user base of 7.2-million’ showing a 53% growth just over the
past year. This is definitely a figure worth paying attention to.

So how does online video news differ from just news?

Online audiences have shorter attention spans and they want the latest viral content
at their fingertips. They expect more content more often, as quickly as possible.
Offering video content in different formats from traditional programming is
essential in audience growth. For e.g., the likes of Generation Y are consuming
content digitally and on their smartphones and are less likely to be loyal to one
news brand and rather browse between local and international news sources. The
video format therefore needs to feature highlights rather than detail driven and long
stories. It has to be engaging, short, sharp and provide all the detail in less than
three minutes.

While I don’t think online news will ever replace traditional news broadcasting,
traditional broadcasters and operators are going to have to pay attention to the
growth of the medium to stay relevant and thrive. They need to understand who
and where their customers are, and how those customers want to consume content
and interact with their brand (which should be the case for all platforms).
Ideally, there should be a far more integrated offering and connection between the
two media in the future.

No longer can broadcasters programme for a mass audience, with members
viewing at a single place, on a single device, at a single moment in time. Now, they
must programme for fragmented and niche audiences, watching in many places, on
multiple devices, at various points in time. These audiences are increasingly only
interested in watching programming tailored just for them. It’s a challenge – but
one that will no doubt lead to exciting developments and innovations in the future.

It’s not just the traditional broadcasters that need to keep ahead of the game.

When you work in an environment as dynamic as online you need to be willing to
adapt. When we develop news video for our online newsroom we have to consider
(first and foremost) how potentially newsworthy the video will be and its relevance
to our audience. Audiences are often digitally over-connected so their time is
limited. To tap into this precious commodity is tricky and understanding who you
are producing content for, is key.

How we deliver the content is also vital. Strategically we made the decision to
offer content in a format that had never been seen before in the online publishing
environment in South Africa. News24’s online video format is very different to what
is currently being done in video online in SA. Through studio based reports we are
not only showing what is happening in the news we are also telling our audience
what is happening online, on our platforms and on social media. This type of model
combines a news anchor type of approach as well as adding authenticity to what is
being reported on. We believe that this format thinks further than just creating
news – it also creates communities around the content.

Trends show that media consumers are coming to us via social media
recommendations. So engagement is essential and one of our key measurements
of success. Other important measurement tools for us are the conversion play rate
and the length of time our readers/viewers have been on our page.

Another interesting trend we are paying attention to is live video streaming. It’s
clearly out trumping video-on-demand and was a huge success for us during the
Oscar Pistorius trial and the heated debates in Parliament.

And finally, a very important tool in our armoury is user generated content. Twitter,
Facebook and smartphones have seen citizen journalism on the rise and newsrooms
across the globe need to pay attention, especially when it comes to breaking news.
YouTube has become hugely instrumental in sourcing content that “citizen
journalists’ have uploaded and want to share. With the Paris attacks for example,
within hours eyewitness accounts recorded on mobile phones were being uploaded
to YouTube and being used and broadcast across the globe as the events unfolded.
We were able to offer our audiences this on-the-ground breaking news which
enabled a better understanding of how the events were unfolding.

Video is becoming one of the most powerful tools in the online news arena. But
even though we are working within one of the fastest growing media, locally and
globally, we have to continue to innovate and engage to ensure we stay relevant
and ahead of the pack. The key is meaningful content that engages, that
understands and speaks to its audience. Data and time are precious in the South
African landscape and we will have to work hard to ensure our audience is willing to
share both with us.

About the author:

Dan Calderwood is the head of video for News24 (http://www.news24.com/) and is
responsible for the management of the News24 Live studio and all of News24’s
video content. Dan has been a multimedia journalist for five years.

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