Will the ‘ledger live’ save newspaper video?

There has been a mixed reaction to the unveiling of the Star-Ledger live video show - Ledger Live.

It’s a short presenter lead bulletin that aims to…

bring people into the newsroom each day for a quick take of the day’s top news, a dose of some good video stories, and a sampling of comments and contributions from viewers.

It’s one of the fruits of their relationship with Micheal Rosenblum who has been putting aside the usual ‘sky is falling in on old media’ posts on his blog to explain why this is a logical progression in empowering the newsroom.

The newsroom seems the logical place to report from. The web seems the logical place to do it. Video seems the logical medium. This is not a ’show’ with hair and teeth anchors. These are real Jersey reporters doing real reporting.

The general response seems to be positive and I have to say that the video reporting out of the SL is pretty snazzy. But the ledger live has picked up a number of doubters.

Don Day at lost Remote thought it was boring“There are ways for print sites to get in the video game… but this isn’t it.” But the commenters didn’t pull any punches particularly for Jeff Jarvis’ praise for the TL’s efforts.  Cue lot’s of personality driven bun fighting. Man, everyone needs to move on from the not like TV news thing if they aren’t going to try and articulate what that is beyond crappy throwaways like ‘hair and teeth’, ‘cheesy’ or ‘lame’. Why? Because, well, they’re cheesy and lame.

My reaction

My first reaction is that we’ve seen this before. All credit to John and the team for all the hard work, but we’ve seen this before. The Timescast springs to mind first.  Now I happened to like the Timescast but this feels like a step back to me. And it’s not like there isn’t some pretty polished video out there to aspire to.

Shawn Smith takes 6 of those as examples that could work in a newsroom setting(great post). From his list WebbAlert seems to fit the bill

If your news org is mentioning a few stories in your daily video, this is the way to do it. Have someone deliver the stories fast, with a little commentary, and include images in your videos!!!

Some different styles but one thing that they all have in common is niche (well, two things. Niche and a good looking lady presenter to keep the boy geeks happy) and that niche isn’t geographical. It’s audience based.

What newsroom video bulletins should look like
What newsroom video bulletins should look like

As I found earlier with the FT, you can forgive some shaky presentation if the content is right. But broad appeal stuff delivered in a niche way?

So is it any good? Well despite my reservations I’m going to reserve final judgment for a while.. You see, I’m a bit conflicted about what’s good and bad about this approach.

  • Good – I like the Timescast so seeing it work here would be great.
  • Bad: It’s a model that doesn’t seem to tick the money box
  • Good: It’s live which is is a real shock tactic for breaking the newsroom out of a paper deadline focus production cycle
  • Bad: I think ‘live blogging’ is an example of a more valuable ‘appointment to view’ than video and the quality of interaction is better.
  • Good: It isn’t like TV
  • Bad: It’s just like TV

Give it chance to develop

But what does my opinion count for. We all know, and this is the sad thing, that this will only be judged a success by some if it can be monotised quickly. I hope that John has done some work persuading his bosses to look away from the stats for a few months to let it find its feet. Generating revenue is the holy grail of this stuff.

As Zac Echola points out in a great post, video (in comparison to a photograph) has an inbuilt capacity to earn

a photo in the paper (or online) doesn’t open up new opportunity for a new type of revenue stream (video ads).  If videos require more energy to view than a photo, they also command more attention, which is lucrative to advertisers.

But you have to have time to see the return and John deserves a little support as they try and work this stuff out.

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3 thoughts on “Will the ‘ledger live’ save newspaper video?”

  1. Surely it won’t save anything. But for a newscast from a newspaper it’s not so bad. look at those shabby experiments some of the german media companies try to establish.

    at least for me the interesting part is the content they choose. no 30 seconds boring news-clips (NIFs as we call them here). somewhat more personal stories.

    but the show should be more open, aka broken up in several pieces. maybe things like clickable overlays could bring this to a new level.

  2. Andy,

    Thanks for your thoughtful take on this. I liked the Timescast, too, and was sorry to see it go.

    One thing I think we have going for us — and maybe it’s just wishful thinking — is Jersey really IS a niche.

    The place has an attitude, an unending supply of “only here” stories and long experience as the butt of jokes from people who never exited the Turnpike (and we hope they never do).

    And the New York and Philly TV affiliates rarely cross the Hudson or Delaware to cover Jersey stories. So there’s not just a niche, there’s a need.

    But you’re absolutely right: Only time will tell if we’ve got the right idea and formula.

    Thanks,
    John Hassell, The Star-Ledger

  3. Markus. I think they have plans to break the programme up on the show blog – something that Shawn identified was a key part of the success of things like WebAlert.

    John I’m sure the good people would be proud to be called Niche :) Amy seemed to pick up on that too in her seesmic comment. Jersey realy must be ‘another country’

    I think niche and geography are not mutually exclusive. I’m mulling that over at the moment trying to think of better ways to describe offering niche to a limited geographical reach – niche to your audience if you like – but as you can see I’m not there yet.

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