Daily mail student media awards?

Yeah, wouldn’t happen. But should it?

The always interesting Wannabehacks posted yesterday stating that The industry isn’t doing enough to support student journalists. The post really should have been titled The Guardian isn’t doing enough to support student journalists as it takes a pop at the frankly risible prize the Guardian is offering for its Guardian student media award:

[T]he quality of prizes has diminished year on year: “Seven weeks of placement with expenses paid (offered 2003-2006) is a good way to spend the summer. Two weeks of self-funded work experience is an insult to supposedly the best student journalists in Britain.”

It’s a fair point. Just how good you have to be to actually be paid to work at the Guardian?

Maybe we are being unfair to the Guardian though. Why do they need to carry this stuff? I know plenty of students who don’t want to work for the Guardian. So why don’t more papers step up? If it’s about spotting talent then shouldn’t every media org have a media award?

Truth is there is a bit of black hole out there when it comes to awards. Aspiring journos could be forgiven for thinking that there is very little on offer between that letter writing competition the local paper runs for schoolkids and the Guardian awards. There are actually quite a few – the NUS student awards for example. But none with the direct association of the Guardian awards.

But maybe it’s not about the award. The wannabe hacks post (and the letter it references) suggests that there is more a problem of expectation here.

The Guardian is a very attractive proposition to many aspiring journos. In a lot of respects it plays on that strength; it presents itself as a like the paper where things are happening. But there is a danger that things like competitions exploit that aspiration and begin to suggest a slightly dysfunctional relationship – aspiring journos trying their best to please the indifferent and aloof object of their affection.

Show them the money.

This isn’t just a print problem. The truth is the industry has a bit of problem of putting its money where it’s mouth is when it comes to student journos.

As an academic I see more offers of valuable experience than paid opportunities in my inbox. They tend to coincide with large events where industry doesn’t have the manpower to match their plans for coverage. In that sense there is no secret here, the industry is living beyond its means and it’s increasingly relying on low and no paid input to keep newsrooms running. But student journo’s bear the brunt of that. Yes, they get experience, but not much else.

No return on investment

Of course the flip-side to that argument is that many of those who enter the competitions would happily benefit from the association but don’t put back in. I wonder how many people who enter the Guardian student media awards have regularly bought the paper rather than accessing the (free) website?  You could argue the same when talking about work experience. How many students actually buy the product they aspire to work on?

But the reality is that, regardless of how much is put in, if you court an audience, you have to live up to their expectations – unreasonable or otherwise.

This is happening at a time when those same newsrooms are reporting on the commercial realities of education and how students need to demand value from their investment. As someone trying to respond to those expectations, perhaps I can offer some advice.  Perhaps the industry need to reflect on their advice to prospective students the next time they reach out or connect with student journalists.  Just how much are you expecting them to invest in your newsroom and what’s the return?


Top tips for tabloid style newspaper video

A week ago I looked at the Broadsheet newspapers here in the UK and used my observations to come up with eleven tips for newspaper. Last week I turned my attention to the UK’s national tabloids to see what they where up to and see if they could add anything to that list.

The short answer is no because, the truth is they are very different animals.But if you want to re-create the tabloid experience then here are my top tips.

  1. Shovelware your news video
  2. Never link to an article
  3. Choose video based on entertainment value rather than news value
  4. Mark everything supplied by a third party as an exclusive

Here’s some more depth.

Shovelware your newsvideo
It’s clear that producing ‘news’ video is not a priority for most of the tabloids. They simply buy in the PA/Reuters/AFP/Sky feed options on their players and box that as the news.  Any video that may even have a passing relation to a news story is either CCTV, news agency or ripped off from TV and always illustrative. That’s because your editorial imperitive is not news but viral. So…

Chose video based on entertainment value rather than news value
The editorial driver for video is the fact that someone in your audience will go ‘cool’ or ‘urrggg’. If you would email it to somone saying ‘omg you have to see this’ then put it on the site. Think viral first.  The video itself is your content.

Never link to an article
If you are a tabloid you never link back to an article because the video itself is the article ‘It’s a kitten doing somthing cute, you want me to write 500 words on it as well! Sheesh!’.

Mark everything supplied by a third party as an exclusive
Everyone knows that they can read exactly the same story in another tabloid and the same goes for video.   But we know that the audience doesn’t read another newsaper or site so you can put exclusive on with impunity. Adding ‘exclusive’ really means ‘as far as you care it is’.

Okay, maybe a bit tongue in cheek.

So, did I learn anything serious from the Tabloids?

Brand Vs Audience.

It was clear that there was a marked difference in the reponse to video by the tabloids compared to the broadsheets. For me that difference comes down to using video as a definition.

The broadsheets very clearly see video as defining of their brand. The Guardian and their world affairs coverage illustrate that nicely. Their choice of video is based on the idea of telling you a story that a) they think needs telling and b) wouldnt be told elsewhere. It’s a journalistic choice and a value judgment based on the Guardian’s view.  The choice of video on The Times and Telegraph takes that one step further by producing format video that segements the audience and goes down the route of providing minority programming. The Telegraph for example provides a right-of centre-politics show because they claim you can’t get it anywhere else.

But, in contrast, the tabloids use of video is defined by their audience. You can see this most clearly in The Sun, The Mirror and The Mail.

The selection of video on these publications websites is varied. The overiding theme is video culled elsewehere from the web (and offline) that would appeal to the reader, regardless of its relevence to a ‘news’ agenda.  The Sun is much more profficient at pulling the Youtube style video in but the mail is quickly learning what its audience wants to see. Perhaps the slughtly higher-brow of the Mail prevents it having too many youtube vids but the editorial line is the same. They are offering a rubber stamp of approval on the content of the video not validating the source.

Perhaps this says more about the Tabloid websites ability to define an audience and their willingness to make the online presence something papably different in structure from the print publication. Maybe it’s just scatalogical and best fits the general direction of tabloids as they move away from ‘newspapers’ to daily magazines. Whatever the reason I think the way tabloids use video highlights the way the role of newspaper websites and the function of the journalists working on them changes.

One of the popular suggested future roles for journalists  is the idea of journalist as a link validator – we find the stuff on the web that you want and you trust us to find it.   Looking at the tabloids attempt at video, particually the Sun and the Mirror you have to ask if they havn’t applied this idea effectivly already.

If I had to put names forward for best users of Tabloid video it would have to be the Sun and The Daily Mail. But even though The Mail doesn’t have very much video on their site I would throw my hat in the ring and say that if they continue in the vein they are, and ignore the lure of things like the formatted tech review, their mix of illustrative video and well chosen third party video could really work.

What about the People.

As an end note I just wanted to point out that one tabloid was missing from this review – The People.  Go and have a look and it’s pretty clear why it wasn’t included.

Zemanta Pixie

How the UK Tabloids use video: The Mail

It’s Friday  so it must be the last day of my review of the way the UK tabloids use video and I’m rounding things off with the Daily Mail.

The Daily Mail sits alongside the Daily Express in the tabloid ‘mid-market’ apparently setting it an order above the Red top Sun, Star and Mirror.  It’s actually one of the more successful online newspaper websites considering how late in the game they where in setting one up. The Mail have made a particular point of targeting women web users which you can see from the tone and structure of the site.

The platform

The Daily Mail's video player. Hard to find but nice information when you do
The Daily Mail's video player. Hard to find but nice information when you do

When it comes to video there was no obvious sign of video on the front page of the site either through the navigation or flagged stories.  A search on the website (please get rid of that offer of an embedded search tool or add No) revealed two articles in a video category. Clicking through took me to the Daily Mail’s video section. Fully formed, large as life but not  linked.

Its the standard jukebox player but, unlike the rest of the tabloids who use Roo, this is a Brightcove player. The player isn’t the only thing that’s different. The page layout is more in keeping with the article page layout on the site rather than the ‘TV’ box style on others.  Sections are presented in one long thing sidebar. It’s a layout that, like some of the other pages, hides too much content below the scroll. I think filling boxes with reams of links is a habit the Mail need to get out of.

One nice thing to see was the content box below the video window.  There is the usual headline, short description but there is also a byline. A nice, human touch.  Better still is some useful meta. A date, time and most impressively a source for the video is given.  It is often missing which makes me think Brightcove are supplying the information for some of this data.  I think the presentation could be better (bigger) but it’s good to see.

But it’s a step in the right direction. I didn’t see any of the  other papers crediting the Bournemouth News & Picture Service for the Mini Hendrix footage. In fact, most of the agency footage is credited which slowed me down for a half-hour or so as I looked at what other stuff they had. I suppose that’s the lot of a news agency but it was nice to see.

If it's a screen grab why not just embedd the video?
If it's a screen grab why not just embed the video?

Most encouraging though was the presence of links back to articles. At last!   When you do follow the links through the video is usually embedded towards the end of the video. I think this is shame as it often duplicates pictures on the page. A story about violent yobs (good Mail fair) features a heavy number of screen-grabs from CCTV video that is embedded further down the page. One of the pictures at the head of an article is a screen grab. It is exactly the same as the poster frame of the video. Why show both?

The presentation

Unkown source or the BBC? You decide
Unknown source or the BBC? You decide

The thing that really struck me about the video on the Mail is the lack of news feed content. There is no dedicated news feed of PA or Reuters content. In fact there is nothing approaching a news feed at all on the site. All of the content can best be described as illustrative or feature based. Like the other tabloids it’s rounded up entertaining clips from the web that it thinks will appeal to the audience and the editorial line is firmly in the middle of the paper not the news pages at the front. So we get news it’s a mix of besieged middle-Englanders battling yob culture or birds that sound like ambulances and Herons learning to fly.

The only exception to that when I looked was a video of teenage Guantanamo detainee Omar Khadr. It’s illustrative video, it supports the news story. But I single it out as it’s clearly BBC footage grabbed from TV – I’m pretty sure that’s Frank Gardner voicing it- but it isn’t credited. Having seen the Mirror pull this trick I wonder what the form is here.

There is some homegrown content on the site.  Mark Lawford’s interview with Monte Panesar was interesting but the lighting was poor and the shot could have been tighter. Listen to the interview though as a good example of a print person doing a video interview. That isn’t a criticism. Listen the way he qualifies statements, jumping in, looking for stuff that can be used as reported speech later on. It’s a questioning style that gives you print stuff but it won’t stack up for long in video.

Drop one presenter and half the time
Drop one presenter and half the time

The other, consolidated, bit of video content was the Live magazine tech-review video. James Mannion and Rob Waugh do a double-header reviewing the latest gadgets. Its shot in what seems to be a photographic studio using two cameras – or some pretty meticulous single camera set up. The idea is okay but the production and format don’t work for me. The editing is too tricksy and slows the pace. The presentation is also too stilted. They have a bit of a star in Rob Waugh and my view is that they should let him do the slot without James (no offense James). That way it could be half the length and have a lot more pace.


I get the impression that video is fairly new to the Mail. It feels cautious and the fact that the video section is so hidden away just emphasises that. But that could be a smart move on the part of the Daily Mail.

They are not selling the site as having video and then backing that claim up with feed video. This is more a site that has the capacity to use video and the video section is just a bonus. I’m not sure I would go as far as to say that they use video well; there isn’t enough of it to tell. But where it is used it seems appropriate. It could be used better on the article page and I don’t see a clear editorial line. But it’s there.

How they move forward from here will be interesting to see. My money would be on a movement more towards The Sun where the video is a mix of stuff that may appeal to the audience rather than a more broadsheet style of authored pieces. I think they may end up doing it very well.

So that’s it.  A week of tabloid newspaper video. So what did I learn from looking at The Sun, Star ,Mirror Express and Mail?  Find out on Monday.

Zemanta Pixie

How the UK Tabloids use video: The Express

This week I’m looking at the way the UK tabloids use video and today it’s the turn of the self proclaimed best newspaper in the World, the Daily Express

The Express takes us out of the ‘red-top’ territory of The Sun, Star and Mirror and in to the tabloid ‘mid-market’ which it shares with its rival The Daily Mail, which I’ll be looking at tomorrow.

The Platform

The Express front page has a number of video links
The Express front page has a number of video links

The Express flags it’s video clearly on the front page with a navigation item for video, currently marked as new, and a little graphic on the right-hand side of the page. A click on either one will take you through to the video page and (once you have cleared the really annoying overlay ad) the standard jukebox player powered by Roo.

The Express player. Dull, glitchy and full of third party stuff
The Express player. Dull, glitchy and full of third party stuff

When it first loads up, I have to say it looks pretty dull. The categories are all presented as ‘accordion’ style navigation but they are all rolled up. So you are presented with a generic splash screen on the player and no nice thumbnails to entice you in. It’s almost as if you click through and discover that Express video is closed for the summer. But I’m not afraid to click around and it’s a good job too.

Clicking news presents you with another set of roll-ups, again shut tight, and more menus. This is just too many clicks. But when I did eventually get some thumbnail action – I clicked UK news – I was greeted by the familiar swish of the Press Association and then it froze.  Something that happened quite a few times on the site. The controls failed to work for me using Firefox and a mac when it first loaded. All the way through the player skipped, stuttered and jumped videos. A bit of clicking around got it working but it was frustrating.

There is no back linking to articles from the video and they don’t do embedded video. If you want to cook along with Gary Rhodes for example, then you better make a note of the ingredients first because clicking the link will take you away from the recipe page.

The Presentation
The news content on the site is a mix of Press Association, AFP and Reuters. Most of the other content comes courtesy of the Roo network. The computer games content for example comes via Aussie company Control Freaks and entertainment (and lots of other stuff) from WatchMojo. Not much in there that looked in-house. Some of the sport stuff is unbranded but it still feels like agency footage.

So I used the search function to have a look for Exclusive and Express Exclusive content. The majority of it was exclusive but to the third-party suppliers the Express uses. Where it was obviously exclusive to the Express it was either branded stuff like Gok Wan’s competition offer or submitted stuff like the London Zoo promo.  The Hungary Grand-Prix preview is another apparent exclusive. Don’t let the branding at the end fool you. You can see the whole thing at any of the other tabloids. Try it over at The Sun for example. The player is better.

The technical implementation of video on the Express is really poor. The player’s isn’t user friendly and it’s buggy. Linking to video rather than embedding in article pages is shoddy considering the Roo player offers that technology and even when they do link, the technology lets them down. The player often jumps the linked video for a video a few items down.

The actual content of the video on the website is OK. If you are in to games then Control Freaks has a nice range of stuff and WatchMojo has so much stuff on so many subjects you will always find something but I can get that stuff anywhere. There is nothing here that is produced by the Express and that means there is nothing here that says Daily Express or shows any commitment to building a video brand. And no, paying that little extra for a PR company to get the tame celeb to say Daily Express or add a graphic is not a brand strategy.

You may ask “Why does the Express have to have a video brand?” It doesn’t. It doesn’t even need to make it’s own video. But it has chosen to have video on it’s site and it needs a better strategy than simply buying all the content options from Roo.  If it’s going to have it it could take the route of selecting the best, relevant video for their audience.

One thing is for sure, at the moment the video is a very poor bolt-on and has nothing to recommend it.

So tomorrow I’ll take a look at The Express’ competition – The Daily Mail, and see if it does any better.

Zemanta Pixie

How the UK Tabloids use video: The Mirror

This week I’m looking at the video efforts of the UK National Tabloids. So far I’ve been surprised by the variety of The Sun and depressed by attitude of The Star and today it’s the turn of The Mirror.

The Mirror has recently undergone a redesign which takes it more towards the in-your-face style of the Sun and Star. Lot’s of pictures and a scatter gun front page. It does feel a little more restrained than the Sun in terms of content- but not much. So is looking in the Mirror looking at the Sun?

The Platform

The front page version of the player
The front page version of the player

Video has got a good position on the front page with a clear link in the navigation bar and a bright and a sizable embedded player off the the right-hand-side. It’s nice and clear but the thumbnail strip across the top suffers from being too small and, because of the use of some generic thumbnails, means there is nothing to tell you what the story is about. The featured video appears in a reasonably sized window below.  The usual overlay information reduces the impact of the picture but it isn’t as bad as some.

The player sites below an embedded video ad – thankfully with muted audio. I havn’t seen much video ad content on sites until now but the Mirror is filled with it. Sometimes the audio doesn’t mute and if you roll your mouse over the ad the audio plays – gave me a shock. I guess that’s the best you could hope for.

Click through to the video page and you are greeted with a big, bright video player. All candy blue and neon colours. It’s a standard Jukebox configuration, powered by a Roo player.  The sections are clear and there is also an ‘editor recommended’ section – something that’s missing from other tabloid jukeboxes. The use of video ads continues here with an ad placed underneath the video window. This is actually pretty distracting at times.

The Mirrors video player
The Mirrors video player

The Presentation

The bulk of news content on the player is provided via ITN. You do see the occasional ITN watermark but all of the content is pre-rolled with the Daily Mirrors own bumper which is nice and short.  Some of the video, marked Raw Video, comes from the AP.  This is generally covers international stories and the olympics.  I was expected straight feed stuff but it’s actually just packaged content with the voice over removed.

When the video loads a little caption appears in a confusing New box. It’s too small and cramped and doesn’t work as a caption. I also think it looks messy in the design. As usual don’t expect any links to article pages.

The Mirror has taken a crack at embedded video but it does suffer from small player syndrome embedded halfway down an article page. Although they aren’t averse to embedding Youtube contentWhether they should do or not is another matter.

Looking for homegrown content I though the Mirror Exclusive category of the player was a good place to start. It has a mixture of styles dominated by sport content. It tends to be press conference stuff but there is some presenter led stuff. David Yates does a neat read to camera for his video horse racing tips. It’s shot against bluescreen but Yates delivers well.

Talking to camera can cause Squeaky bum for some jounos. Not these boys though
Talking to camera can cause Squeaky bum for some jounos. Not these boys though

Football Spy is also worth a look. It’s is a presenter led bulletin style round-up of the football news that runs off the back of a blog. It’s usually presented by Mirror journos from the Mirror office but more recently it seems to have moved to someone’s back garden. Who says video producers cant’ work from home.  It’s nice and jolly and the delivery is confident. But it’s Alan Mckinlay in the August 1st football spy who gets a special mention as he describes the football transfer window as “squeaky bum time” for managers.

I liked the feel and the fact that they also refer to readers comments. Maybe this would work better as a podcast, downloadable to a mobile.

The one thing that did annoy me was the large amount of useless graphic material around the screen. Why not animate the graphics, make it work for you. That way you could re-frame the shot and get more face in the screen. Just a it more thought and it really could work well.

Less successful is some of the opinion. Brian Reade on Graeme Souness was video of someone reading out loud. Interesting article but not as snappy as the gossipy style of Football spy.

Moving away from sport you get the odd feature that follows the same presenter led model. The film reviews by David Edwards are nicely done but need tighter framing given the size of the player. The rest is a mix of interview and video grabbed around Mirror stories. The Return of David Cameron’s bike (nice to see some original footage of the theft as well)  was fun for the banter but too long and the camera was too far away. They owned the story, they should have got in there tight. A case of video behaving like a photographer.

And that photographer behavior kicks in for some of the other content with a pap like snap and grab on footballer Joey Barton Leaving prison.

The Mirror offers a more refined video experience than The Sun. The approach is less scattergun which, perhaps, makes it a little less appealing to the tabloid market. Maybe it’s the Mirror’s attempt to lift the tone a little to place it more in the mid-market tabloid. The large amount of news content, even though it’s third-party, may be driving that – if that’s what you have, that’s what you are – but I do sense a ‘kind-of’ strategy here.

The development seems to be in the area of packaging the columnists. They are in predictable but sensible sections. The content is neatly produced, although it could be a little more web friendly in presentation – tighter shots please. Im sure the Football Spy garden is nice but it’s the people I’m interested in.   I can see this kind of content working well on mobile phones.

But it’s Football Spy that is really  the defining bit of video for me on The Mirror website. Keyed in to the lively and active Football Spy blog, embedded using youtube. It appears on the main website because the media  player can handle it but I’m sure that the majority of the blog readers get never visit.

This is the first time I’ve seen a real community supported with video in the tabloids. A niche served in the right way. The rest is standard fair. But as an example of a newspaper using video when it works for them, football spy is a real tabloid takeaway.

Tomorrow it’s The Express

Zemanta Pixie