How the regional papers use video: The Bradford Telegraph and Argus

Lots of things have got in the way if finishing my little review of what the top regional papers are doing with video but, battling through, I’m at the end of the list. Last but by no means least is the Bradford Telegraph and Argus

The T&A is owned by Newsquest (in turn owned by Gannett and the 2nd largest regional newspaper group in the UK according to their website). They’ve recently rolled out a new design for their local sites with a mixed but generally positive response. It’s a design that still needs a bit of work on the design front for me. I like the use of images but the use and formatting of text is still a bit loose for my liking – a bit too much trapped space. But one possitive is that the new designs put video right at the top of the site.

The Bradford Telegraph and Argus puts video at the top of the page
The Bradford Telegraph and Argus puts video at the top of the page

The platform
The video content on the site is obvious from the front page. A large video player takes pride of place on the page with a selection of other stories underneath. It’s embedded using Newsquest’s own, flash based, media player. It has a nice big thumbnail with a play icon that is not too distracting and plays on the page. There is a headline under the main thumbnail but it’s just too small and lacks emphasis. This is a shame. If they moved the text to the top of the player and upped the font size to something similar to the other headlines, I think it would sit better on the page.

The featured video also had a link to the story, which is great, but it isn’t consistently used and when you get to the story the video isn’t embedded in to the page. It is presented as a link back to the sites dedicated video/pic page. That’s a shame as there is clear space for video on the page. The story about the dad delivering his bay in the back of his car for example has a nice big picture, almost identical to the video thumbnail.  Why not use the video?

The Video/pic page is well laid out
The Video/pic page is well laid out

The dedicated video/pic page is also clearly linked in the main menu and is further split between local video and national video. The national video is provided by the Press Association although it isn’t branded and it generally falls in to sound bites and clipped content model.  It is nice to see that this video comes linked to related articles on the site rather than just warehousing a clip library.

Regardless of the section, the display is the same. It’s structured in the familiar player/archive style with the main story presented as a sizable thumbnail image. There is a nice clear headline, time and date and description alongside which is automatically generated from the lead paragraph of the article.

There is also a link to the article which is more consistently employed than on the front page but the back links from article to video player are often missing and those that are there often don’t work.

The hacking back of headlines and intros cripples the content
The hacking back of headlines and intros cripples the content

The archive is managed through a tired system of thumbnails for recent stories and then a text list of older videos. The thumbnails are nice but the player seems to truncate the content of the headline and intro, cutting the text and adding ellipsis. So Flats residents ‘lived in terror of arsonist’ is shortened to Flats…  This is rubbish, spoiling the usability of the page and taking any useful meaning out of the teasers.

The presentation
The majority of video on the T&A falls firmly in to the packaged content category – scripted VO, interviews and GV’s – across news and feature content. It’s a format that hasn’t really changed. Going back to the first video in the archive and apart from a short intro sequence (now dropped) the stuff has come out of the gate pretty much fully formed.

There is some nice sequence work in some of the packages which help cover script or interview sound well. The sequence at the start of the interview in a piece on the medical use of maggots is a good example (a later GV of students is poorly picked though). But the frameing on interviews is often too loose and the much of the camera work is very shaky.

A recent piece on plans to move a memorial to victims of a suspected IRA bomb opened with archive pictures which had obviously been shot freehand. A tripod and a little more restraint would have made the images more useful.  This problem pops up in a number of places. The article about railway closures suffers from a lack of ‘static’ shots and verges on the seasick.

The T&A use script well
The T&A use script well

The station closure story does illustrate a nice handle on scriptwriting at the paper. Using ‘sparks fly’ in the script as you see pictures of sparks flying could be seen as heavy handed but at least there is some thought about scripting with pictures rather than simply reading the article over pictures. The delivery of the script across all of the packages is good so it’s a shame the quality of the pictures

Mixed in to the packaged content is a range of clipped content that is more illustrative than editorial. This ranges from footage of a UFO, from a reader to corporate stuff like the University redevelopment video. Here the inability to embed video in an article page shows .

The video accompanying the story of the conviction of Aabid Hussain Khan turns out to be home video footage seized during the investigation. This needs to be embedded with the article to really fly. In the stand alone player it doesn’t really work, mainly because of the automatically generated description so it can’t be changed to add the context needed for video to work.


The style of the video on the T&A site is limited but like most of the other local sites I’ve looked at I can’t fault the range. The choice of story is generally good with plenty of visual opportunities to explore. I feel the hand of photographers on a lot of the video with some interesting staging of interviews, many of which feel like the set-up for a picture. It can often feel a bit artificial but it works more often than it fails.

Technically the only thing I would offer in terms of shooting is “USE A TRIPOD!”. Failing that find a way to introduce archive images in the editing process via archive/scanning rather than shooting on location.

But for me the biggest improvement is one that Newsquest could make to their video player.  The automatic elements of the player display are restricting the editorial impact of the content. Stripping the headlines and description from the article may feel like a time saver but it means that they often unsuitable as stand alone descriptions for the video.

Being able to write proper leads for the videos in the stand alone player and tweak the headlines (how SEO is ‘Guilty’) would pull a good effort even closer together.

And that marks the end of the list. Tomorrow a round up of what I learned about video from the regional press.

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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.

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How the UK Tabloids use video: The Star

This week I’m looking at the way the UK tabloid newspapers use video taking one newspaper a day. Yesterday it was The Sun and today it’s the The Star.

Owned by Northern and Shell Media Publications who also own the Express, which I’ll be looking at later this week, the Star sits firmly in the mass market tabloid market.

The platform.

The Star's video player
The Star’s video player

The Star’s video offering is clearly available from the main menu with a ‘Star Videos’ link on every page. Clicking this takes you to a Jukebox player powered by Roo which splits the content in to sections but has none of the recommended or featured sections that others have. Many of the subsection pages have a small ‘featured video’ box highlighting two videos but the editorial selection of these is, well, questionable.

The featured news - Gordon Brown does Wii fit shock! Maybe not
The featured news – Gordon Brown does Wii fit shock! Maybe not

The presentation.
The video itself is mix of Star produced/commissioned content and bought in feeds which splits pretty much along the lines of news from The Press Association and Reuters and then anything with a ‘babe’ in it.

At least I can’t complain about the pre-roll ads at the Star. They don’t have any. Instead they have hit on the great wheeze of putting all the TV ads in the video player as content.

Credit where credit is due there is some in house video. This includes breaking the world record for eating six Ferrero Rocher in one minute and an interview with street magician Dynamo. The Dynamo piece is the only thing (outside the Reuters and PA content) that approaches a package and it’s not bad.

But that’s about it.

No, that really is about it. Yesterday I commented that, if the broadsheets where a department store, the Sun was a Market. That makes the Star a seedy newsagents. Imagine a shop where there was one newspaper, a few days old, and the rest of the shelves where full of lads, TV and wrestling mags.

Not that it doesn’t aim at the right market. Like the Sun the mix of babes and celebs is where it pitches the paper, but the Sun does it better. It has a better mix of content and much ‘richer’ mix. The Star is just a nod to video, nothing more or less.

I actually found the whole thing pretty depressing. I know that in this part of the market that newspapers are morphing in to something else, like a daily gossip magazine, but this feels pretty cynical. When I see a video of a woman in a Bikini working out on a Wii highlighted as a top news story that’s a bit depressing.No offense to the lady I hope she got well paid.

Still, when a similar video appeared on Youtube even the mid-market papers picked it up so perhaps I’m being harsh. But at least they linked rather than ripping it off. And perhaps that’s the problem. The video offering from The Star is a very, very poor imitation of everything that the others are doing.

When you load the player a message appears it says

Online TV is very popular and can take a little while to appear, but its worth it!

No. It isn’t.

Tomorrow it’s The Mirror

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