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.

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How the Broadsheets use video : The Guardian

Over the last few days I’ve been looking at how the UK broadsheets are using video. I’ve cast my eye over The Times, The Telegraph and the and now it’s Wednesday so it must be the Guardians turn for a review of their video efforts.

The Guardian Video Section
The Guardian Video Section

The Guardians has a clearly visible section for video and the page layout works well; all laid back and white spacey in the Guardians re-designed layout. Nice big pictures and inviting.

On the Homepage and section pages you’ll see a smattering of embedded players as well as the little video icon showcasing a small amount of the considerable range of content they have.  There does seem to be some issue with playback controls disappearing once you start playing.

When you get to a video, the player itself follows the standard format of main playback area and then a menu down the side. But unlike a lot of the other players around on newspaper sites, the player integrates with the page. The way the headline and second deck appear above the player is very nice.  It’s a much better implementation of Brightcove than the Telegraph

Nice to see the usual selection of social network links and I also like the rolling menu at the end of a clip – although the recommendations around videos tends to be a bit generic.

The news video is a mix of Reuters and Press Association for the news video with the Guardian providing the majority of the feature based and exclusive stuff. It’s hard to tell with the bylines. They often credit the news agency but there seems to be a whole range of credits for the in-house stuff. It could be, staff and agencies, guardian films. None of which impacts on the viewer but it makes me wonder how the internal politics works here.

You get captions instead of VO
You get captions instead of VO

None of the news stuff from third parties (and the in-house short form stuff) has voice over. Instead they use pop-up captions so you can read it yourself. I’m, kind-of, liking this. I imagine it adds a reasonable amount of time to the process – rendering captions is time consuming. But if they have a system in place it’s probably shorter than recording a VO and you don’t have the delivery problems.

Of course it’s the feature and special report content where the Guardian gets in its stride.

The piece with Nzube Udezue relating his experience being held at gunpoint by the police,  is well put together and shows the benefit of conducting an interview to get the story, and the good quality audio,  and then doing location stuff as well.  It isn’t cheating you know. It’s just good practice in these narrative led packages.

Less successful is some of the lighter stuff. There is very little evidence of the kind of brand/theme stuff that defines the telegraph, (there is some legacy stuff – The Observer interviews thread for example was best left in the archives ). But there isn’t a unified approach in its place.

The Life &Style section piece on Manly make up offers nothing a before and after shot couldn’t and there is a lot of this style of video on the site. It’s not all bad though. There are some nice features, packaged well.

The Wine in a baby bottle piece was well put together and fun. Not that I necessarily think that packaged stuff is better I just think that some of the videos only work embeded with an article and shouldn’t be included in the player offering

Condensed milk plugs the video gap
Condensed milk plugs the video gap

I also want to mention the pudcast, Not because I think it’s any good. I mention it for the fact that the source for the clip was Let’s hope that the Guardian doesn’t get too high horse about product placement. And that seems to be a common theme downfall of a lot of the ‘lighter’ stuff on the sight.

As I said before, there is very little brand/theme stuff on the site. When there is it tends to be hiding third party or poduct placement content. And that’s when the Guardian attempts something theme like that the quality filter occasionally slips.

Football Daily’s James Richardson and Barry Glendenning video from Euro2008 was pretty tedious. The segway vid in particular  was pointless. I never thought I would hear the Segway referred to a ‘bad boy’. Leave the brand and banter stuff to the podcats where it works.

Of course it’s what could be called the ‘world affairs’ content where they Guardian do their best work. They’ve have made no secret of their aim to focus a lot of their video work on world affairs – telling the stories that they think aren’t being told.  Guardian films really has got in to it’s stride as the new go-to commissioner for liberal, authored voice, VJ style doco.

Iraq, Afghanistan and Africa feature heavily and the process of pairing a Guardian/Observer journalist and VJ works well. It’s like having a Producer and Director/Camera working together. Of particular note is the work of Peter Beaumont and Antonio Olmos. Their Afghanistan: Other voices stuff for the Observer is first class.  It’s sometimes painfully poignant but sometimes painfully earnest.  But since when has that been a crime in documentary.


The Katine interactive Village
The Katine interactive Village

I couldn’t talk about the Guardian and not mention their slideshow and interactive work. High quality and interesting the range is nice. Shame they aren’t given their own section to play with. The Guardian Films produced Katine: Interactive village is a great example of what they can do.  A visit to the inpictures section of the site is a treasure trove of great images and soundlsides slideshows. Some of the navigation needs working out but It’s a shame this doesn’t have a menu link like video does.

The Guardian has a high opnion of itself when it comes to multimedia and I often feel that they have become a little more pious than they need. You could argue that, with Guardian Films, they are the London centric production/commisioning house that they rail against.  But you can’t argue with the evidence; even if you don’t like the tone.  But away from that excellent coverage are the Guardian offering anything different?

When it comes down to it, the answer is a (qualified) no.  But when it comes to the actual content the range is limited to third-party promos and agency content. Rather than variety it’ a mixed bag. But I say qualified because there is so much that they do right.

The Guardian has some great video chops. The way the player integrates in to the page and the way they subtitle rather than voice over are nice. I also like the indiscriminate way that video is presented on section pages – it’s content to use when appropriate.  There is no doubt that the way they present video and a lot of the video they present is first class. But If the Guardian wants to set the lines of video quality, it needs to do more.

If you are going to go the route of producing the high quality stuff and essentialy providing a filter to the rest ( the model discussed at the recent media summit), the filter needs to be a better quality one and less dogged by adverts.

So, thats the broadsheets. Tomorrow I’ll look at what we can learn, if anything, from the way the broadsheets use video.

And ,yes, I do know that I missed The Independent. More about that on Friday.

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How the Broadsheets use video : The Telegraph

Last Friday I started a round up of what the broadsheet newspapers are using video with a look at The Times.

The telegraph have been building their video in a similar fashion to the other broadsheets. Where the Times work the Murdoch angle with their Sky content, the Telegraph have relationship with ITN who provide a lot of the news content. ITN are also responsible for the production of some of the Telegraphs signature video threads.

The platform

The video section is well signposted in the main navigation. It takes you to a Telegraph TV channel. Unlike the Times the landing page for video is presented more like a standard section page. Even though one click on a story takes you to an all to familiar outsourced player set-up ( powered by a brightcove player. ) clicking on a feature link may take you to a sub-section page.  As usual, once you are in the player, your options to get back in to an article are limited

Articles with video are flagged with a little camera icon but these are few and far between until you get to the lifestyle and culture sections. Then it’s there like a rash. But video appears embedded in a lot of section pages which is nice.

The news section tries something a bit different with The Telegraphs News Now feature player embedded on the top of the page.

The Telegraph - News Now
The Telegraph - News Now


News video tends to be limited to ITN package style stuff. There is some nice featured stuff. The On the Frontline video with troops in Afghanistan is good. There is the makings of a really great multimedia piece in here. I also liked the Olympics Dreams video with the ‘video diary’ stuff.  A bit over produced to be truly video diary but some interesting stuff. Again I think there is some stronger multimedia packaging opportunities here.

Some of the section pages have an embedded player rather than a link to the Telegraph TV channel which was a nice touch in keeping some identity to the video content.

Real Sky?
Real Sky?

The politics section page has embedded video with rolling packages – like rolling politics news. I was surprised to see an obviously doctored shot in the opening video about Gordon Brown going on Holiday.  It shows storm clouds over a long shot of the Prime minister. Don’t get me wrong, I’m no slave to the purest photo-ethics debate and I know why they did it – Storm clouds. Gordon brown. Get it!. But it seemed very out of place  -another example of too much like TV.

The Business section does the same (although in the old design) with The Telegraphs Business Bullet. Robert Miller does a good job of newsreader, confident and personable, but there’s little there that couldn’t have been done with voice-over and the ‘insights’ are short, scripted and add little. For a business bulletin it wasn’t graphical enough for me. On screen reinforcement- stock prices etc would have made this more swish.

The Celebrity section had me fooled, no video, until the a disembodied voice started telling me about Madonna. The video was planted further down the page. A mild distraction. For me if the video appears below the scroll(fold) then I would prefer to see it presented in a similar way to the way they present it on the Travel section. A little sidebar item offers related links to video.

A special mention to the Travel section which has a nice, visible ‘hubs’ concept. I think they could make more of this. They have a news topics page like the BBC’s topics. Flag it up more. The pages look good and the serendipity value for  the occasional browser like me is high.

The more feature based stuff is where I was expecting the personality of the paper to show through. The Real Tips section offers some nice video but I’m not keen on the format. Adrian Bridge’s Trebant piece is a case in point. It was holiday video cut with a studio interview. Authoritative voice but it did end up being like a holiday pics lecture till halfway through. Could have been half the length. That raw footage cut with bluescreen interview makes it feel like a cut price clip show.

Like the Times the blogs on the Telegraph are more relaxed with their use of video. But making my way across the divide between newspaper site over to the blogs I noticed someone seems to have fallen between the gap. Sameh El-Shahat and his Holy Cows show ( a truly awful title sequence by the way) inhabits the uneasy space between comment and blog. One or two of his videos have found their way on to the web (his George bush polemic has done the rounds online) but there is no opportunity to comment or interact. And I think this Brand rather than personality problem is the main flaw in the Telegraphs offering.

Holy Cows
Holy Cows

The strands are not bad. Well made (as I would hope with input from someone like ITN) but they seem stuck in TV-format land. They miss the chance to exploit the niche and community parts that something like the blog section works hard to cultivate.


Its the TV Times, sorry the TV Telegraph
Its the TV Times, sorry the TV Telegraph

The Telegraph have really taken the TV part of Telegraph TV seriously. They’ve gone heavy on the ‘show’ format. I could take a mix of the stuff and give you a schedule that looks like any daytime TV channel I could mention.  Instead of Motoring we have Wheel Deal. We have Ten Minutes to Table, Hilary&Co (Hilary, script. Avoid it like the plague). There’s touches of Discovery, a bit of Lifestyle and heavy politics if you want it. Format, format, format.

I feel slightly bad having a pop. The Guardian recently put the boot in to the Telegraph video at the Changing Media Summit a while back (particularly Right On). I thought the tone of that debate was a little too much like ego-massage, but can’t argue with their criticism in that the Telegraph is too much like TV.

Metro media snipping aside, the problem with that TV wrapping is that the richness of the content mix and deep niche value is hidden. The series format kills the long tail value of a lot of the stuff.

So, a rich mix, competently produced but I felt that my Back button had become a TV remote. I closed the browser just in case I clicked it and found myself on Bid-up TV.

Oh, and the annoying thing with DVD’s is the bloody pre-roll ads for them.

Next: The Financial Times

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Sky news video top stories

After me accusing it of being the shouty news, I have to say that I’m liking the SkyNews front page video enhanced story rotator (or whatever it’s called). It sits on the front page in the traditional leas story spot and rotates automatically through the top stories but instead of a picture it has a rolling bit of VT. Here it is in action from the site yesterday

Like the Telegraph’s video splash, I like the idea of adding more dynamic content to the page in with text. Proper multimedia. But unlike the Telegraph I don’t think SkyNews have quite got the article page right.

Click through and you are presented with this:

There is video in the column down the left-hand side. When you click it, the box expands out, shifting the story down the page.

It’s neat but I can’t help thinking that the static picture is the space to get this sexy stuff in. Replace it rather than shift it.

But that’s just me. Overall I have to say that I like the idea of the moving pictures.

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Telegraph video splash Anne Darwin story

Shane Richmond has tweeted that The Telegraph has had it’s first video splash on the verdict in the trial of Anne Darwin, wife of the disappearing canoe man, John Darwin.

Here’s the video:

How much the content reflects the actual article is debatable. It’s obviously something that the Telegraph have been sitting on waiting for the verdict. But there is no denying the power of the video and the colour it add. The audio is the damming bit but the CCTV adds a voyeuristic element to it that earns its right to take the place of a picture. In that respect a few more pictures in the video wouldnt have gone a miss.

From a video point of view, well, actually, on that note…I don’t think that this is video. It’s multimedia – pictures and audio illustrating a point. And it’s all the more stronger because of the rest of the stuff displayed around the page.

I think it’s a near perfect web article in that it’s got the bells and whistles but its also got the really, oooh, hmmm, ahhahh that a good web article needs to cover

Read the headline: Really? See the video: oooooh, that’s juicy. Read the story. Hmmm I wonder how she got away with that. See the related content, ah-ha, that’s how.

Okay, the headline could do to be a bit sexier and bit less seo but who’s picking. A cracking effort.

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Newspaper video: Playtime = happy journos

Picture from Flickr user Huladancer

This has been sitting in my list of things to blog on, so with a bit of delay, here is an interesting bit of data from a recent report on digital journalism from a couple of PR companies.

[T]he study has uncovered a ‘40/40 Factor’ in action – 41% of respondents now produce more than 40% of their output online in the first instance. The ‘40/40 Factor’ is even more interesting when one considers it was only in October 2005 that the Daily Telegraph became the first UK newspaper to publish online, before the print edition.

Interesting stuff. A 40/40 distribution of web first. Could this be a candidate for 50/50?


But more interesting for me was the what the report has to say on video

61 per cent of UK respondents said their publications offered video or TV content as part of their online presence compared with 41 per cent of respondents from other European countries

That from Laura Oliver’s article on the report over at

Sounds like good news. But wait there are some howevers (they’re the new but you know):

However, over three quarters of UK respondents said that producing additional multimedia content for the web was the biggest challenge to their jobs.

Oh, dear

However, only 10 per cent of the overall respondents – and 14 per cent of those in the UK – said they had received training for producing multimedia content.

Double oh, dear.

In fact the survey says that 65% of those surveyed said they had trained themselves in podcasting and video.

Here is the reports take away graphic:

That’s pretty shoddy isn’t it.

But video seems to happen regardless. Some form of training must be happening.

My experience is that there is a lot of under the wire training going on. That’s born out by something I read on today.

In an interview with Alison Gow about the Liverpool Daily posts fantastic efforts online, we get an insight in to the way video works in Liverpool.

Video is a separate entity altogether – one video journalist is responsible for managing libraries, cutting pieces and training newsroom staff and reporters in video-journalism.

She has trained eight other staff so far, giving them a week’s hands-on training so that they can manage handicams and cut footage. They aim for a new web video each day.

That seems to be the way a lot of this is happening. A few people are training in house but the majority of journalists are doing it themselves.

I get (some) satisfaction

Does that make them unhappy?

It seems not.


This may come as a shock to the more for less brigade and, though it may be it’s a leap of logic on my part, it would seem that journalists enjoy learning new skills – wherever they are doing that.

For me that just underlines again the real importance of my hobby horse of playtime (set aside time for journalists to try new things). Give your journalists time to learn the new skills and maybe that ‘enjoy it more’ figure will grow.

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