I’m not sure where this idea started, but when a lot of newspaper journalists talk about new media, they focus on video.
Last time I checked there is local news, network news, cable news and the long shadows of legends like Cronkite and Murrow. Reporting the news with video isn’t exactly new. So, why would throwing some random video on your Web site all the sudden make you new media?
Video and written stories are certainly part of new media. New media will find new ways to disseminate this traditional content and unique ways to package it. But neither one will ever be the backbone of what new media is.
New media is currently focused around the Web, which means any new media endeavor needs a killer Web site. A Web site that looks good, is easy to navigate, has a powerful search engine, has a clean design and is filled with lots of unique content. The kind of Web site most newspapers don’t have.
The backbone of new media journalism is deep database content, two-way communication (talk back features, blogs, chats, etc), a continuous news cycle, hyper searchable content, database journalism, Flash story telling and infographics, unique packages with audio, video and other journalism and of course finally utilizing photos properly (tag them and make your whole database of photos searchable).
New media journalism companies understand one fundamental truth: you cover a story in the format that best fits the story. It might be a combination of written text, a talk back feature/blog, a photo essay and video. It always varies from story to story, based on the needs of the story.
Sometimes it might just be written text (in fact a lot of times it will be, but it often shouldn’t be in the traditional journalism narrative form). It also might just by a little text with a database allowing people to see how many crimes happened in their city the past year, where they happened, who committed them and what kinds of crime they were. Maybe it’s a Flash infographic explaining how a bridge collapsed in a major U.S. city.
Maybe it is a documentary-style video feature on the lives of post Katrina citizens that gets combined with a blog allowing citizens to sound off. But new media isn’t and never will be just shoveling old media content onto a Web site. This means video too. You can’t just take a traditional written piece and add a little bit of video and expect it to be new media.
First, most newspapers do video very poorly. They operate under the modus operandi of “good enough.” Every journalism outlet has a threshold of good enough. It varies widely based on the company.
The problem is that a newspaper will have a much higher standard for written articles and photos than they will for audio or video content. Because they’re “just print journalists” trying to do new media. Can they really be expected to make compelling video content?
Yes, and they will be by consumers. They expect synergy between different story telling methods on your Web site.
Doing video for new media, means taking the same standards you had for print and applying it to video. The video should look good, be edited well and be compelling. It should do something that a print story couldn’t.
That’s the problem. Most newspapers video does something a written piece could do, and often their writers can do a better job. Which exactly why video does not equal new media for most newspapers.
Keep in mind that consumers aren’t clamoring for video either. In my survey I conducted in 2006, less than half of my respondent were looking for newspapers to add it to their Web sites.
Which means you have to add content that appeals to all those other people (the only way to succeed in new media is with a breadth of content). The No. 1 place people read newspapers online is at work, and work is not the best place to be watching videos.
But the real question is, where did this focus come from?
I’m not sure, but every time I mention new media, old-school journalists start going off about video and how they aren’t trained or about how they think the quality of journalism at their company will suffer. Let’s get this out of everyone’s heads once and for all: video does not equal new media.
It is one component of it, but that’s all it is. That’s all it ever will be. If you really want to do new media, first get a good Web site and then realize that new media journalism is far beyond video.
It’s all those things I mentioned above. And when you do video (because it does have a place in new media), do it well. Make it real journalism and make it compelling.