Duy Linh Tu
The Tow Center for Digital Journalism has released a multimedia report on the state of video in journalism, “Video Now: The Form, Cost, and Effect of Video Journalism.”
From October 2013 until February 2014, Tow Fellow Duy Linh Tu and the Video Now film crew visited newsrooms across the United States to interview and observe reporters and editors producing video journalism. Video is an important editorial tool and a potentially large revenue source for newsrooms, but there seemed to be no consensus on how to produce or profit from it. With that in mind, Video Now, set out to answer three main questions: 1) How do news organizations define video 2) How do they produce video? 3) What is their return on investment?
For this report, Video Now called and emailed more than 125 news organizations to gather information about their editorial strategies, revenue models, and measures of success. We avoided established broadcast and cable news networks. Instead, we focused on newsrooms without a long history of video production. We wanted to explore the opportunities and challenges facing newspapers, digital-first organizations, and long-form video producers as they compete for online traffic.
We visited FRONTLINE, The Washington Post, The Seattle Times, The Detroit Free Press, Mashable, NowThis News, Vice News, NPR, MediaStorm, and the Chicago Sun-Times. We acquired data when possible – page views, plays, viewer drop-off. In all, we interviewed, on-camera, over 40 producers, editors, and reporters involved in video production. Each interview ranged from 30 to 90 minutes. We spent one to two full days in each newsroom and were given complete access to shoot the day-to-day activities of these organizations..
Newsrooms were surprisingly candid on the question of revenue and return on investment. None of the newspapers we visited are making any profit on their videos, and most describe themselves as in a state of investment and development. These newsrooms do earn some revenue on pre-roll advertising, but they are operating at a deficit when compared to the total cost of video production. However, at this stage, newsrooms are more focused on building their under-resourced production teams with the intention of increasing content production. The Seattle Times only has two video editors; the Chicago Sun-Times has four multimedia producers and will be hiring four more this spring; and Mashable, a successful and influential social-focused site, only had three full-time producers when we visited them.
Video Now is divided into five sections: Purpose & Methodology, Newspapers, Digital, Long Form, and Recommendations. One caveat: video news departments iterate constantly (sometimes monthly), so the information and analysis presented here will age quickly. But, as of Spring 2014, this is an accurate look at the video strategies of leading newspapers, digital organizations, and long form video news producers.
Duy Linh Tu is an Assistant Professor of Professional Practice at Columbia Journalism School, and a Research Fellow with the Tow Center for Digital Journalism. The Video Now Project is a project made possible with support from both The Tow Foundation and the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.