Surprising New Markets for Doc Producers

Boston Globe multimedia producer Darren Durlach shares his tips on interviewing.

The New York Times and most other US newspapers have been using video for a while now. Typically video was a companion to a print story. Occasionally the Times would produce a short documentary as a stand-alone piece. But video is becoming more important to both local and national newspapers. Just look at some of the categories of videos by the NY Times.

While some are in-depth pieces that require serious journalism, some are very short and simple documentaries like this one: Clean Sweep.

I know you’ve heard astounding numbers such as over 1 billion unique users visit YouTube each month. Given the remarkable explosion of video on the web, many newspapers, have hired videographers and pushed their news staffs to start producing lots of videos. This started about ten years ago. Today newspapers surpass broadcasters in total minutes of video streamed online. Newspapers also tend to produce shorter pieces than broadcast TV companies.

Publishers realize that some stories are very effective on video. While we all know some of the topics of the most popular videos, the studies confirm that interesting people or places can be very popular. So are stories about food and places that serve food. A video story in the Detroit Free Press of Ernie’s Market shows Ernie and company making 1 1/2 pound sandwiches. It received 5,000 page views the day it ran.

Natural disasters and political turmoil are also very popular video topics. Raw video of dramatic events, including clips shot by regular people, also is usually very popular, sometimes more than professionally done newscasts of the same events. Studies confirm what most producers know –– that people are most likely to share the videos that are fun or cute, followed by videos that evoke anger or disgust. Least effective would be videos that provoke little emotion. So, videos that evoke positive emotions are more popular than videos which evoke negative emotions, but even the negative videos are more popular than those which evoke no emotion.

The Wall Street Journal has been very successful with new videos. They were showing 10 million video streams a month in 2010 and twice that by May 2012. Raju Narisetti, managing editor for The Wall Street Journal’s Digital Network, told Nieman Journalism Lab:
“From a business point of view, we cannot generate enough video streams,” he said. “We are sold out. There is no shortage of demand to generate more video views.”
And it’s not just the video content that affects how many people watch a video. The Gannett Company, which is the largest U.S. newspaper publisher, measured by total daily circulation found that views of videos at its newspaper websites increased 700 percent after it introduced a larger, more prominent video player.

There’s no reason you can’t pitch a short video to your local paper and see where it leads you. You might even produce it on spec and send it in. There are a number of workshops devoted to video journalism, but I believe a book like Bill Gentile’s Essential Video Journalism Field Manual is probably all you need if that.

Darren Durlach left television almost two years ago to try something new. He’d won two consecutive NPPA TV Photographer of the Year awards and, unbeknownst to him, was on the verge of winning a third. He’s now senior multimedia producer at the Boston Globe, where he shoots and edits stories both alone and in collaboration with the newspaper’s reporters.

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