The fires in Cape Town last week kept the country – and the world – glued to their news feeds, not least through social media and user-generated material uploaded to various online platforms. News24’s powerful video, shot by a drone, of the devastated Silvermine looking like a scene from a disaster movie, was an extraordinary example of where video is going. News24’s head of video, Dan Calderwood, discusses the growth of video viewing.
Why do you believe online video viewing has grown so exponentially over the last couple of years?
Essentially it is our massive mobile penetration. The internet has become more accessible to South Africans who are not only the audience but also content creators. As more people have access to smart phones and as broadband becomes more affordable, our growth has mirrored the increase. And will continue to do so.
Do you think online video will fundamentally shift how South Africans consume their news? Why/why not?
Access to online video and the various news formats made viable through the medium will certainly shift the way in which the audience will expect to consume their news. Our world is becoming more and more visual (and time constrained) and content (visual content in particular) is where online publishers are growing. Media houses have seen the value and are developing in-house video production teams that are producing immense amounts of video content for their online audiences.
When you take news viewing into an online arena, does it change what type of news people want to see?
Attention spans are shorter and the need for instant gratification is huge. Audiences expect more content more often, as quickly as possible. The massive numbers that we saw on Twitter during the recent State of the Nation address is testament to this. News is no longer something you read about daily or watch every evening at 7pm. It is constant, ongoing and real-time. So we have to adapt with shorter pieces, inserts, commentary and content that both engages and informs in short time spans.
Will online news video ever replace traditional television news broadcasting (in your opinion)?
The above point aside, I certainly don’t think online news will replace traditional news broadcasting but I do think in order for traditional TV broadcasting to remain relevant to its audience it needs to look at integrated offerings and a connection between the two mediums. Again, SONA2015 was a prime example. This was listed as the first truly social TV event in SA history. Where social media influenced what happened live on our screens and vice versa. I don’t think the power of the news reporting on that night would have been the same without both mediums. And of course News24 collated it all into their real time feed on their homepage and we were able to give our audience breaking news video even when they weren’t at their TVs – through their mobile phones!
When preparing news video for an online newsroom, what is the top thing you have to consider to make the video a success?
Like all news, our first consideration is the news worthiness of the piece and then we look at its relevance to our audience – understanding who you are producing content for is one of the key areas producers often over look when creating content. Audiences are often digitally over-connected so their time is precious. It is vital to keep this in mind and is one of the reasons News24 Live presents news in the format it does.
How do you (personally) measure the success of the video content created for an online newsroom?
As said above, we offer our video news in a video format that has never been seen in SA before. Consumers are visiting online home pages less and less and are being directed to websites and mobisites by social networks like Twitter and Facebook. So our content needs to engage and be shareable.
Therefore, engagement on videos is a key measurable in assessing its success. The conversion play rate from being able to attract the reader to click on the video once landing on the page is also an essential metric. And lastly the length of time the reader has been on your page.
What, in your opinion, has been the most exciting online video development in the last two years?
Instagram video! No on a serious note YouTube’s live streaming capabilities has taken the power of a broadcaster and placed it in the hands of the everyday person.
Internationally, what trends are you seeing in the realm of online video news?
When looking at the audiences need for news that is instant, on-going and real time, live video streaming seems to be trumping video on demand. We saw this locally with the live courtroom feed during the Oscar Pistorius trial, in August as the debates in our national Parliament become heated and of course at the recent SONA2015 events.
Who are the big players internationally?
When it comes to online communities and online video communities in my opinion HuffPost Live is the big player. In a completely different video format but equally as big is Buzzfeed. Both of these video platforms have gone against the traditional online news video broadcasting format and have been offering their audiences something new that seems to have worked really well.
In the more traditional online news video format I would say that the Telegraph and the Guardian, both in the UK offer fantastic news coverage and relevant video content both without the support of a traditional news broadcasting platform.
How important is user generated content in an online video newsroom?
Through YouTube this has become hugely instrumental in sourcing content that users have uploaded and want to share.
With the Paris attacks for example, within hours of the attack eyewitness accounts recorded on mobile phones were being uploaded to YouTube and being used and broadcast across the globe as the events unfolded.
How sustainable do you think the online video newsroom is?
It’s hard to say. As we’re the first to use the type of format that we do, we’re on the front line and adapting to what our viewers want. At present, we know that studio based reports showing what is happening in the news at the same time as telling our audience what is happening online, on our platforms and on social media, works very well. This type of model combines a news anchor type of approach with additional authenticity to what is being reported on. The results show that the appetite for what we are doing is there – with over 1.5 million video plays a month!
The sustainability element is contained in the communities that are created around the content and trends show that media consumers are coming to us via social media recommendations, so we believe that we’re on the right track.
Dan Calderwood is the head of video for News24 and is responsible for the management of the News24 Live studio and all of News24’s video content. He has been a multimedia journalist for 5-years.
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