The CJR is Wrong.. and Right

Posted September 27, 2017
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The Columbia Journalism Review, a highly praised and excellent print publication that reviews the world of journalism yesterday published a piece by Heidi Moore entitled The Secret Cost of Pivoting to Video.

As print publications move online, it is almost inevitable they they also move into the world of video.  This can be done right or it can be done wrong.  For most print publications, it is done wrong, and at both considerable cost and low revenue in the long run.

Ms. Moore does a very good job of explaining how the online advertising revenue world is being eviscerated by the likes of Facebook and Google.  She also explains the motivation for print to enter the world of video, (which I think is inevitable for anyone who wants to survive in the online environment).  

The issue, as with all journalism, is the revenue. As we always say, if there is no revenue, there is no journalism.  And there is revenue to be derived from the 'pivot to video', if it is done correctily.  IF.

Here is what Ms. Moore gets right:

"The video that does work online—and drives the thirst among publishers—is about food, lifestyle, and animals, according to a study of 100 million Facebook videos. The addictive, bright, fast food-preparation videos done by BuzzFeed’s Tasty are the industry standard. Business Insider also makes snappy, shareable videos that focus heavily on food and lifestyle, and successfully appear on several platforms at once.

This is absolutely true.

This is what people are most interested in.  And you can see this reflected in what you find on cable.  Food Network, Cooking Channel, Travel Channel, HGTV and so on. Food, travel and lifestyle.  These videos are also timeless, as opposed to news, which is generally dead a few minutes after it airs.  

Now, here is what Ms. Moore gets wrong:

"Video is the most expensive and time-consuming of the multimedia disciplines. To cut a 30-second video can take hours of detailed work—which requires a good eye, good physical reflexes to capture the right moments, enormous patience, and the ability to time images, sound, text, and graphics seamlessly.

This is utter nonsense (as anyone who has taken any of our courses can attest).  

Of course, this IS a major problem in most transitions to online video. This is because most media companies hire and employ both people and production processes that were created and codified when television (which is all there was) WAS an expensive and complex process. Today, it is neither. But to use video properly, as an efficiently tool of content production, particualry for onine, requires an ENTIRELY new approach to how things are shot, scriped and cut.

We feel that anyone (almost) can be taught to produce a professional quality video product in about as much time (and with about as much effort) as it takes to produce a similar product in text.  And, we have trained more than 40,000 people worldwide to work in this way, so it's not just theory.

But working in a new way requires thowing out the old, and that most media companies are very reluctant to do - if they are even aware that there is a problem.

Now, here is her second mistake:

"Many publishers’ pivots to video are ill-considered, and thus they have deployed minimal investment in resources, studio space, equipment, or salaries. This won’t help video grow.


As soon as I read the word 'studio', I know there is a problem. What are we making here, The Today Show?  What studio? Who needs a studio?

I remember a few years ago when we were invited to visit the offices of the Newark Star Ledger. They were a newspaper just getting into video.  They took us down into their basement and showed us the studio that they had built. It looked like Nebraska Public Television. They asked what we thought.

"What are you, out of your minds?"

They were shocked.

You already HAVE a great studio upstairs. It's your newsroom.  

And that is what we did.

We also trained their staff to shoot and cut their own video.

To date, the paper has won 23 Emmys, beating every local TV station.

Pretty good.

As for expensive gear?  

Use our iPhone.

That's what we do.

I have invited Ms. Moore to our October bootcamp.

We'll see.


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