How is Web video different?

Or perhaps the question should be, “Is Web video different?”  Not too long ago, my former employer, WSOC-TV in Charlotte, posted a job titled “Website Video Journalist.”  Here’s what was listed for responsibilities:

Your job will be to identify unique story ideas and convert them into compelling video and slideshows.  You will need to be able to shoot, interview, write, edit and report stories.  Journalist should be able to tell the story differently from what is on the TV broadcast.

But different how?  Sure, we know that the small video player can affect the viewer experience, so some photojournalists recommend less movement in online video and some will tell you that you can get away with a little lower quality video – but how do you “tell the story differently?”

WSOC news director Robin Whitmeyer says they’re still looking for the right person – and that person has to be flexible.  “Our Web goals keep changing, so the person we hire has to realize that is going to keep happening,” Whitmeyer says.

And that may be at the heart of this issue – all of us are still trying to figure out how to do things differently online.  At the washingtpost.com, Assistant Managing Editor for Breaking News Chet Rhodes says they categorize Web video three ways:

Tier 1 – a short, single shot interview or video of a scene that stands alone.  It’s typically no longer than two minutes long and if it’s not embedded with a story, you need to surround it with text to explain what’s going on.  Rhodes pointed to a video on the site titled, Meet Britain’s Baby Penguin, as an example that generated an amazing number of hits.

Tier 2 – what Rhodes calls a vignette, this includes two-to-four b-roll shots and an interview and generally runs no longer than three minutes.  This is similar to a television news package.

Tier 3 – these are longer narratives produced in explanatory or documentary style.  Rhodes says these look just like TV documentaires with the same high quality video and production values.  Good examples can be found in the work of Travis Fox such as his piece A Fragile Renaissance about the changes occuring in Medellin, Columbia.

So, perhaps the Web simply gives you more options for using video.  In combination with text, you can post videos that require little to no editing, even raw video can work well online.  You can produce a stand-alone story that includes the same elements as a typical TV story, or you can capitalize on the unlimited newshole characteristic of the Web and turn your site into a broadcast channel for long-form documentary-style video.  The trick may be in figuring out what approach to take and when.

Here’s Rhodes talking about video back in June 2008.

What do you think?