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, 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?


9 Responses

  1. I think we need to consider adding to Rhodes’ tiers – at least after the NYTimes piece last week that posted just prior to Election Day (Choosing a President)
    This piece raises the bar – as do the pieces MediaStorm regularly produces and helps distribute. They are not everyday pieces, but they are another category. I would also point to Rhodes’ own for a piece on Tokyo last year. It was an amazing tour and did not fall into any of these tiers.
    All-to-say — the station is right – it’s changing all the time.

  2. Thank you for your comment – this is exactly the type of discussion I’d like to start. It seems to me that there are many news organizations out there saying, “I want video on the Web and I want it to be different than what we see on TV” but not enough folks are taking the time to define what that really means.

  3. […] Potter writes this week about’s idea that web video can come in different levels of storytelling sophistication. Tier 1 – a short, single shot interview or video of a scene that stands alone. It’s typically no […]

  4. The style of video Rhodes recommends has traditionally been favored by news directors looking to fill a 30 minute news show on a day when there is only 5 minutes of news.

    It stopped working a while back. Murdoch paid a premium price for WSJ – financed by selling local TV stations at bargain basement prices.

    I don’t know much about WSJ – but the Financial Times probabbly employs more foreign correspondents than all other European newspapers combined.

    The FT & WSJ have niche audiences – local is not a niche. Outside the niche/tribe video struggles, it is rarely the most efficient method of imparting information.

  5. There’s a paper by Prof. Jose Van Djick on narrowcasting and user generated content wherein she describes web video as snippets. The snippet could be a grab from an aired program, or an originally-produced video on the web by a You-ser (her term). Although she focuses more on the phenomenon of narrowcasting and the user-producer experience, I think it would be good to consider her work in helping define what web video is.

  6. I have recently gone from TV news health reporting to running my own website which includes videos – I am still trying different styles and lengths to see what works best, and what my viewers want to see. So far, the one thing I have learned is it definitely doesn’t have to be the standard TV news “package” format to get interest. I get just as many clicks on the videos with few, if any edits – more like a live shot type standup.

  7. […] trying to tell before gathering the visuals you’ll use to tell it.  Our recent post on how Web video is different shared how the Washington Post categorizes Web videos into three “tiers.”  At the […]

  8. […] just ühe uue huvitava koha (lisasin ka “heade kohtade” alla), kus tuuakse välja 3 põhilist onlainile sobivaimat […]

  9. […] peamist onlain-video formaati Posted on Veebruar 17, 2009 by Erik Avastasin just huvitava koha (lisasin ka “heade kohtade” alla), kus muuhulgas tuuakse välja 3 onlainile omaseimat […]

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