Audio slideshows vs Video

This post was written for an internal blog that I have been keeping for my work:

Multimedia is a relatively new endeavor for newspapers, and The Telegram is no exception. As an industry, we are still feeling our way around in the dark, trying to find what works and what does not work. What was once the golden bullet can quickly turn in to a resource black hole.

Here at The Telegram, there has been an emphasis on shooting video when possible, however, according to Richard Koci Hernandez, founder of and current Ford Foundation Multimedia Fellow at UC Berkeley:

Unless your org has advertising dollars waiting for video content, then stick with the marriage of audio and still images.

first, research shows a bigger *bang* in terms of hits and time on site for, let’s call them *soundslides* on news sites over video. video itself gets better number on the web, but not on newsites. the public doesn’t traditionally come to news sites for video anyway.

second the ROI return on investment is very minimal for video. the $$$ and time to produce and train is never made back in terms of revenue. this is why you see most papers beginning to scale back. Not the biggies like Wapo and NYT, because they have the advertising dollars waiting for content.

At The Telegram, we will not be shooting video for video’s sake. Nor will we shun the medium as time and resource intensive. Instead, we should evaluate what media we choose based on what the story lends itself best to.

I will use two examples. Currently, I get the sense that video is associated with sporting events. However, many sports are about peak action. It is about moments such as a spectacular catch, exuberant celebration, or painful collisin … moments which have a far greater impact frozen in time for viewers to digest, as opposed to played through in a video.

I think the best example of this is the great Neil Leifer photo of Muhammad Ali standing over Sonny Liston.


Most certainly this is an iconic image but, in reality, the moment itself lasted less than a second. Watch this YouTube clip below and you will see what I mean. Pay close attention at two seconds in.

Did you catch it? That was how quickly that iconic moment was over. In video, it doesn’t even feel memorable.

That being said. There are times when video works far better than stills. Rachael’s Culling the Herd video comes to mind. Even with audio and a sequence of shots, video of the bull struggling in the chute is much stronger than and stills.

When deciding what media you want to use for your story, ask yourself, How is this story best told? What effect will telling it with stills have? With video? What images/clips can you expect to get each way and which produces a greater variety of content and/or stronger content? On the news side, we should be concerning ourselves with providing the best content to our readers in the most appropriate ways, not with what the magic bullet of the day is, because that will no doubt change.

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