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Nieman Journalism Lab
Pushing to the future of journalism — A project of the Nieman Foundation at Harvard
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Now playing: The New York Times signs on to Hulu to reach a new audience for its long videos

Under the new deal, you’ll soon be able to find videos from the Times next to your favorite episodes of Alf.

You can now find videos from The New York Times on Hulu, thanks to a content licensing agreement between the paper and the popular video site.

Video produced for NYTimes.com will now be available alongside episodes of Modern Family, Glee, or old eps of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. More likely, they’ll be in the same neighborhood as documentaries and short news videos. The Times joins a number of news outlets on Hulu, the obvious ones like ABC News, NBC News, and Fox News, but also The Wall Street Journal.

The first Times video on Hulu is “Punched Out: The Life and Death of an N.H.L. Enforcer,” which was produced in conjunction with their three-part series about hockey player Derek Boogaard, who died at age 28 last year. The new Hulu channel will be a destination for Times videos that are more like short documentaries — maybe things like the Last Word series or Op-Docs.

When I spoke to Ann Derry, head of the video department for the Times, she said we can expect to see more videos soon on Hulu. “We’re always looking for ways to raise the visibility of what we do and get a larger audience,” Derry said. Derry told me the Times and Hulu had been in discussions for some time. They chose the Boogaard video both because its length (36 minutes) fit well into Hulu format and because it’s the time of year for the NHL playoffs, meaning there’s a chance to grab the attention of enthused hockey fans.

Derry said Hulu is the right fit for Times videos like “Punched Out,” which Derry estimates took four months to produce in concert with the story on Boogaard. Producer Shayla Harris and videographer Marcus Yam worked on the video as reporter John Branch reported out the story, which details Boogaard’s career as an enforcer and the effect it had on his life.

When the story was published in December 2011, it was accompanied with “Punched Out” in three segments. In moving over to Hulu the video has been repackaged as a single film to better fit the viewing experience on the site. For the Times there are obvious costs and benefits in joining up with Hulu. On Hulu, a viewer may be more likely to seek a lean-back entertainment and watch a video longer than five minutes. But by putting the videos on Hulu, the Times is also sending eyeballs off their property and adding an intermediary who’ll expect a cut of the ad revenue.

Derry said that’s not a big problem. “It’s always been both our journalism and business strategy to have people watching videos on our site and off our site,” she said. Hulu clearly offers the potential for new viewers to stumble onto Times videos who may have never visited NYTimes.com. Derry doesn’t see it as a zero-sum game. She said the new Hulu channel can add more awareness of the Times for viewers. “One doesn’t have to take away from the other,” she said. In the grand scheme of online video, moving to Hulu may not hurt. According to comScore the average online video viewer watched 21.8 hours of video in April, with Google sites (YouTube) making up 7.2 hours and Hulu accounting for 3.8 hours.

The Times’ videos are also available through Hulu Plus, which lets Times video appear on TV sets through devices like like Roku, Xbox and the Nintendo Wii. (Longtime Nieman Lab readers might remember back in 2009, when the Times’ R&D Lab was busy thinking about creative ways to get Times multimedia content into people’s living rooms. Hulu Plus is one route.) The Times still has a ways to go to catch up with The Wall Street Journal here, though, with its dedicated WSJ Live app and its dedicated channel slots on additional devices like Apple TV and Google TV.

This isn’t the first time the Times has syndicated their video content elsewhere, as anyone who’s flown JetBlue can tell you. The Times has a YouTube “edition” for the paper’s videos. They also had the short-lived Discovery Times cable channel. Derry got her start making videos for Discovery Times, and she said working with Hulu could be a return to producing those kind of projects for the Times. The newspaper creates many hours of video, ranging from daily news programming with TimesCast and Business Day to interviews with newsmakers and series like The Last Word. Since Hulu is a home for episodic content, it would make sense for the Times to add their more episodic offerings like Tony Scott and David Carr hamming it up, to their Hulu library. But rather than just dump a big chunk of the paper’s large video catalog on Hulu, Derry said they’re being selective about what content fits there.

The Times will soon have more video on Hulu and Derry hopes they’ll broaden their offerings to produce more longer pieces. “All of a sudden, you’re broadening the options of the things you can do,” she said. For Hulu, just like NYTimes.com, Derry said the main question remains the same: What’s the best format to tell a story?

                                   
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  • ranjanxroy

    I’m still confused with the logic that getting the video to more people will increase awareness of the NY Times which could lead to additional subscriptions (last part implied). 

    The issue isn’t with Hulu as an intermediary, it’s with another example of the the extremely tenuous alliance between the content creators who want massive audience and the paywalling business side who need to make content scarce enough to get people to buy subscriptions. Even with the supposed success of the past year (I’m still curious how many digital subs were simply the discounted trials) it’s another reminder that for a historically broad-reaching institution like the NYT, this isn’t sustainable. Journalists want to be heard.