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From the unbanked to the unnewsed: Just doing good journalism won’t be enough to bring back reader trust
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April 14, 2014, 2:08 p.m.

Columbia’s Tow Center has a new report out today on how publishers are actually dealing with video. Many newsrooms have made video a major focus and are pinning their hopes for revenue on the medium.

Columbia assistant professor Duy Linh Tu led a cross-country investigation into how newsrooms, broken down into categories of newspapers, digital-native properties, and longform filmmakers, are actually dealing with video content. His team compiled the results into Video Now, a structured interactive website with lots of video features. Here’s a sample of testimony from journalists at The Seattle Times:

Eric Ulken: We haven’t figure out the business model, so it’s sort of a chicken or egg problem. On the one hand, advertising will tell us, “Well, we need more volume in order to make this an effective advertising product.” And on the news gathering side, it’s “Well, if you could show us that this is actually producing some revenue, we would assign it some more manpower to it.”

Danny Gawlowski: For news situations, if it’s something that’s important today, we try to use mobile as much as we can, and shoot it on mobile, upload it directly from your mobile device, publish it immediately. It gives us the advantage of speed. We put the ability to publish breaking news right at the reporter level, right at the photographer level, and so that we can concentrate our editing resources on longer-term, more thoughtful packages.

The digital investigation focuses on Mashable, NPR, and NowThis News. Here’s Mashable’s Bianca Consunji on metrics for video:

We’re trying to work on videos that will give us at least 20,000 views. Anything less than that, with our limited resources, just isn’t worth it anymore. If, let’s say, 100,000 people will watch a cute viral video featuring a Muppet and a cat, maybe 20,000 will watch the video that we did on 3D gun printing.

The report wraps with a good set of recommendations. Sports videos and explainers did well across newsrooms, they found, and evergreen video content with a long tail is always helpful. Social video should be about audience not gimmicks, and short videos tend to get the most viewers. Video ads should be better, and newsrooms can’t expect to depend on preroll CPMs entirely. Finally, the report advises that breaking news reporters doing short, mobile clips should be separate from those producing elegant, sophisticated, in-depth video content.

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