The future of video in online journalism

Predicting the future of anything is tough, especially in online journalism and certainly when it comes to video. I remember a time when "multimedia" was everything at conferences and in j-school classrooms. Those days faded and were replaced with "social media." Now it's all about data and applications. My point is that discussion about the "future" of online video has really faded into the background in forward-thinking journalism circles. I certainly don't know what that future looks like, but as both a consumer and producer, I can make a few guesses based on my personal expectations. 

This is the kind of online video that I, as a consumer, find useful:

  1. News - Quick, raw, on-the-scene footage (e.g. from an earthquake, a shooting, etc.)
  2. News/information - Longform documentary-style videos and talks (think PBS-style documentaries or TED talks)
  3. Entertainment - All videos of all kinds, from raw clips of laughing babies, to my highly-curated Hulu and Netflix feeds of popular TV shows.

Otherwise, as a multitasker on the go, text is still my primary form of news-based consumption. But maybe that's because newsorgs still aren't doing it right.

One thing that The Seattle Times video editor once told me -- I think he heard it from someone else-- is that there are two types of video that make it online: the cat videos and well-produced stuff (...and the porn, but we won't get into that). Often times, newspapers fall into the middle ground. They're not usually shooting the real-life raw footage of natural disasters, but they're not producing amazing, high-quality works of art. They're that middle noise; the five-minute mediocre footage. And often times, they precede their mediocre video with a 30-second ad. This isn't where I see the future.

There's a difference between the future of video in online journalism and the future of video in newsrooms. I will address the latter, because it's what I'm immersed in every day. Ideally, I'd love to see a world that exists as follows:

  1. Every reporter has an iPhone and the ability to shoot/edit video. This doesn't mean they have to, but if needed, they know what they're doing. You'd think this is already true, but it's not. They're just not thinking about it.
  2. All video editing teams are constantly working on long-form, documentary-style video, stuff that's really good. See The Seattle Times recent Elwha dam removal video. The reason they'll have time for this is because all the day-to-day stuff can be shot/edited quickly by talented reporters, thus freeing up time for the pros.
  3. Video won't simply be coverage of things other people are doing and saying. It will be educational and information in its own sense -- think TED talks or GOOD Magazine videos.
  4. Ads that make sense and isn't irritating to the viewer.
  5. Video integrated into every part of a website; not as its own little widget on the homepage or in a sidebar, but as a native content type.
  6. Searchability -- I want to be able to read the transcript of a video, with closed captioning, click a spot on that text and have it direct me to that exact point of the video.  I also want to be able to search a website or use Google to search for a term and see the videos that match that query -- not through keywords, but through the content of the video itself.
  7. And all of the aforementioned requirements should work seamlessly on mobile.

If we can reach all these basic requirements, I might start consuming more news video. Until then, my mobile/online video attention will be spent on The Daily Show and Dexter and Modern Family.

This post was part of the monthly Carnival of Journalism symposium. This month's topic: "What is the role of video in the future of online journalism?"