The biggest mistake digital news operations may make is to believe many of their visitors actually care that much about seeing the news.
A recent report from the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism found that, yes, people will go to online
news sources to watch video coverage of a “big, breaking news story.” But most of the time, they’d rather read all about it than see it, which is kind of a cruel irony for the
shriveling print world.
Only about 25% of respondents to this Reuters report say they watch online news video in any given week.
Why not? Well, 41% say they find
reading the news faster and more convenient.
And then there’s the expected list of other reasons that reading text online beats video: 35% hate the pre-roll, 20% say video
takes too long to load and 19% say video doesn’t add much to the story.
I’d like to join in with that last bunch. Online news video has a lot of flaws. It is generally
nonexclusive: You can see it anywhere. It is usually redundant. You can read the text faster and somehow easier than watching it. And all these many years later, the video itself seems to be there
because some corporate strategist says it should be. It seems, in short, perfunctory, going-through-the-motion video.
The Reuters study, it should be said, was undertaken in 26
nations, but the results were similar, place by place.
The study shows young people are more likely to be accessing news video via social media, not news sites themselves.
Much of the time, the “news” videos being consumed, on Facebook for example, are also decidedly un-newsy.
“Our analysis showed that
almost 40% of the most successful videos from our news brands related to lifestyle or entertainment content (for instance about animals, babies, or cooking) rather than harder news subjects, such as
current affairs, politics, science, or the environment,” the report notes. “Four of the top 10 videos related to entertainment or lifestyle content.”
“Even for brands associated with hard news, like The Telegraph, The Guardian, or The Independent, their top or second videos in terms of Facebook engagement numbers turned out
to be animal videos.”
But news organizations do recognize that, however dubious the material, social media is the place to be, though it’s filled with problems. Facebook
last week essentially said it will begin scaling down news posts in favor of the kind of Facebooky-type social exchanges it was built upon.
This many years into a digital and video
reality, the news biz still seems to be struggling to find a way, and apparently will keep trying.
The report says social media’s impact is “already affecting the content and tone
of news coverage in general” and it’s implied, not in a good way, either. But nearly 80% of news executives say they will be investing more in online news video this year. Maybe they’ll
figure it out.