Online Journalists Increasingly Turn to Video for Reporting and Features.

In the old days (that is, ten years ago), print was print and broadcast was broadcast, and never the twain shall meet. But with explosion of video content available online and as the Web has blurred the way content is presented for mass consumption, it’s increasingly true that print is also broadcast and broadcast is also print.

The latest entrant on the “print” side is Huffington Post, which is a blogger’s paradise and more recently a place for AP stories to reside under often incendiary headlines. Last week, HuffPost introduced Live, which is 12 hours of daily Webcasts in what they contend is a reimagining of what broadcast news can be in the 21st century.

Using Skype and Google Hangout, as well as in-studio appearances, HuffPo conducts lo-fi interviews of bold-face names, politicians, and even the site’s own readers. For instance, in the first week they included an interview with the Mayor of New York City and a segment on “Lessons from Drag Queens.” Today I watched Janet Varney interview Tom Arnold (heaven help me: I couldn’t turn away; I got sucked in and couldn’t stop watching!) In other words, it’s all the sorts of headlines you’d expect to find on the Front Page of huffingtonpost.com but attached to streaming video.

But it’s not just the new media darlings that are getting into the act. No less than The New York Times, that authoritative source for news and information, history’s first draft – The Gray Lady, ferchrissakes – has set its sight on video. It already offers an array of video programming, from daily business broadcasts with interviews of journalists discussing their reporting, to segments on how to make homemade ricotta cheese.

It seems, however, that they intend to move well beyond what has essentially been a hobby to something more central to their strategy. Their new CEO, Mark Thompson, who’s spent his entire career in broadcasting at the BBC, was hired to ensure it. Here’s how the Times covered its own announcement:

In choosing Mr. Thompson, a veteran of television who has spent nearly his entire career at the BBC, The Times reached outside its own company, its own industry and even its own country to find a leader to guide it in an uncharted digital future.

“We have people who understand print very well, the best in the business,” Mr. Sulzberger said in the interview. “We have people who understand advertising well, the best in the business. But our future is on to video, to social, to mobile. It doesn’t mirror what we’ve done. It broadens what we are going to do.”

That’s a big, bold statement. And it indicates a future for journalism completely unlike the past. While Reuters and Bloomberg have both been mixing media to get at comprehensive coverage of its reporting, and CNN has long managed a website with lots of written content to buttress its video segments, traditional and new media “print” newsrooms have tried to stay pure. But they’re clearly under pressure to expand into video production and live webcasts.

Call it the YouTube effect. America already loved TV and movies and home video before the Internet came along. With YouTube, people got an endless supply of video to watch on desktop computers, laptops, tablets and smart phones – wherever they want, whenever they want.  And while traditional broadcasters are still attached to fixed schedules of programming, broadcasting from channels only available via cable operators, the truth is people are even working around those strictures through the embrace of Hulu, Netflix, iTunes and many other sources for traditional Hollywood content.

Still, it’s going to be tough for print organizations to make the transition, as was evidenced by the serial glitches in the debut of HuffPost Live last week. Even the normally slick New York Times produces video that is just shy of Hollywood-grade professional and often feature people who are rarely in front of the camera (based solely on their onscreen performances.) While Americans like the authenticity of certain homespun video productions (see: FunnyOrDie.com), they expect their authoritative sources of news and information to inspire confidence—and to be 100 percent professional in their presentation.

The ability to monetize these new channels for video and webcasts is also a big question mark. If they can get enough people to show up, the advertisers will follow—maybe.  After all, there are a lot of choices out there when it comes to video online.

Author DEREK GORDON is a marketing and sales exec with more than 20 years success in integrated marketing and sales strategy and management. He is the Chief Marketing and Sales Officer for Pathbrite. You can also check out his blog, Daily Casserole.

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