Thursday, May 24, 2007

Online Editors Share Recipes
for Great Online Video

By Joel Marino

FIU Student Journalist

Most of the sessions during this year's E&P/Mediaweek Interactive Media Conference focused on one big issue: the growing use of videos to appeal to online readers.

Though all the speakers had varying opinions on how the videos should be used, such as the number of clips each site should contain, there was some consensus on what exactly made the perfect online video.

This is the Golden Rule of video formatting. During the "Video Killed the Text Star" session, Christopher Kerr of suggested that the maximum time limit for web clips should be two minutes. This short time frame keeps readers interested in the subject and allows for more concise reporting. If it doesn't fit in that time limit, then you probably don't need it.

Just as readers may stop reading a print story that isn't creative or doesn't appeal to them, viewers won't respond to videos that don't grab their attention from the get-go.

"There are serious politics on YouTube which no one is using," said Lauren Vicary of during the "First YouTube Election" session. "The videos only bubble up when they're humorous."

In other words: Footage of John Edwards giving a speech on the campaign trail = Internet dud.

Footage of John Edwards combing his hair for several hours = Internet gold.
John Edwards fixing his hair before an interview. With appropriate music.
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Presidential candidate John Edwards delivers opening remarks at the AFSCME Forum (video 1 of 2)
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"We have a committment to telling great stories. We need to realize that videos can help us do that," said Patrick Stiegman of during "Storytelling of the Future."

As an example, Stiegman showed clips of a report chronicling the obstacles faced by an Alaskan town starting their first high school football team.

"This video was very popular because it told an amazing story of triumph," he said.

The video, which was conceived and executed by ESPN's web team, eventually aired on the ESPN network.

Though there is a market for stories about international affairs and national politics, more and more papers are relying on local angles to drive their news sections.

"We have to remember that the rest of the world lives in their backyards where dogs can swallow turtles and then gag them up," said Rusty Coats of, referring to a story about a turtle-swallowing dog that became a number one hit for The Tampa Tribune's online edition.

[Times photo: Chris Zuppa]
Pepper the turtle on the mend after sometime friend Bella decided to find out what turtles taste like.

Coats also gave a list of local subjects that could make good online filler. The list included community events, interactive weather updates and research on historical landmarks.

And of course, one rule that may make a lot of corporate big-wigs smile...

Michael Daecher seemed proud when he commented that his Web site,, was one of the first to feature videos on the actual online page instead of on separate pop-up pages.

However, he didn't seem as proud when he recounted the odyssey the site had to take to perfect their video format.

"We made the mistake of creating sleek, high-quality videos when we first started," Daecher said during the "Video Killed the Text Star" conference. "It looked nice, but we couldn't afford it."

His team eventually began using cheap editing software and even started to allow user-submitted clips.

"The production may suffer, but we're getting videos you don't see anywhere else," Daecher said. "The reader doesn't care how sleek the video is as long as it gets a message across. If we focus on that, we'll be fine."