Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Perfect Mix of Film and Text
Could Lead to Better Media

By Joel Marino

FIU Journalist Student

Video may be trying to kill the text star, but it's not going to be an easy death.

Despite the rising demand for online film clips, the small panel of multimedia professionals that made up the E&P/Mediaweek Interactive Media Conference's second session--Video Killed the Text Star -- agreed that content, not visuals, will always dictate what makes the news and bring in the readers, and in turn, coveted ad revenue.

"You don't want to replace text with video; you want to make sure that videos enhance visual topics, that they help expand the value of what you're doing," said Michael Daecher, senior vice president of content and guide operations for

Daecher described his Web site as a place for "service journalism," where experts and volunteers answer questions on topics as diverse as automotive care, parenting and technology.

According to Daecher, videos have been a critical part of the 10-year-old Web site, showing users ways to solve problems (such as how to jump start a car) in a visually appealing manner.

However, the videos that run on the Web site must always complement the text and vice versa.

"Looking at videos separate from content is not the way to go," Daecher said.

The site currently contains 650 videos. Daecher hopes they will have 1,500 videos by 2008.

Mark Walters, associate publisher for, also said that his Web site has increasingly relied on this combination of video and text. Video studios have recently been built in New York and Washington, D.C., for this express purpose, he said.

Walters mentioned a five-minute video covering the death of Pope John Paul II that ran online a few years ago.

"There was a lot of emotion in that short video, a lot of which probably couldn't have been caught in text," he said. "There are plenty of emotions on video that's hard to capture anywhere else."

But there is one aspect of online clips that made Walters a little nervous: the surge of viewer submitted video, known as citizen journalism.

"Do you think this could be the future of online news?" asked fellow panelist Christopher Kerr of

"I don't know about that," Walters said, with a laugh after a slight pause. "I feel like it's going in that direction, but we still need to be on the watch."

Walters said that such videos must be taken only under a controlled environment, and they must be screened to make sure the best video is selected for the best story.

"We're a long way from a user-generated news world," Daecher said.

Daecher acknowledged that this trend's popularity may be rooted in the need for news corporations to save money, "but there still has to be a way to have talented reporters who get the story without breaking the bank."

All panelists rejected the idea of charging readers for video access in order to get that revenue.

"Ad support is the only way to go," Walters said. currently places ads around its pages but is careful to avoid "advertorials," or product placements and company-sponsored videos that may be confused as original content.

"You have to tell readers what they're seeing," Daecher said. "We can't let the line between ads and content can't get blurry."

According to Walters, advertisers and readers will only flock to a Web site that knows what it's doing.

"You can't put a video on a site just because you've got the video," Walters said. "Readers aren't going to check it out just because there's a video. There's got to be a story there as well. If done right, video's going to be a tremendous complement to traditional media."