HOOTS and HOWLS for philly.com’s video efforts

phicomlogo_headerFor this week’s Hoots and Howls I went on a search for online video news content. I decided to focus my attention on philly.com (The Inquirer and Daily News). Philly.com produces a fairly decent amount of video content, but I focused on those specifically labeled as “news” in order to find what they’re covering and how they are packaging it.

Most recently, philly.com put up a video/slideshow remembering Harry Kalas (produced by Sarah J. Glover).

This was a great piece. It incorporated video of fans at South Philly’s Chickie’s and Pete’s restaurant. The fans talked about Harry, their memories of him, and what he meant to the Phillies and to Philadelphia. The package includes some great photos of Harry through the years, and wonderful nat sound — mostly Harry’s broadcasts — collected during his time with the Phillies. It was a very nicely put together piece. HOOT!

Another standout on philly.com’s video “news” section was a video that is actually part of a running series on the site called Mob Scene with George Anastasia. The “mobster” in this week’s episode was Anthony Nicodemo.

It is immediately clear to anyone with a taste for decent journalism that this piece does not belong under the heading of “news.” It’s a series, and it is clearly shot and edited like any A&E mob-style show currently on cable. The video is interesting. I will give them that, but it is so stylized it fails to be news, in my opinion. The opening credits shows Inquirer writer George Anastasia walking the streets and putting on his shades as though he were the star of some mob crime fighting show. For their complete lack of judgment for video placement, I send this shout-out to the Web editors at philly.com. HOWL!

The “news” section had other noteworthy videos. There was a nice package — posted back in March — about the restoration of the synagogue at Eastern State Penitentiary (by Sam Wood). The entire package contains sound from Sean Kelley (project director) discussing the restoration process. No voiceover or reporter garbage was included. Sometimes it’s nice to see journalists get out of the way, and let the newsmakers tell the story. HOOT!

I’ll end on one final and overall critique. Web video should be short. 1 to 2 minute packages should be the standard. If you’re covering a feature style piece, and the content is truly there … maybe 3 to 4 minutes. The attention span of the average Web surfer doesn’t work well for anything longer.

Several of philly.com’s videos were going beyond 4 mintues in length. Editing is key. The same attention should be payed to videos as to printed news. Cuts and polishes (working with the journalist, of course) are crucial. Understand the audience (i.e. what they are willing to watch). If the videos are shorter they may be willing to watch more of them. This keeps them on your site longer, and provides more “page clicks” and “views.”

-Brian Donathan

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