How The New York Times is Embracing Digital Video to Ensure its Future

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The New York Times Company was co-founded back in 1851 by Henry Jarvis Raymond, a journalist and politician, and George Jones, a former banker. The new publication promised to be both conservative, and radical, when it came to posting “All the News That’s Fit to Print”.

Today, the New York Times Company describes itself as “a global media organization dedicated to enhancing society by creating, collecting and distributing high-quality news and information.” Its major properties include  the print versions of The New York Times and International New York Times as well as the online property NYTimes.com. Although the Company is still known globally for its excellence in journalism, The New York Times is now working overtime to embrace innovations like video storytelling.

NYT: Adventures in Digital Video

At this year’s Digital Content NewFronts in May, The New York Times announced six new video programs, designed to provide a visual take on topics like business, music, science, sports, and travel. Each of the new shows continues the conservative tradition of journalistic excellence at The NYT, combined with radical, interactive video experiences that are powered by data, insights and ideas. The six new video programs announced in May included:

  • Out There: Dennis Overbye, the science expert at The New York Times, takes viewers on a journey through space, providing context and insight.
  • The Art of Better: Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter Charles Duhigg examines how productivity actually happens and explains the economic revolution.
  • The Inside Track: This video series tells the story of how music is made, one hit song at a time. Watching a hit song taking shape tells us something about the state of music both today and tomorrow.
  • The Fine Line: Integrating video, text, and motion capture graphics, this video series creates a deeper understanding of astounding feats and give viewers a chance to connect with athletic competition more profoundly than ever before.
  • Two Tales of a City: This video series features two travel writers with vastly different budgets.
  • Chartland: Pulitzer Prize-winner David Leonhardt tackles ongoing debates about complex societal issues and personal decisions.

Importantly for the New York Times Company, which just reported that digital advertising revenue, which has been a bright spot in the past, declined in the second quarter of 2016, the six video programs offer advertisers the unprecedented opportunity to work with The Gray Lady’s premium brand marketing unit, T Brand Studio, to create custom, high-quality, marketing videos based on the theme of each series which run alongside Times videos. At its NewFronts presentation in May, The New York Times also announced Times Story[X], a new version of its R&D Lab, would launch this summer as part of its newsroom and product teams.

In addition, The New York Times Magazine announced back in May that its annual Voyages issue would be the first ever NYT Virtual Reality series. Voyages will send viewers out on assignment with the magazine’s photographers as they travel to exotic destinations around the globe. T Magazine will also carry VR content around the topics of fashion, entertainment, art, and design.

Finally, The New York Times also highlighted its Facebook Live video coverage showcasing Times journalism on the ground around the world, as well as NYT VR. According to Tubular Labs, the NYT has uploaded over 160 live video broadcasts to Facebook in the last 90 days, generating around 21 million views (during and post stream). The live video with the highest views is this interview with a survivor of the Pulse nightclub shooting. It generated 1.6M views, 1.5M during the first 3 days after streaming.

Video Marketing for News Publications

So, is The Gray Lady (the affectionate nickname for the brand) starting to see any returns on these investments? Well, according to Tubular Labs, The New York Times properties had 26.0 million views in May, 55.4 million in June, and 58.1 million in July. And many of the video programs announced back in May have yet to debut. This provides several strategic insights that other media companies – especially ones that have historically published newspapers – should study and start adopting.

First, full-color Sunday supplements, usually with comic strips, were one of the defining characteristics of “yellow journalism.” This late 19th-century innovation became one of the most popular features of most metropolitan newspapers in the 20th century. And online video has a similar potential in the 21st century “to give the news impartially, without fear or favor, regardless of party, sect, or interests involved.”

Second, sticking to your knitting isn’t a viable strategy. According to the Pew Research Center’s State of the News Media 2016, “The newspaper workforce has shrunk by about 20,000 positions, or 39%, in the last 20 years.” The industry continues to shrink, so the industry needs to keep up with changing consumer demands.

Third, the cost of equipping journalists with smartphones and video apps has plummeted. News organizations can send a reporter to cover an event or breaking news story armed with an iPhone 6s, or Samsung Galaxy S5, S6, or S7, which can all record video in 4K resolution. And any journalist can use a free app like Periscope, Facebook, or YouTube to live stream their story.

Is this what they’re teaching in most journalism schools these days? Not yet, but they should start soon. In the meantime, media companies – especially ones that publish newspapers – are going to have to train their own staffs on how to shoot first and ask questions later. Hey, if The Gray Lady can embrace the visual future for great, original storytelling, then why not you?

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