Can Online Video Show Us the Future of Newspapers?

1Executive Summary

Earlier this month, the New York Times admitted that its popular technology columnist David Pogue occupied a certain gray area of ethics due to his sidelines as a writer of software manuals. As Public Editor Clark Hoyt observed in a piece for the op-ed section: “His multiple interests and loyalties raise interesting ethical issues in this new age when individual journalists can become brands of their own, stars who seem to transcend the old rules that sharply limited outside activity and demanded an overriding obligation to The Times and its readers.”

This is a trend that’s spilled over into online video, as the Times and other old-school publications have begun incorporating new media elements into their coverage. While a growing number of web series are being created under the watch of traditional newspapers, it’s worth noting that those series are fronted not by a faceless editorial entity, but a dynamic and pre-established personality.

For example, Pogue is well-liked by readers both online and off, but he’s developed an especially enthusiastic audience via the web videos he’s produced. His iPhone musical series was one of the major viral hits of 2007, winning a Webby award and bringing new audiences to his weekly video series. These shorts, which Pogue began shooting himself in 2004, put a creative spin on tech issues, using original characters (and Pogue’s own musical composition training) to illustrate points about personal technology such as netbooks and smart phones.

In an email, Pogue said CNBC became involved in the video series in 2007, as part of CNBC’s overall deal with the Times, so that now the videos are a co-production between the network and the Times web site division. CNBC handles the editing and shoooting of the videos, airing each short on TV each Thursday at 1:50 p.m. (PST), while Pogue and the Times team run a slightly longer version on the Times web site later that day. This splits the production costs between the two entities, while also freeing up Pogue’s schedule dramatically — editing and shooting the videos on his own previously took up one to one and a half days of his time. He credits the Times not only with encouraging him to make these videos, but also with facilitating the CNBC deal.

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  1. I wonder how much value the newspapers themselves provide for the shows. Traditional news sites do get tremendous amounts of traffic, but readers usually show up looking to read, you’d think. I imagine the thing these shows benefit the most (if they’re good) is the individual journalists’ personal brands.

    But video shows also give stodgy pubs a way to bring in outside perspectives and perhaps new visitors. For instance Ze Frank’s show on Time.com is the only reason I’ve ever visited Time’s video section. (http://www.time.com/time/video/search/0,,,00.html?cmd=tags&q=Ze%20Frank)

  2. Celeste LeCompte Friday, October 2, 2009

    Liz Gannes, that’s a good question, actually, re: shows benefitting from newspaper sites’ traffic. I know I’ve only watched Pogue’s videos when they’re featured on the homepage of the NYT site; they just don’t appeal to me enough to seek them out, but sometimes if presented with something at just the right time, I’ll click play.

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