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Video at WashPost: will programs like The Fold take newspapers into the TV leagues?

Video at WashPost: will programs like The Fold take newspapers into the TV leagues?

Last week, The Washington Post launched a new nightly video news show called The Fold, created primarily for Google TV and Android tablet devices but also available online.

“We’re not a newspaper, we’re not the evening news, we’d better not be a web video but we’re some combination of all those things that hopefully is informative and fun to watch,” says presenter Brook Silva-Braga in an introductory video.

It is a half hour show, shot from a studio within The Post’s newsroom, accompanied by footage from out in the streets and around the world. The first episode featured an interview with Henry Kissinger; subsequent guests include Economist Mark Zandi and former congressman Patrick Kennedy.

The Fold is the flagship program of the paper’s app PostTV, which is available on the Google Play store and has received positive reviews so far. The app also offers other Post video content: “News in 59 Seconds” and “Trail Mix” which offers analysis of from the presidential campaign trail.

With The Fold, the Post is aiming to produce a product that is ideal for a lean back TV audience, but one that is also suited to online viewers. This allows the paper to take advantage of a new platform without cutting out its millions of online readers. Therefore, each installment is available online divided up into clips so it is possible to watch just one segment. And even on the app, the show can be shared as individual segments.

“We think it will be consumed differently,” said Andy Pergam, The Post's video director, adding that people understand the logic of watching one segment after another and appreciate being offered a whole show. Shareability is crucial however in a time where social media are starting to dominate people’s online experiences, and allowing users to share clip-by-clip could be a smart move.

The Fold is produced by a new team, with four people working full-time on this project, plus the support of others, Pergam said. Although he could not specify any figures, he said that it has required “a pretty significant investment,” and stressed that “we are investing in a pretty big way in video going forward.”

Asked why The Post chose to create content for Google TV, Pergam replied that the team wanted to experiment with a new platform, and stressed that Android apps have the beauty of working on all devices powered by this OS. “It’s meant to reach a new audience,” Pergam said. “We are realizing that you can deliver content in a variety of ways and we want to expand what we are doing.”

Google just announced that Google Play Movies, TV shows and Music are now being rolled out to Google TV, allowing users to buy or rent content directly through the TV, and making purchases from other devices automatically available (presumably this brings it into closer competition with Apple TV). If this kind of 'smart TV' truly is the future, it makes sense for news organisations to make sure they are there from the beginning.

Smart TV opens up a huge range of possibilities for newspapers and other traditionally text-based news media to get into the TV arena and compete more directly with traditional broadcasters. Even if they cannot compete with broadcast specialists in terms of experience and depth of programming, they can offer intelligent, watchable news shows that will appeal to many, and give the ‘cord-cutters’ an additional reason to give up paying expensive cable TV bills. 

Hence, video has moved from a supplement to text reporting to a medium that can lead a newspaper’s agenda on certain issues. It is a clear priority for many newspapers today, at least in the US, where The New York Times has declared it one of its four top priorities and The Wall Street Journal launched WSJ Live a year ago. WSJ Live is distributed through 25 partners as well as on the WSJ site, Nieman Lab recently reported in an article comparing how papers are experimenting with video during election season. The Huffington Post has also jumped on video with great enthusiasm, and is now broadcasting 12 hours of video a day on Huff Post Live, from custom-built newsrooms in New York and Los Angeles.

Over in the UK, video is big at the Guardian and the Financial Times, among others, although the two papers have different priorities and different strategies. And at France’s Agence France-Presse, video has been crucial in getting correspondents out on the ground again.

Higher advertising rates are undoubtedly part of the appeal of video to news organisations struggling with digital revenue. Pre-roll ads on video clips are generally much higher value than display ads – “the highest C.P.M.’s of anything we do,” WSJ.com executive editor Alan Murray told the NYT last year - and it is wise for newspapers to take this very seriously. The Fold is currently sponsored by Xerox, which runs a 15 second pre-roll ad on each clip.

Will newspapers manage to take advantage of new technologies and the public's evolving TV-viewing habits to make video an integral part of their businesses?


Emma Goodman


2012-10-10 17:24

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