Video: Quality vs. Quantity Debate Rages On

Over at, Angela Grant has an excellent post about the “Value of enough time to shoot and edit.” She used one of my breaking news videos as an example of the quality vs. quantity debate. The good enough approach valued by online gurus like Howard Owens basically puts production time on a fast track for news video. Quality of storytelling, visuals, editing and camera gear, well, let’s just say it’s not high on Owens’s priority list.  In a way, this debate is beginning to sound a lot like the Canon vs. Nikon, or Mac vs. PC smack downs happening on Internet forums daily. Hey, I admit to jumping into these conversations with the best of them.

Still, this endless debate about quality vs. quantity makes me feel a bit punchy. Owens has spent the past several years pushing his rigid point of view that web video for newspapers doesn’t need to have high production or storytelling values. His mantra: Get video, and lots of it, up on your website is the shortest amount of time possible.  That has us folks who have photojournalist DNA running through our veins feelin’ a tad bit uncomfortable. Coming from said gene pool, I’ll defer to the fact that most photojournalists are a bit high on the quality horse. I don’t know many shooters who’d want to pick up their daily rag and see a bad photo they’ve taken staring back at them. The same can be said for video on their newspaper’s websites.

So, for now, we hurl points of view back and forth through blog posts and comment fields. For the most part, it’s really just wasted bandwidth. Nobody’s ever going to change Howard Owens’s mind. He has too much time invested in the theory to show that type of flexibility. Same can be said for the quality-first crowd that values their art more than news value. I think we should all just take a deep breath for a moment and ask yourselves a few questions:

  • What is the overall vision for video in your newsroom?
  • Why are you doing video in the first place?
  • Is quality video valuable to your viewers?
  • Has video gained traction on your website over time? If not, why?
  • Has your paper invested in training that empowers your video producers to be able to tell and edit a story effectively?
  • Do you have (need) a web-savvy management structure in place to filter out bad video ideas and is an advocate for video based storytelling?
  • If you are producing lots of video, do you have a website that showcases this valued web-only content?
  • Can viewers find your videos quickly if they land on a story page and not on the home page?
  • Can lower levels of video quality be acceptable if they meet a high news value bar?
  • Should small papers with dwindling resources really be adding poorly produced video to their already bleak shovelware websites?

If you can’t find a decent answer or solution to each of these questions, then maybe you shouldn’t be messing with video at this time. The newspaper industry has really changed in the last 24 months. Gone is the sense that everything is going to be OK in time. As newspapers finally begin to follow their readers to the web, I believe video is going to play an increasing role in how we keep them in our growing multi-platform family. TV news websites are beginning to kick sand in our faces. Live streaming video from breaking news scenes is the new rage. If we don’t respond soon, it might be too late to take ‘em on in earnest. So this discussion about quality vs. quantity is pretty small in the big picture scheme of things. What really matters now is that we embrace wholeheartedly in the idea that web video is a good thing for our websites and viewers. It is important to understand for video storytelling to gain viewership, it will need lots nourishment and encouragement in its infancy.

11 thoughts on “Video: Quality vs. Quantity Debate Rages On

  1. Pingback: Teaching Online Journalism » What is your strategy for video?

  2. Understood Colin – as a newsroom editor and trainer, you have to make decisions about the direction you are taking. You are putting out a cohesive, integrated product.

    But look at Sony music – they don’t have to settle on one style. They are a major publisher – but their product is modular. Pavarotti doesn’t have to mesh with Britney Spears, as long as they both sell they both get published.

    Traditional media favors integration – but the web favors modularity. Disruption and modularization walk hand in hand as do monopolies and integration.

  3. I think we can have both. Ideally there should be a place at newspapers for those of us who value production, craft, and storytelling. And likewise a place for those of us who are good at ‘quick hits’ and newsy snippets. It’s an easy argument to say it’s important to get stuff up right away, and that’s true. But it’s just as important to give viewers a more in depth look at an issue or person. We need both.

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  5. I can’t agree with you more Ben. I’m seeing this variety at my newspaper. The visual journalists are telling the more in-depth stories. The word folks and the mojos are doing more short form video journalism. Right now, I just need a steady flow of video to help increase traffic to our website. Today I spotted four people from four different departments (Photo, News, Online and Sports) editing video in Final Cut. The times they are a changing.

  6. If you wouldn’t print it in the paper… don’t put it online. Just like in portfolios, you are only as good as your worst photo. So why are some papers cluttering up their websites with bad multimedia pieces?

    It is silly to drop the bar so low we are stumbling over it, we should be setting it so high that we can only hope to reach it.

  7. Very pert comments Colin- something for our students to study.

    Could it be that as newspapers mature in video, that ultimately, they’ll become production houses in their own right delivering an array of programmes – from news to long format feature shows?

    And as lens/ camera quality further improves, they’ll be little to separate the quality of video in newspapers from broadcasters, with the exception one might have ready access to TV, but then….

    ..but then if broadband rates and even more powerful codecs support greater compression than 1080 <=900px vids might become the norm. [ I know I have been toying with 950px, which just about gets there..]

    And then something else happens, that neutral zone between video journalism and film making disappears.

    I wager what an interesting time that would be.

  8. Pingback: Great questions, and I’m answering them | News Videographer

  9. Pingback: Answers to my ten questions about quality vs.quantity « Mastering Multimedia

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