Due to the increase in watching video content online, video news organizations for their sustainability need to develop feasible business models attaching priority to the length and quality of video contents, experts said.
Most of the recent research on video content indicated its positive prospects. Google study said at least six out of every ten people watch online video content. HubSpot found that 54 percent of Internet users are watching videos on the Internet. A Cisco research predicted that in 2022, some 82 percent of total Internet users will watch online videos.
Kyra Darnton, executive producer of the Retro Report, an online video news platform, in her article on “A shift to depth in video,” predicted that dependency on video will grow more and in-depth video journalism will meet viewers’ key news needs in the future. She thinks the era of making short videos is over. She said that audiences do not want to see news advertisements; they want to dive deeper into digital video news.
“‘Pivot to video’ is a dead model. There is no fortune to be made by ceding video to advertising pre-roll dollars or by churning out one inane text-on-screen video after another for ‘brand extension’ on Facebook. ….. what audiences really hunger for in digital video is in-depth reporting and great storytelling instead of quick hits and banal explainers,” wrote Darnton.
She presented Pearson Education data where 82 percent of Generation Z students said they prefer learning from YouTube videos rather than from a textbook. Darnton said, “Not only are more people watching videos on their phones, they’re watching longer. If digital news organizations want younger audiences to get their original reporting, video is an essential and impactful way to deliver it. And look at the success of podcasts — why not digital videos, too?”
Andrew Harper, director of the Southern Documentary Project at Ole Miss, disagrees on several points with Darnton. “As much as I’d like to think that’s true, I don’t believe that news outlets will move to a long-form or in-depth model—at least not for everyday reporting. Most big media outlets are carving out room for stories that take longer to produce, but I still think that style will continue to be a niche offering,” he said adding, “Now it’s possible that new types of online publications will pop up that focus on developing longer stories. I think Mississippi Today is a potential model for that type of development.”
Kyra Darnton’s Retro Report has a reputation in in-depth video publishing. It started its journey in May 2013 and has been regularly producing videos and documentaries longer than five minutes. According to an article in the Niemanlab, Retro Report’s stories are consistently able to create most-watched video content across digital platforms.
Harper has no doubt that video content is popular, but he is skeptical about whether long videos are being watched. “I do wonder what types of videos are being watched longer. In general video content is easier to digest, so I don’t doubt the popularity, but I do wonder if people are watching longer, say longer than 3 minutes, stories,” said Harper.
In spite of the popularity, Darnton noted that the video platform might struggle to survive due to high production costs, which may not be covered by advertisement and subscription revenue.
To solve the financial problem, she suggested that the organization should think of earning out of the advertisement. Platforms like YouTube could help video news organizations. The way Apple is financing many news organizations in exchange for news from them, and similar arrangements have to be made for video contents.
“All of which is to say it certainly won’t be an easy business model for news organizations. But by treating video less as a marketing tool and more as a public service, they will no longer be surrendering the digital space to subpar journalism. At least that’s a cause worth fighting for,” Darnton said.
Harper agrees with her about the revenue earning from outside sources and said the Mississippi Today is already following this model. “I think she’s right about needing to find outside sources of revenue. I think that’s the approach that Mississippi Today is employing and it allows them to tell the difficult stories. That’s a much more sustainable model for the long run,” he added.