Boring Journal Video Shows Strength of Plain Old Text

Both the Times and the Journal ($) have in-depth closeups on Microsoft today. What’s the news peg? Well, it’s the one-year anniversary of Bill Gates’ announcement that he’ll leave the company one day. In other words, there is no news. (Anyone interested in the sausage-making that goes into the news business should have some fun guessing at the backstory to the stories: The Journal‘s Rob Guth seems to have been working on his profile of research head Craig Mundie for many months, as he was apparently travelling with Mundie in England and Germany in January. Meanwhile Times bigwig John Markoff got access to Gates, Mundie and Ray Ozzie in one room last week.)

But anyone who’s pursuing the online video business ought to take a look at the Journal‘s 7-minute segment that accompanies the print piece. It’s an illustration of both the possibilities and limits of the medium.

One the one hand, it offers viewers a chance to hear, at length, from an important executive they don’t normally get access to — Mundie isn’t a CNBC regular, and TV doesn’t do much in 7-minute increments. And it’s dignified and well-produced and looks like it could have run on PBS.

On the other hand… it’s boring as hell. The most interesting bit comes early, when Mundie says that while Gates likes reading emails, he prefers to actually chat with humans. But much of the rest of the segment is a repeat of the written piece, which also puts Mundie’s quotes in context. Anyone who’s time-pressed — i.e., Journal readers — is better off reading the story.

Meanwhile, the Journal takes a novel approach to the “how to display video advertising problem” by skipping ads altogether. Not a bad idea, given today’s options, but figuring out the ad riddle will be easier than figuring out how to make online video compelling for a business audience.

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