No, Online Video Will Not Save Newspapers


Undertone Networks CEO Mike Cassidy argues in a MediaPost editorial that producing more online video is critical if newspapers like the New York Times (NYT) are to save themselves.  For two reasons, we think he’s wrong.

  • Few newspaper readers want to watch newspaper videos.  We haven’t seen detailed traffic stats yet (if you have some, please send along), but our sense is that users just aren’t that interested in watching print reporters blab into cameras, especially when they’ve just read the more convenient, more comprehensive text story nearby. Once in a while, for a story in which a picture is worth a thousand words?  Sure.  All the time?  No way.
  • Online video production, hosting, and streaming costs a lot of money relative to the revenue it produces, even when done on the cheap.  Want to know the deep, dark secret of online video?  It’s a lot more expensive than you think.  Sure, dancing-cat videos don’t cost much to shoot, but the hosting and streaming costs add up.  And if you want to produce a video that someone actually wants to watch?  Well, that costs real money in terms of editing, writing, and reporting time.  Not as much as high-quality TV production, but real money.

Online revenue at newspaper sites amounts to only 7% of overall industry revenue.  Even dozens of new newspaper-produced videos a day won’t move this needle much.  What the newspapers really need from their online operations, moreover, is profit, not revenue, and as far as online video is concerned, profit will likely be even more elusive. 

Mike’s Undertone Networks may be a great business (we haven’t taken a close look yet), but publishing newspapers online just isn’t.  And more embedded videos aren’t going to change that. (Have any data or anecdotes about newspaper video traffic?  Please send to [email protected]).

See Also: Death By Month: Tracking the Newspaper Industry’s Decline