Blog Post

BBC: Video for Video’s Sake Isn’t Worth It

Stay on Top of Enterprise Technology Trends

Get updates impacting your industry from our GigaOm Research Community
Join the Community!

With a pinch of video all your troubles will go away! That’s the recipe going around these days — and we at NewTeeVee have certainly helped spread it — but Pete Clifton, head of BBC News Interactive, offered an important warning speaking at a conferece in London today.

News video clips need to be relevant, embedded near the stories they relate to, and add something that’s not achieved by the text, Clifton told the Future of News Conference, according to (found via the Daily Reel). According to BBC tests, he said, up to 40 percent of readers watch video that’s embedded in a story, while only two percent seek out video in dedicated sections on the news site.

“What irritates the hell out of people is if they click a story which says ‘Britain buys 100 new tanks for the war in Afghanistan’ they then click on the video and it’s just a bloke standing in Whitehall saying ‘they’re going to buy 100 new tanks for the war in Afghanistan.’ The viewer could say ‘you’ve wasted my time’.

Clifton’s proposal is to reduce output of video clips, using video only when it complements a story. Apparently the BBC has hired someone to help sort through source footage for good web items. Respecting the reader’s desire to get to the most relevant information the fastest? It makes a lot of sense.

11 Responses to “BBC: Video for Video’s Sake Isn’t Worth It”

  1. I hope they read this btw.

    PBS, and interesting man many more mainstream media publishers like ABC and NBC are even ahead of them. This baffles me. Yes, you can get the complete nightly news and much more via video podcast.

  2. The BBC guy is completely wrong. A moron. Yes a moron. the reason why people don’t “seek out” video is because the BBC’s video content is burried under layers of inaccessible crap. There search and discovery mechanisms for video are in the dark ages. We’re still in the early stages of search and discovery for video… so mayb it would be appropriate to call them in the stone age.

    Someone should clue them about the wonders of RSS and blogging mechanisms.

    RSS isn’t about piping videos to desktop aggregators and ipods. Yes it does that well, but it’s also a subscription mechanism, a notification mechains, a key element to search and discovery mechaisms… i.e. mediaRSS is used directly by yahoo and infinite others. most important of all having granular portable videos that can be linked to, embedded, emailed, commented on, and IM’d about… to encourage basic word of mouth behavior.

    The BBC has not gotten with the program yet on video podcasting / vlogging. They sadly remain without a clue.


  3. Isn’t it obvious that stories provide the relevancy to match the great numbers in video? The story has to promote the purpose of the video because we’ve all seen bad video and hence no one is going to trust the content is inherently relevant unless something else or someone recommended it’s worth watching as a compliment to the story.

  4. David

    I don’t think I’ve ever watched a news video on the BBC site, on, or the NYT site. As Marc says, it’s a waste of time especially if the same–or more likely, much more–information is available in the text. The video IMO really needs to add something that’s difficult to describe, depict a spectacle of some sort, or provide an emotional draw that can’t easily be conveyed in words, such as a spectacular catch, a battle in Iraq, a speech by JFK etc.

  5. Have to agree with the Beeb on this one. I’m a headline scanner, always have been. Broadcast news was just the torture you had to go through to get the late sports scores.

    Watching news now — where someone narrates from a script over B-roll, with some soundbitey interviews thrown in — is a chore.

  6. Clifton’s medicine saying, “News video clips need to be relevant, embedded near the stories they relate to, and add something that’s not achieved by the text,” to me is pretty close to the truth as far as online news video goes.

    In my online news experience, those very elements are the deciding factor on whether I want to go further into the story via video.

    I’ve had a few experiences where the news sites didn’t practice this, and I never go to them as a result. Online video is a commitment that has to be a relevant, compliment to the story, or it will harm rather than help those presenting it.

  7. The growing number of video-only story links is why I’ve stopped using for news browsing. I don’t have time to click through five repurposed TV segments to get caught up on the day’s events; I need a text-only synopsis I can browse before I decide to invest the time needed to watch a video. I agree that the NY Times does it correctly- consequently, I watch a moderate amount of video there, but I scour their entire site on a daily basis.

  8. William

    I think that the BBC News results might be skewed in that they site doesn’t emphasize video effectively. I’m even surprised that they get 40% rates on video near the stories content. The reason they get 2% on the video section is because it’s hard to find it and get to it and even then the BBC News video delivery is substandard in quality and playback. The response to getting up to 40% watching within stories should be enough to say good lord people really want this stuff and more of it.