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Slideshows versus videos – what do readers want?


Spectator associate editor Howard Elliott reports that online editors at the recent  American Press Institute seminar were reporting that their slideshows were out polling videos online: no data, no research, but just the buzz in the room.
I found this hard to believe. I’ve always thought the slide shows (and sound/slide shows) were the favourites of photographers and photo editors because that’s about the only place on line that their core skill — still photography — gets a workout. Videos seem to have a clear, broad and growing audience.
Take a look at ComScore’s latest video tallies:

  • Online viewers watched an average of 3.4 hours (203 minutes) of online video during the month, representing a 34-percent gain since the beginning of 2007.
  • The average online video duration was 2.8 minutes.
  • The average online video viewer consumed 72 videos.

While the Comscore report doesn’t break-out news videos, there can be no doubt that the deep penetration of broadband (at home AND in the workplace) has uncovered a still unsated appetite for video online.
But does that appetite include a taste for the kind of video newspaper sites are producing?
It’s not idle curiousity. In my WebU classes, video storytelling/camera operation/editing and production suck up about 25% of our week-long editorial stream – while we give photographers one-third of that time in sound and slide training.
So I went hunting to see if there was any data on slideshow views versus video views on newspaper web sites. The closest I could find was a June 2007 post on journalism prof Mindy McAdams’ blog:

Andrew Meares, chief photographer at The Sydney Morning Herald, reports that slideshows have become very popular with online site visitors — more so than video.
Total Soundslides pageviews to date are 1,214,918 (since October 2006).
Our video team pop the champagne with 5000+ views
our top text stories of the week rate 80,000+.

Meares went on to detail individual slideshows that had garnered anywhere from 46,000 – 129,000 views. Now, this data is far from complete – its fuzzy on just how high the video view numbers go, and it fails to provide total video views but for the Herald anyway it’s clear their viewers opt for slideshows.
Does this true elsewhere? Obviously yes, hence the buzz at the API event.
Does it mean we should focus more resources and space and time on slideshows and less on video? Maybe.
Maybe it’s just because we’re producing crappy news video – and we’re delivering something that televsion news has been doing for a long time – and generally better. Slideshows are playing into our strengths – still photographs – while video is a new form of storytelling for most of us.
But I still think there’s real growth potential for us in nailing this video thing — I mean, when was the last time someone sent you a slide show link?

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