Online News Comsumption: Video Vs Text (and Text is Winning)

Contrary to what media consultants, gurus and the like may have been saying, text, not video, is still the preferred medium for online news comsumption in the 18-29 age bracket (the so-called “millennials”).

Online news comsumption survey by Pew Research Center

The findings come from the Pew Research Center, but also Reuters Institute published an online news comsumption report outlining similar findings:

Website users in particular remain resistant to online video news with only around 2.5% of average visit time spent on video pages in a range of 30 online news sites; 97.5% of time is still spent with text. Around 75% of respondents to a Reuters Institute survey of 26 countries said they only occasionally (or never) use video news online.

Why do people prefer text over video?

Well, no surprises here. According to respondents in an online news comsumption survey conducted by the Reuters Institute, the main reason (41% respondents) was that reading text was “quicker and more convenient”. But I think we could come up with a lot more reasons, easily:

  • Text is quotable and more easily shareable
  • Text is accesible to people with disabilities
  • Most videos don’t have subtitles. That forces me to turn up the volume / stop listening to music or whatever I was doing.
  • Video demands full attention, text is easily scannable and can be consumed at my own pace.
  • With text I can easily keep switching tabs to attend other matters, then come back and keep reading.
  • Most people avoid streaming video on their mobile phones due to low data plans
  • Most of the time, video doesn’t add any value to the information. See this one as an example.

What kind of videos would work in online news? To find out we should take a look at what works outside online news sites. According to the same RI report:

We find that the most successful off-site and social videos tend to be short (under one minute), are designed to work with no sound (with subtitles), focus on soft news, and have a strong emotional element.

How to get rid of a newspaper editor

No han echado a Pedro J. porque los ministros no fuesen a sus entregas de premios. Eso era solo simbólico. Las presiones han sido mucho más sencillas: han consistido en cortar el grifo de la publicidad institucional. Según cálculos internos de Unidad Editorial, la guerra desatada por el escándalo Bárcenas –y especialmente por los SMS del presidente del Gobierno al extesorero del PP– le ha costado al grupo unos 14 millones de euros en publicidad institucional.

Todas las administraciones gobernadas por el PP, desde el Ministerio de Empleo hasta el Ayuntamiento de Sevilla, pasando por Castilla-La Mancha o la Comunidad de Madrid, han cortado el grifo de las subvenciones a El Mundo. Todo ese dinero público, que el PP reparte arbitrariamente y utiliza para domesticar a los medios de comunicación, ha pasado de El Mundo al ABC. Y de la misma manera que hace unos años Esperanza Aguirre se cargó a José Antonio Zarzalejos, hoy Mariano Rajoy ha desbancado a Pedro José.

via La extinción del PedroJotasaurius Rex.

Top 5 essential skills for a data journalist

New York Times’ Aron Pilhofer answer to that question on the NICAR-L mailing list:

My top five (in order of importance):

  1. Know that the most important part of data journalism is… journalism. Reporting. In other words, you know how to report a story, you understand how to treat data as a source. You know how to pick up a phone, and not just assume that everything you get in data form (especially government data) is complete and accurate.
  2. You have at least basic data skills — meaning, you know your way around a spreadsheet. You can figure out for yourself how to import data, and do something with it. You also understand the basics of data analysis: rates, ratios, sums, averages, medians, and how to use them.
  3. You have command of more advanced data analysis skills, such as GIS, basic statistics, advanced SQL, etc. You also may know some basic programming techniques (using the language of your choice… Python, Perl, Ruby. ILENE.. shoot, even .NET) to scrape the web, get and clean data.
  4. You can apply your basic programming techniques to the creation of data-driven news applications using off-the-shelf tools like Google maps, MapBox, Fusion Tables, etc. At this point, you are not running servers, or serving database-driven apps. But you are creatively using what is available to you to add to your reporting online. This is probably where you need to get on the Javascript train.
  5. You have some skills with a web framework (Django, Rails, Grails) in order to enhance your reporting online through data-driven applications that you create from scratch and host.

Common sense: from apps to responsive design

When the iPad was unveiled a year and a half ago, it was received with enthusiasm by media companies, especially by their directive boards, as it provided two essential things for them:

  1. A closed, confortable and standardized environment to receive content. Like good old magazines, but with video and rich-media ads.
  2. An opportunity to charge for content again, by creating scarcity, taking advantage of the walled garden of the iTunes store and selling apps like they sold magazines in the past.

But this approach overlooked several important flaws:

  1. Apple, while the biggest player in the market (at least for now), is not the only one. Any effort would have to be repeated, and then maintained, to gain more potential audience for any other platform (Android, Blackberry…). It’s not escalable.
  2. There is a bottleneck at the distribution stage, and you’re at the mercy of Apple’ internal app approval policies.
  3. The company has to give Apple a 30% cut of their subscription sales through the app, and probably will not have access to their subscribers’ data.
  4. In september, almost 40 million iPads were sold worldwide since the tablet was introduced one year and a half before. Why would you limit to a potential audience of 40 million when there are hundreds of millions of other devices capable of internet access?
  5. What will happen when the iPad and iOS are surpassed by newer, better technologies? Change is unavoidable, and in a world of planned obsolescence, it doesn’t make much sense to tie yourself to a product that will be obsolete in a few years.

Lately, there has been a trend that seems to take a more thoughtful, long-term. sustainable approach called responsive design. The first to jump the boat was the Financial Times, with an HTML5 app that avoids the iTunes app store and lets users access the app directly through the browser. That was a good start, but it was still rooted on the idea of developing an specific product for just one platform, in this case, iOS.

Instead, Propublica made some changes in their site to allowed it to adapt to the screen size of the visitor’s device, whether smartphone or tablet of any size, and independently of the device’s operating system.

The redesign of the Boston Globe was an even more ambitious project. It’s probably the first news website fully redesigned under the responsive web design paradigm, which means it’ll adapt its layout to the characteristics of the device used to acces the site.

If journalism is not a product, it’s a process, a platform-agnostic approach that will deliver, with quality, consistence and coherence, the same news, reports, analysis and commentary, no matter what you use to read them, makes much more sense. It also allows the company to retain control and independence over their most important assets: their audience and how they access their content.

Over 2012 we’ll see more and more media companies sailing away from the siren chants of the iPad and getting the control of their own future back with HTML5 responsive design websites. Those who don’t will see their efforts scattered ineffectively accross a handful of platforms, draining precious resources away from meaningful innovation.

This article was previously published in the blog of the ESCACC Foundation (Espai Català de Cultura i Comunicació, in catalan) and in ElEConomista / CanalPDA (spanish).