The timing of the latest Carnival of Journalism couldn’t have been more fortuitous for me. I’ve been conptemplating the future of online video since the beginning of summer, when I started designing an experiment to test the effect a reporter’s presence has on credibility. I’m running participants through my experiments as we speak. (Want to take the study – Click on the surveys link above!)
I have an idea where the results will take me, but I can’t be not sure because it seems there’s such a dicotomy in how news organizations approach online video.
Previous studies suggest seeing a reporter on screen is important. In fact, Byron Reeves and Cliff Nass say one of the main elements of TV news credibility comes from seeing a familiar face on screen. Broadcast news outlets with an online presence, such as CNN, ABC, and ESPN, showcase online videos that would be a home on their TV networks, complete with standups and voice overs.
On the other hand, non-legacy video outlets such as NPR, Media Storm, and newspapers, such as the Columbus Dispatch and the Cincinnati Enquirer are producing top quality videos where no reporter is present on screen. The videos allow the participants to tell their own stories without a reporter’s intervention.
My first question was if this is a product of the medium. Is connecting the audience to the video’s source more important on the Internet than in other media? Do online audiences reject traditional video presentations after watching so many amateur YouTube videos or are newspaper reporters just camera shy?
As we ponder the future of online news, I think discussing the reporter’s role is vital. So many of last weekend’s messages from the Online News Association’s annual conference (#ONA11) stressed the need for reporters to establish their brand. Credibility is central to that brand, and online video, the research suggests, can be a great way to both connect with audiences and establish one’s authority.
With this in mind, I can’t say I know what the future holds for online video. I can say I definitely think video will always play a role in online news. In fact, I think reporters should look to use it more to establish themselves as expert sources on which audiences can rely. If YouTube has taught me anything it’s that you don’t have to be the most polished presenter with the highest production values. You just have to have compelling content. The more I play with it, the more I realize that online video can be some of the most compelling and most credible information available.