Video Rules (Part 1): An Inside Look at Wall Street Journal, USA Today and Financial Times

How legacy newspaper brands are approaching video…

WSJ Sign and TV for PCNY PostVideo’s soaring growth has been well documented, as evidenced by Time Inc‘s recent announcement about doubling its live video production. Now every media outlet, from digital only to longtime brands, is addressing its video strategy and ramping up their studios’ output.

A recent PCNY event about video’s rise featured editors and video producers from six major media outlets, each providing an inside brand perspective. The panel was moderated by Peter Himler, PCNY president and principal of Flatiron Communications LLC. PRNewser is covering the panel in two parts. This first installment outlines three legacy newspaper brands’ approach to video:

USA Today: Laura Petrecca, New York bureau chief
Wall Street Journal/WSJ: Joanne Po, executive producer
Financial Times/FT: Chris Booker, video producer

Common themes emerged among these three outlets. They have long histories in the media business (especially WSJ and FT, each over 125 years old). Their video staffs are growing, while fewer resources are being devoted to print. Both WSJ and FT position their online content behind paywalls for their subscribers, except for videos, which are free and accessible to all.

That’s part of their strategy to build their audience. Another way all three brands increase the number of viewers discovering their content is through collaborative or syndication deals with multiple media outlets to display their videos on partners’ sites.


USA Today Delta Jet Runway Courtesy of Passenger Amber ReidUSA Today videos: from fashion runways to airport runways

“USA Today’s New York bureau is always looking for interesting video ideas nationwide. These could be current event-based or quirky items like a cat café opening in NYC,” said Petrecca.

USA Today covers diverse topics, such as celebrities, books, sports and Wall Street. The brand’s 2 New York bureau studios often tape on location at venues like Fashion Week. Video lengths vary and clips are often edited for different online or social platforms, Petrecca added.

Video ideas come from three areas. One source is reporters, with footage based on breaking news or trends. When a Delta jet veered off the runway at LaGuardia, their story also covered the incident’s impact on passengers’ fear of flying. Other ideas come from the top down, assignments from editors. Brainstorming meetings on upcoming events also provide fodder. The upcoming re-opening of WTC’s Observation Deck led to another planned story about great views across New York.

USA Today uses videos in three different ways: One is via franchises, or video series like America’s (stock) markets. They also do videos about current events, celebrity gossip or tech reviews. Secondly, they create videos for breaking news, and encourage reporters to shoot footage using their iPhones. Lastly (but not least for PRs), USA Today often utilizes qualified experts to comment on issues or crises, and may use PR pros.

Wall Street Journal/WSJ videos: news-driven gems and companion pieces
“We’re creating our own journalism that’s not necessarily tied to the paper anymore”, said Po. WSJ’s video capability can stand on its own since their team now has 40 people worldwide.

WSJ is not just about business, but has expanded over the past seven years, to include other areas like travel, fashion and books, Po added. The video studio is in the News Corp building, and they sometimes tape guests remotely or via Skype.

The videos must adhere to and be consistent with the WSJ brand. They’re all editorially vetted, but can also be offbeat or signature stories like those appearing on page one of the paper. As for WSJ’s approach to video, they pick news-driven items and interesting sidebar stories.

Po also oversees live shows from their news hub, or shoots footage based on opinion pieces, and these are livestreamed. Her mandate is to create content efficiently, with accountability. Videos are organized into separate segments, and the clips have timelines.

Financial Times/FT videos: at the convergence of economics and politics
“FT has maneuvered swiftly and smartly through the transition to digital. We’re still hip since we’ve constantly evolved”, said Booker.

The video team is in constant conversation with the London HQ. They’re selective about how they approach topics, mining bits from materials their reporters are collecting, Booker added.

The objective is to effectively leverage their resources for paid subscribers, and they have two tracks for videos. One is short-form and utility based, and the other is long-form or macro stories. An example is FT’s recent Etsy story after the company’s IPO. The goal was to enhance coverage to core and to potential readers.

For PRs pitching videos based on outside/non-FT events, the brand selectively uses footage if it’s properly sourced.

Stay tuned tomorrow for Video Rules (Part 2): An Inside Look at Fast Company, Mashable and Vox Media — how magazines and digital outlets are approaching video…

(2nd Image from USA Today website courtesy of Delta passenger Amber Reid)