Demand for online video from consumers and advertisers has led many publishers who built their businesses on words to put more and more resources into creating video.
But that process is difficult and expensive. Video requires new technology, new skills, and a change in the way journalists who often see themselves as wordsmiths think about how they tell stories.
The challenges of making video in-house was one of the drivers behind the controversial suggestion from Guardian Media Group CEO Andrew Miller that the BBC could offer raw news feeds and its back catalogue of video content to other UK publishers. It would both help solve a new media problem for newspapers and others and dampen their concerns about the distorting impact a huge publically funded news organisation has on the UK media market.
Miller suggested that while some of that video could come free, where there is ‘monetary value’ to the video, the BBC could charge publishers for access to it in line with the current commercial news strategy. If the plan ever reaches a negotiating stage, defining monetary value and how the BBC would be reimbursed would be challenging, but it’s an interesting idea nonetheless.
So how would a BBC deal with publishers work? It’s worth taking a look at another huge media company’s attempts to offer its video content to online publishers for some hints:
Bloomberg Media Source
Earlier this month, Bloomberg launched its Media Source platform, a repository of its back catalogue of short- and long-form video content, in addition to a range of pictures and its original programming. Unlike Miller’s proposal, every piece of its content is considered commercial, and so it’s charging for all of them in a variety of packages. Susan Vobejda, general manager of Bloomberg’s content services group, explains how potential consumers go about acquiring the license required to download that content:
“We typically work with customers on an subscription-access basis. They can sign up to the service and can download, on the agreement we have, any number of photos or videos we have for publication.
“I truly think it’s reflective of what’s happening in media today. There’s an explosion of consumption of video content through mobile devices and connected devices. We are seeing publishers trying to meet consumer demand for more and more visual assets.”
So far so good for Miller’s argument, then. Increasing demand for video content is evident from the number of people who are currently trying new ways to monetise their archives. Reuters – who already had a huge amount of back content available through their ITN Source platform – also operate Reuters Media Express, a faster way to browse, catalogue and purchase that content.
Reinvesting in back content
But creating that ease of use could be a stumbling block for Miller’s idea. Vobejda, for instance, says the value of the Bloomberg Media Source platform isn’t just in the video content they produce – comparable to the BBC in terms of quality – but also in the ease of use of finding the specific content a subscriber needs:
“The searchability is really amazing on the platform. We have a real expertise here in tagging and metadata, so it’s very easy to find what you’re looking for.”
Bloomberg’s video content is relatively targeted and specific, in line with their financial and technology focus. The BBC’s all-encompassing approach means if it decided to open its archives in a similar fashion, the metadata behind those archives would need to be incredibly well organised. And that, compared with the sheer amount of video the BBC has available, means that the cost of developing that archive could be relatively high and take time to develop.
And as Vobejda notes, offering access to a video archive can also fundamentally alter how you produce content. When a source of your revenue comes from licensing your back catalogue, the pressure to produce that content is that much greater:
“We just launched the new Bloomberg Politics in the past week. That generated additional content, and there’s a lot of interest in that content. As we continue to think about our offering, anything that we launch at Bloomberg will involve video and other visual assets.”
But since the demand for video online is only increasing, the BBC could be in a strong enough position to overcome the problems of development cost and a change in its content strategy.
And based on the increasing number of media organisations who are finding ways to monetise their back catalogue – even if it’s too early to speak to the success of Bloomberg’s offering – Miller’s suggestion would be a worthwhile experiment that offers potential benefits for both the BBC and the UK publishers who have to live with it.
Image via Flickr courtesy of DRs Kulturarvsprojekt used under a Creative Commons licence.