Newspapers Need Video SEO, Says Scripps Newspapers Director

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jay-small-scrippsIn our continuing series on newspapers and online video marketing, ReelSEO’s Grant Crowell interviews Jay Small, Executive Director, Content and Product Development for Scripps Interactive Newspapers Group. Jay talks about the business imperative for newspapers to be doing a better job promoting video and have it appear in search results and internal site search, and the major obstacles newspapers first need to overcome.

For some background: Jay Small is the executive director of content and product development at Scripps Interactive Newspapers Group, part of the E.W. Scripps Co. He oversees technology developers, user experience architects, search optimization specialists, content and video specialists, and interdisciplinary project managers. He also operates Small Initiatives, a consulting practice and blog advancing Internet strategy and customer experience.

Scripps Newspapersinclude daily and community newspapers in 15 markets and the Washington-based Scripps Media Center. Scripps newspapers include the Rocky Mountain News in Denver, the Commercial Appeal in Memphis, the Knoxville (Tenn.) News Sentinel and the Ventura County (Calif.) Star.

Original interview done on September 26, 2008

Grant: How well do you believe the newspaper industry is doing with marketing and monetizing their video content (both editorial and advertising)?

Jay: Today, I describe both marketing and revenue generation activities around newspaper video as modest at best. But the industry seems to be heading in the right direction and perhaps even accelerating.

More and more “newspaper.coms” are featuring original video: staff-produced, raw, edited, user-generated, syndicated, clip-length, program-length; and even some live streams of special events or breaking news. The content is there, or is coming on quickly.

We can, should and will do a better job promoting the presence of video on newspaper sites. If we don’t, certainly, all our investments in learning how to produce good video content will be wasted, because word-of-mouth and internal linking alone do not appear to be enough to generate tons of video views on our sites.

You can find plenty of examples of early-adopter advertisers sponsoring broad swaths of video content, knowing that the impressions on typical pre-rolls and post-rolls may be minuscule. They’re willing to join us in experimenting, but sooner or later, they’ll expect an order of magnitude for more traffic. That has to come from more ambitious marketing efforts.

How do you believe newspaper companies can do a better job?

Focus on video when it is the best storytelling tool for the job. For example: Raw video from a warehouse fire? Great – rough cut it and post it. Two minutes of a print reporter standing in front of a courthouse reading components of a prose story? Not so good. Trying to mimic broadcast news, with anchors, sets, graphics packages and the like, is probably a waste of effort.

Of course, as I mentioned before, we also can do more, a lot more, to promote video content as we add it to our online repertoire. Our typical consumers don’t automatically expect things on a that they would not find in a printed newspaper. I have sat behind one-way glass in user test after user test where online “extras” on a get blank stares — or worse, outright anger — from users who expect only the traditional newspaper value propositions in our dot-coms. If they don’t expect to find video on our sites, they certainly won’t have instincts to come looking for it unless we tell them it is there.

I also think we can take better advantage of alternative advertising formats around video, such as overlays and other user-controlled experiences — more along the lines of Seth Godin’s permission marketing than the interruptive experience of a pre-roll.

How important do you believe it is, or will be, for newspaper companies to have their video content show up in major search engines’ universal web results?

We have to be there. All our online media assets must be optimized and organized for internal and external search.

What do you believe are the major challenges/obstacles for newspapers to get their videos out to the search engines and social media networks (and show up prominently in those spaces)?

Right now, it’s about the metadata. Newspapers’ content organizations work … well, in a hurry, every day. So in a rush to post, we may not take appropriate care to tag our media assets and describe them in proper context. As a result, a 1-minute video from an accident scene, displayed inline alongside one of our text stories may be almost invisible to search engine spiders.

Current generation content management systems, whether designed for newspapers or broader content forms, all seem to offer ways to enter and present metadata around media assets such as video. So it isn’t a technology or tools issue. It’s a time and effort issue, a very human thing.

Where do you see the business models for newspapers changing, and what role do you believe video content will play in those changes?

The basic business model – attract and hold attention with valuable information, sell a portion of that attention to advertisers – that doesn’t change. What changes, has already changed, around us is the whole distribution equation. Media companies don’t “own” the distribution channels anymore, and information goes from being a convenience bundle to being “whatever you want, in whatever unit size you want, whenever you want it, all on demand.” The cost of making information universally available has dwindled, while the cost of gathering and preparing information has increased, and the cost of alerting people that you have information they may want has increased.

So the Internet makes the act of distribution practically free. Advertisers know it. They don’t expect to pay much for distribution, unless you give them a lot of distribution and targeting to boot. All those years of newspapers getting paid to carry printed ads to doorsteps give way to active competition for every local ad dollar, and not just from other local media.

We have to sell better, with better information services to sell. Properly deployed, video contributes greatly to improving overall quality of our information services. In video, we can communicate at a higher fidelity, with greater impact. So can advertisers, compared to some other interactive ad forms. To channel Clapton, it’s in the way that we use it.

grant-bylineGrant Crowell is the Senior Analyst for ReelSEO and author of the white paper, New Business Models for New Realities: The Newspaper Industry’s Video SEO Opportunity.


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