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While the headquarters of the Associated Press news agency are based in the US, it is the London offices which are said to be "the global hub" when it comes to the production of video content.

In April last year this commitment to video was developed further with the introduction of an online platform where video could be accessed not just by broadcasters, but newspaper and standalone news sites as well.

The AP Video Hub offers two types of video content to its clients, with streams of live video either capturing breaking news situations or scheduled to cover live events such as awards shows as well as video "clips" for more edited content.

According to director of transformation at AP Sue Brooks, who we also spoke to last month for a podcast on live video, AP delivers around "100 distinct stories every day" via the hub.

"They could be entertainment stories, lifestyle stories, obviously breaking news, which is the bulk of what we do, but sport and entertainment as well."

Live video and online publishers

When it comes to live video in particular though, the past year has delivered some interesting findings for AP about the different ways such content is used by online news publishers, compared to broadcasters. As Brooks explains, for the news publishers demand is often for "predictability".

Broadcasters are in the position of being able to deal with "the immediacy of breaking news", she said, "because they have a presenter and a studio".

"They have a whole load of directors and producers in their gallery who can, if you like, filter this news and act as a translator between the action and the viewer and can explain what's going on, whereas it's much more difficult to do that online."

Brooks said that for "newspapers and news-centric websites" it can prove to be "more difficult for them to do a standard voice over of live action".

"It is the sort of content, is different to some extent, but it's also about this interface between the viewer and the action. It needs some kind of explanation and online that's much more difficult to do if it's live.

"You can do a blog by the side of it, you can do some kind of social media feed by the side of it, but it's still always very difficult to explain actually what's going on at the moment."

For example, when a live news feed has to change to bring footage from a different new story which has just broken, broadcasters are in the position of being able to warn the audience and "navigate their viewers through the changing news agenda".

"But online you don't have the interface, if you like, between the viewers and the action," Brooks said. "They haven't got the translator if you like, the anchor in the studio who can navigate your way through it.

"So that's why we're finding, I think, that real breaking news, minute by minute, changing news isn't working as well for news publishers as it does for broadcasters, the news publishers much prefer an event like 'this is the Oscars red carpet' or 'this is the Pope's last appearance'."

In comparison, these events are scheduled and booked in advance, with the footage then still being live when the event takes place.

It's the conundrum of how do we protect the consumer's relationship with that screen, the viewer's relationship with that screen, but at the same time give as many signposts as we possibly can to what's actually going on?Sue Brooks, AP
Brooks said AP has looked at ways to try and help solve the issue of live breaking news feeds for online publishers, but in terms of the agency offering a voice over there is often a language barrier to consider as an agency which provides content worldwide.

"If we were going to voice over it in English then what about the Turkish, German, Japanese, Arabic audiences?" she said.

"We were thinking of doing some kind of ticker-tape equivalent of a voice over to see if that would help and we did that for the US elections, we were doing a constant update of the feed then in terms of text."

However she is confident in time the situation will "right itself", and that the direction this takes will be "driven by the consumer because the relationship you have with the screen, be it on a tablet or a PC, is very different to the relationship you have with your TV."

"So to some extent the anchor isn't as necessary because as long as you have signposts and very clear pointers as to what you're seeing and what's happening, almost in some respects the anchor can get in between you and the viewer when you're on that kind of smaller screen.

"So I think it's something we're all working on and I'm sure we'll find an answer because it's the conundrum of how do we protect the consumer's relationship with that screen, the viewer's relationship with that screen, but at the same time give as many signposts as we possibly can to what's actually going on?"

The "compelling" nature of live video


It's very compelling for the viewer to have a live video feed on their PC because it's something they can have in the corner of the screen and just keep half an eye on it if you likeSue Brooks, AP
When news sites do use live video, there are a number of benefits to be enjoyed from working with what Brooks described as "very sticky" content.

"Sometimes you find yourself watching the strangest things because it is absolutely compelling just looking at people sometimes milling around and we obviously have the added advantage of most of the live video that we're putting out is by definition breaking news, so it is very sticky.

"It's very compelling for the viewer to have a live video feed on their PC because it's something they can have in the corner of the screen and just keep half an eye on it if you like."

Video itself is also an area of growth in the industry, she said, with newspapers able to "extend their reach via video and indeed mobile".

And importantly for media businesses, there is the potential to use video as an additional pull for advertising and sponsorship revenue.

Opportunities to stand out with online video

Editorially, the emphasis for news publishers online seems to be on experimenting, adding creativity and thinking outside of the TV 'box'.

"What I think we're seeing is that re-creating TV online isn't working so well," Brooks said.

"That video as part of a rich experience if you like, a rich user experience, is going to be much more profitable going forward.

"So I think organisations who's core competency isn't necessarily video are finding some really imaginative ways to use video to augment their journalism and their readers experience of the whole of the story, be it the text, be it the blog, be it the video or be it the photos. It's all one package now."

Newspapers and news-centric websites are almost reinventing the medium of video in that where it works best isn't a recreation of the TV experience, it's where the production teams are using video to illustrate their own journalism but almost embedded in the narrative of the storySue Brooks, AP
She added that "the action is all that matter".

"It might be short, very much short little bites of content work much better along with interactives, quizzes, liveblogs, all kinds of things that's working and being experimented on and that's what's so exciting at the moment because there's some fantastic things happening.

"What's interesting from what we're seeing is how newspapers and news-centric websites are almost reinventing the medium of video in that where it works best isn't a recreation of the TV experience, it's where the production teams are using video to illustrate their own journalism but almost embedded in the narrative of the story, as opposed to something on the left like here's a video channel go and look at it.

"...This is much more creative, so little tiny bites of an interview embedded in a text story to give it that richness. So just press on this link and suddenly the interview, the person that you're reading about, is there in real life talking and that's working really really well.

"I can't say how exciting it is to see some of this stuff because it is, I think, re-invigorating newspapers."

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