A small experiment…

This past summer I tried a small experiment, with the blessing of Lodi News Sentinel editor Richard Hanner and publisher Marty Weybret. They allowed me to to produce some videos focusing on local news – the intent was to see which videos attracted the most audience.

Now the Sentinel is not a paper to rush and try out the newest gizmos or latest fads. Their philosophy is wait and watch. So they’ve been eyeing these multimedia developments with interest, but they are not willing to make investments in new technology until it is proven. The photo staff has produced slideshows and videos from time to time (in fact one of their videos beat all of mine out).

Here are the July numbers (June numbers in parentheses):

1. Egg frying experiment 522
2. Fourth of July fireworks 266
3. Yoyo event 132
4. Plummer ad 97
5. Yosemite 62
6. Albino squirrel 23
7. Micke Grove expansion 7 (39)
8. Lodi man with 4-wheeled bike 5 (141)

The following is from Simon Birch, the Sentinel Multimedia guru:

A couple of points, from my perspective:
• Readers obviously like to watch unusual stuff like frying eggs on cars, although albino squirrels apparently aren’t that exciting.
• Annual events, especially visually oriented ones like fireworks, are probably a good thing to shoot as a routine.
• Think twice about videos of events like park dedications, which obviously don’t get readers excited. I’m NOT saying don’t ever do them, but we need priorities.

When I first talked with Richard about running this experiment, I told him my feelings were that “stupid and sports” would draw viewers. I didn’t mean stupid stories…but more of the youtube, funny, oddbeat type of story. Simon probably said it better by calling these unusual – and the Fried Egg video by News Sentinel photographer Brian Feulner was the top video. A good idea (we’ve all wondered if it really is hot enough to fry an egg) and well explained. Brian is somewhat of a beginner in this, but does a commendable job. My albino squirrel story wasn’t that gripping. The story by reporter Amanda Dyer appealed to the audience more and had the details needed to explain the video.

The Yosemite story was more regional (I wrote about it in an earlier post).

So Simon nailed it. Very local stories, event stories, unusual stories. Looking at the numbers, a paper the size of the Sentinel doesn’t need to flood the market with videos. Just carefully choose the ones you feel your audience will view. Lesson learned.

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