Newspapers and Their Advertisers Take a Liking to Video

By: Steve Outing

Philadelphia Online, the Web service of the Philadelphia Inquirer and Daily News, is adding some new elements that may make it look less like a newspaper site -- and perhaps a bit more like one run by a broadcasting company. The site has discovered that video features are attracting a growing number of viewers -- and that advertisers are willing to pay to be part of Web video projects.

Primarily using streaming-video technology from VDO, Philadelphia Online's staff are putting an increasing amount of energy into creating video features for the site, according to the site's general manager, Fred Mann. And to their surprise, advertisers are supporting these early Web video efforts.

Mann is most enthused about a health and medicine Web site created in concert with Philadelphia area hospitals. Called Health Philadelphia, the site is a compendium of health information, news and databases -- and will soon include a series of video clips on various medical topics.

Talk to the doctor

The online staff, in cooperation with the hospitals, has shot 1- to 1-1/2-minute educational videos, covering topics like breast cancer warning signs and treatment, various disease symptoms and treatment, etc. Often, the clips are interviews with doctors or patients talking about what it's like to live with a disease. The video medical team is shooting more than a dozen short video clips about breast cancer, for example.

Mann says the video health Web project has gotten "tremendous support" from hospitals in the form of sponsoring the site. Local health facilities are being invited to sponsor a particular video or a series; for example, one hospital is sponsoring videos about Alzheimer's Disease.

Thus far, six hospitals have signed up as sponsors, and after only three weeks, the project has generated upward of $150,000 in annual sponsorships for elements of the Philadelphia medical site, according to Mann. He says that most hospitals approached thus far have been interested in taking part. Fees charged for sponsoring the various videos vary.

Mann thinks that it is the video component that is attracting these sponsors; the resulting educational information for use by consumers is viewed as being more compelling than dry text and graphics on a Web site.

More and more video

Philadelphia Online also is experimenting with video elsewhere on the site. Movie reviewers put up "trailers" (promotional excerpts) from films, and some movie and music reviewers for the papers are starting to put short video reviews on the site. For the pro football season, online staffers are going out to film on the practice field and in the locker room.

Videos are being shot for an upcoming "virtual tour" of Philadelphia and the Delaware Valley. And some columnists are getting into the Web video act, including a health and fitness columnist, and a fellow named "Joe Sixpack," who will talk about beer.

Video also is showing up as advertising on Philadelphia Online. Earlier this month, the site put up the first video ad, for Otto's BMW. The ad appears in the "Video Vault" in the Auto section.

The video effort is helped by the fact that the Inquirer used to have a television news show featuring newspaper reporters and editors, and some of the people involved in that project are being tapped for the Web video work.

Mann admits that video usage by viewers is modest, but he says that traffic for video features is growing by about 40% per month. Usage is held back somewhat by the requirement for a site visitor who wants to view the video clips to download the VDO client software.

And the quality of Web videos, of course, still leaves much to be desired. The VDO video window is small, and on a low-bandwidth connection, audio and video may not always match up. "It's not exactly Cinerama," says Mann, but he's optimistic that as the technology and picture quality improve, advertisers and viewers will increasingly be drawn to video on the Web.

Contact: Fred Mann,

Freelancers' electronic rights: European side of the debate

Correspondent Jak Boumans of The Netherlands reports that Dutch publishers and journalists have their own battle going on over the issue of publishers paying additional money for rights to put authors' work online. (Last week, a New York district court ruled on the issue as it applies in the U.S.) "Basically, the rule in The Netherlands is that CD-ROM and Internet interfere with the one-time publication privilege (that) the publishers have been granted," he writes.

In an ongoing court case brought by three freelance journalists against the publisher of five national Dutch publications, the writers are contending that the company is republishing their works by putting it in electronic archives. Because the standard contract allows one-time use, they want to be paid for the second use. The publishing company rejects that notion.

Dutch journalists and publishers are holding talks in an effort to come up with a policy proposal by the end of this year to deal with the issue.

Movin' On

Carol Perruso last week joined the Los Angeles Times as the new general manager for, the Times-Mirror newspaper's Web site.


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This column is written by Steve Outing exclusively for Editor & Publisher Interactive three days a week. News, tips, and other communications may be sent to Mr. Outing at

The views expressed in the above column do not necessarily represent the views of the Editor & Publisher company


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