Keys to success with video


In February, The Item of Sumter, S.C., launched a redesigned website featuring expanded listings of news stories, sports, lifestyles and obituaries, with easy-to-find sections and layouts. A special feature of the new website: videos produced by Studio Sumter, the paper's new video studio and production house.

"Newspapers have been trying to play defense for a long time. From classifieds to inserts to our core users migrating to digital, our industry has been in protection mode," says Vince Johnson, publisher of The Item. "Video allows us to play offense."

In many local communities like Sumter, he said local television is far away. "With video consumption leading all media in growth and future growth projections, it's a natural fit for our organizations."

He said there's another opportunity for video, as well. "Much like many newspapers have been reluctant to transform, much of local television content is not serving its users to its optimal potential. By rethinking local video content in our fast-paced digital age, we can win the game not only through the written word, but through local video as well."

During a recent video conference call with SNPA NEX GEN participants and their mentors, Johnson talked about Studio Sumter and how The Item is benefitting from video. Johnson also is a NEX GEN mentor this year – for Stephanie Spiess, publisher of the Sidney (Mont.) Herald.

During the call, he described four keys to success with video:

  • Find a great video editor. They're out there.
  • Don't fall into the trap of creating lots of unpaid video content.  Focus on sales.
  • Promote your video services vigorously through social, email, print, etc.
  • Build brands that involve advertisers. You'll never lose them.

Johnson told the NEX GEN participants that he began his career in newspapers as a videographer in Statesboro, Ga.  And, in each of the places he's ever been he always started a video studio: Studio Statesboro, Studio Santa Clara, Studio Forsyth and now Studio Sumter.

He warned NEX GEN proteges to stay away from:

  • Video with little to no direct revenue.
  • Long videos that are deathly boring.
  • Video that mimic local TV.
  • Video that journalists are forced to make to meet a quota.

What newspapers should be encouraging, he says, are:

  • High-energy video bursts designed for mobile/social.
  • Local video that mimics national video programming / YouTube Stars.  For example: While he was in Santa Clarita, the paper hired YouTube sensation Nikki Phillippi to create "Nikki Goes Shopping" videos at local malls. The mall sponsored it.
  • Quality edited video (except Breaking News) that raises the profile of your content creation ability.
  • Video that's profitable from Day 1.

He cited a recent Borrell Associates study that showed, by the end of 2017, 26 percent of SMBs had spent more on content than on advertising.  And, when asked what social media they are expecting to use more of in 2018, YouTube was the top response, followed by Google, Facebook and Instagram.

Local businesses, he said, are seeking to become their own media company and they want to create their own content, using YouTube, Facebook and Instagram. But, they often aren't very good at this, Johnson said. Production houses are expensive, and local TV stations offer traditional commercials, low quality and force local TV runs.

"We can beat production house prices," Johnson said.  In addition, he said, "Our standard of quality can be consistent, we can customize video (size, length, topic) to meet needs, and we have a variety of distribution options."

Studio Sumter has two major revenue arms: sponsored video shows and production house services.

Sumter Today is the flagship daily video show of Studio Sumter.  Johnson describes it as "a magazine-style news show featuring the good news happening around Sumter, from business openings to school and community events to features on interesting local people and places."

He said it "allows our staff to become storytellers across print, digital and video platforms, and it allows our community to engage with us in any way they chose. All episodes feature our local sponsorship partners, and most episodes are about three to five minutes long, perfect for digital consumption. The show is hosted by our editor, Kayla Robins, and produced by our in-house team."

He said, "In just a short amount of time, we've quickly become the premier video production company in our area, producing videos for everyone from local retailers to industry groups and associations. Those videos can used to reach The Item's large local audience, or simply the audience of that business through their website and social media pages."

In the upcoming weeks and months, Studio Sumter also will be producing a variety of other sponsored video shows in addition to Sumter Today, featuring everything from sports to food to pets to home improvement video content.

View the pilot episode of Sumter Today

Sumter, video, Johnson
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