Tuesday, February 06, 2007

The local print media have discovered TV! Why?

UTV have branched out into radio with U105. The BBC have branched out into everything. And now it’s the turn of the local newspapers?

Two weeks ago, the pioneering Irish News launched intv, and this week they’ve been joined by the Belfast Telegraph TV, offering online TV reports alongside their traditional word-based papers and websites.

For the first while, intv allowed viewers to post comments and feedback. More recently this facility has been withdrawn, along with the ability to fast forward through the clips. Not very “let the conversation begin”. But as the Irish News’ managing editor Dominic Fitzpatrick explained in a Press Gazette article, “we are the first newspaper on this island to offer an online TV service”.

So why are the local press bothering to expand beyond words and pictures? (Update: you can find out how the Belfast Telegraph explain what they're up to.)

It’s certainly good news for the local media industry ... every report requires someone to accompany the presenter to do the filming. And it’s good news for local female presenters that are securing practically all of the on-screen roles for the Irish News and the Belfast Telegraph.

But given that the majority of reports seem to be filmed in Belfast, events around the city will shortly be crowded out with a scrum of TV cameras and fewer reporters with notebooks? Will we have a city of ambulance chasers?

It’s early days for the local multimedia attempts, and while it could be the first step to something (and be a shot across the bows of the BBC who would like to introduce ultra local programming), I’m not convinced that the current video formats will secure or bring extra market share and revenue.

The Times Online relaunched yesterday in a sea of lime green, and an unforeseen increase in hits that overloaded their webservers. If you surf over to their Times Online TV pages, you can find reports sourced from Reuters, Sky News, Fox News and then scratch your head and wonder whether their News International sister title The Sun influenced the inclusion of the “News for Blondes” daily clips!

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