NAB 2009 - Interview with AP's global director of online video products

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LAS VEGAS - Bill Burke, global director of online video products for the Associated Press, said the news organization is looking for ways to expand beyond its core strength in breaking news content with its online video offerings. Online video, he said, needs to be used in conjunction better with traditional media types to let traditional media's ability to inform and motivate users draw them to the depth and involvement possible with digital media.

Burke said the current insistence he sees news media companies having on scaling up and up in audience size is likely unattainable and a fundamentally flawed strategy.

"You want to get as many people into the tent as possible, of course," Burke said. "But there's a limit to the number you'll be able to bring in eventually, so people need to focus on doing more with the audience instead. The model needs to evolve from pure reach to repeat visits, so that you're making more of the people you have."

Sales and monetization for online news content, including video, need to be radically reformed, and advances in user engagement could hold the key, according to Burke.

"Engagement is work, and everyone has to help to pick this up in order for it to work with audiences," Burke said. "Newspapers only made about $165 million off of their video assets in 2008, and that obviously needs to be improved."

One area of promise Burke sees for online video lies in live event delivery with interactivity features for the audience. AP's delivery of live streaming video has improved with each major event and AP's coverage of Election Day was "good" but needed improvement, which he said was achieved in the successful coverage of President Obama's inauguration. He touted the 8 million live streams AP delivered that day, as well as the interactivity features, which allowed the audience to choose from eight different camera angles.

Burke also pointed to varied forms of in-depth coverage that AP has delivered through online video, such as video essays about the recent shooting spree in Alabama and the "Killer Blue" series of in-depth multimedia reports of an Army unit's tour in Iraq, collected over 15 months of reporting.

One area Burke wants to see some change is in syndication of online video news content. "Currently, there is no good way to see the quality of the content when you have multiple pieces of content coming from hundreds of news providers," Burke said. "We need a better paradigm to aggregate this content, and to pull the quality video out faster."

Burke said ultimately this can be improved through a better understanding of user behavior with online video. He said he'd like to see the AP collect more metrics information on online video consumption in partner locations, so that it could streamline operations to meet user demand more accurately, while also engaging the users so they return more frequently.

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