When The Washington Post announced the other day that it would start a online political channel this summer, it made sense as an idea, if not necessarily a great idea. But this is to be an online video channel, which means we’ll be able to watch…politics. And political reporters. The paper promises up to 30 hours a month, which is, like, an hour a day. Who knows if anybody wants anymore of that?
As that old German wag Otto von Bismarck noted a long time ago, “Laws are like sausages. It’s better not to see how they are made.” I agree with the Vonster. It is also hard to get totally jazzed by the idea of an online channel reporting politics in typical five minute chunks that they’ll be allotted according to The Post’s video director Andrew Pergam.
Unless they’re planning on having Speaker Boehner griping about President Obama while playing with an adorable kitty, this Post project seems like a well-meant video nonstarter. What will it be called, The Talking Heads of State Channel?
The service may make a good quick-to-access app for Washington politicos (which was a word before it was a Website), but politics told in short bursts of sound and video does not seem likely to be especially illuminating or groundbreaking. (Starting this channel in the summer adds the degree of difficulty aspect that will be interesting to watch. Washington in August is a lonely, humid place to do a stand-up on international monetary policy.)
The Post wants to think it still owns the politics file in this country but as the paper reeled in the last few years, its name has lost some of its clout and the paper has scaled back its own ambitions as a national newspaper. So in fact, a video online channel helps revive its position in the journalistic world order, which no doubt would plase.The Post’s new executive editor, Marty Barron.
The Post’s existing Web features are good enough that they’ve won Emmy Awards, so it’s not like this will be the amateur hour. It already produces two regular online programs, “59 Seconds” and “The Fold,” which is produces for GoogleTV. (The show yesterday even had a pointless animal story to close the show but anchor Brook Silva Braga didn’t pretend there was “much of a story” in its report on the London zoo’s census. He admitted it gave “The Fold” an “excuse to show cute animals,” putting in thought leadership competition with YouTube and the local news.
I think, though, that the paper may have its heart in the right place. It’s walking boldly into the video online future (like The New York Times did with its special, very wordy feature on a massive avalanche and the skiers caught in it, that ran a couple or so ago. It looked awesome on an iPad). The newspaper of the future had better figure out how to be a TV show as well.
Yet The Post project doesn’t’ seem very sensible. Until the next major election, there doesn’t seem to be anything particularly video-worthy to make up on an online political site intent on making a huge statement. A branded general news video project, like “The Fold” makes more sense and certainly video news content is, pretty quietly, becoming a huge draw online.
NDN, the News Distribution Network that you have rarely heard much about , syndicates news and (ugh) lifestyle videos to a variety sites recorded 55.7 million unique visitors in November, which mades it the number two video distributors behind (by a lot, but still second place) YouTube. But even on YouTube,video from The Associated Press hit 1 billion views in 2012. So the idea of online video news from established print giants, not exactly new, is beginning to flower without much notice. Maybe The Post’s political channel will change that and it's better to hope it does than hope that it fails. .