(Updated story contains new information on Wibbitz ad tech company.)
I suppose it is a hopeful sign somehow that another big newspaper company is beginning a very deep dive into video. I mean, that’s so now.
But the video-first announcement by tronc, the new, stupid name for what was until this morning called Tribune Publishing is causing a lot of laughs and skepticism on the Internet.
(The company doesn’t capitalize tronc. But I do, from now on. It makes things simpler to read. Millennials like that.)
Tronc is aiming to have monetized video playing on half of its pages by 2017; that’s up from 16% now, says Chief Digital Officer Anne Vasquez in one of two videos Tronc has released today, to early guffaws all around. That one is called “The Future of Journalism.” The other one contains the memorable line, “Because change is mandatory, but survival isn’t.” It ends with the tag, “Tronc. Brilliant journalism. Higher intelligence.”
Edited out: "Except for the ridiculous name."
Slate said the new introductory videos are “a horror—an unrelenting circular saw of vapid media-consultant clichés,” in its story titled “The Future of Journalism Is A Deadly Swarm Of Buzzwords, According To Tronc.”
The Observer.com headline, “Tronc’s Employee Video Is A ‘Silicon Valley’ Episode Gone Wrong” lampoons Vasquez for statements in the video like this: “This Tronc team will harness the power of our local journalism, feed it into a funnel and then optimize so we reach the biggest global audience possible.”
Yow! Sounds like sausage.
I hate stuff like that. It is the way a lot of digital execs talk, though it probably would have been better if Vasquez and Malcolm CasSelle, Tronc's chief technology officer, had dialed it down a little. As it is, their videos seem like insincere pieces of nothing in which "content "is said over and over again, amid snappy, marketing phrases that make it clear journalism is still Tronc’s big thing. “The role of Tronc is to transform journalism from pixels to Pulitzers,” uttered by CasSelle, seems to be a corporate favorite. It shows up in both in-house videos.
Michael Ferro, the (reportedly) visionary chairman of Tronc told CNBC he thought Tronc properties (the Chicago Tribune, Los Angeles Times principal among them) should be able to push out 2,000 videos a day. As Recode implied, that’s ridiculous, noting that BuzzFeed Motion Pictures, creates 60 to 75 videos a week.
I suppose it depends on what the videos are. Wibbitz, a Tel Aviv based tech firm I've written about quickly takes news stories and turns them into videos by finding footage--often generic footage--and pairing it with a live news story. So if President Obama is taking some action now, file video of the president at work, or getting out of a limo, can suffice. It's the president.
In addition, though, there’s an awful lot of current video out there and Wibbitz licenses with Getty and Reuters, among others for current stuff, most of which never gets seen or used. Wibbitz produces thousands of videos a day; the whole thing is nearly fully automated, and it also creates a mobile-friendly version that uses short sentences, not voices, to do its job.
So all Tronc may have to do is create some local stories. In Chicago and L.A., footage could be plentiful.
Zohar Dayan, Wibbitz's co-founder and CEO, won't say if Tronc is working with Wibbitz but does allow that his company is probably the only one out there that can handle that kind of volume. And he notes that Patrick Soon-Shiong has invested in Tronc, and what do you know, he's also invested in Wibbitz. Dayan writes in an email that he "is a visionary who has experience with many artificial intelligence and machine vision technologies." (By the way, Twitter just bought one.)
Maybe Tronc. But I liked it better when people mostly laughed at the Tribune for electing Thomas Dewey in 1948.