Kristin Finan recently launched a video blog for the Houston Chronicle blending traditional print and broadcast journalism with YouTube-style videos. Finan talks to PRWeek about her newspaper's transformation into a multimedia platform and the complexity of attracting the elusive youth audience.
PRWeek: Who is your target audience with the video blog?
Kristin Finan: Every newspaper's goal right now is to attract younger readers. [Chronicle management] figured the YouTube generation would want to watch video online. But what's been really interesting is that a lot of my regular readers and viewers are across all ages. I don't know that we are attracting the audience that we intended. Yet we are definitely attracting a new audience that maybe didn't spend much time reading online, but come online to watch the videos every day. But I don't know that they are necessarily the younger demographics we targeted.
PRWeek: What is the difference between a good print story and a good video story?
Finan: For print, depending on what your rules are, you usually need three sources and different voices represented. But what I'm finding with video is the [stories] that really resonate don't really have a variety of voices. The better ones are just a particular point of view at a particular point in time. It still has to have a beginning, middle, and end, but it can just be through one person's eyes.
PRWeek: Where do you think your style of video fits into a newspaper?
Finan: [Management] wanted my personality in the videos. That was a big transition for me and it was something a lot of people didn't understand. But it has allowed us to cover things that wouldn't necessitate a story in the print section.
PRWeek: You sometimes do skits for the column that are not what people typically expect from a newspaper. How are readers responding to it?
Finan: [The first skit I did] was about a local burger joint. I really wasn't sure how it would go over because in some ways it is nothing like journalism. It was almost like a commercial, and yet it got an overwhelming response. It was interesting to see that the things we were not thinking about in the journalism realm were the things that were really resonating with people. The things our readers would experience in their daily lives – like an awkward conversation with someone or interesting run-ins – are the things they like to watch in videos. It's not something I ever thought I'd be doing as a journalist, and yet it is what people are watching.
PRWeek: There was some controversy about the skits, and people have complained it blurs the lines between advertising and editorial. How do you handle that criticism?
Finan: By now, people know that if they come to my [video blog], it's things I've selected, things I'm interested in, and things I believe we should passing along to our readers. I would never do a video on something I didn't think was worthy, and I always check places out before I cover them. So if we frame [a piece] in a positive light, we are doing it because I think it deserves that. Somebody else at the paper might disagree with that, somebody outside the paper might disagree, but if you to come Kristin2GO you know that [the video is about] someplace that I like.
PRWeek: Do you think the videos compete with the print stories?
Finan: In the beginning, I'd go out with the intention of writing a story and shooting a video, but I'd find that I'd want to use [the same news peg] for the lead of my story and as the subject of the video. But this ends up being completely redundant. I think a challenge people are having is finding videos that complement their stories, because in some ways the videos can compete with your story if you don't do it correctly.
PRWeek: Do you think print journalists have to become comfortable with video production to stay relevant now?
Finan: I think it's too soon to tell if all journalists need to be ready to be on camera. But from what I'm hearing, the answer is yes. And journalists need to be prepared to do all sides of it, including talking about the story, being on camera, and being able to shoot and edit.
PRWeek: What was the biggest challenge in making this transition?
Finan: To [shoot videos] daily takes a lot of time. [Yet] as a journalist I feel like my talent is writing, and it is what I was hired here to do. So I asked my editors if I could do a weekly [print] column because it ensures that I have a byline at least once a week.
PRWeek: What makes a good video pitch?
Finan: For my blog, the feel of it is fun, upbeat, and interesting. A good pitch has to be something that will inform you about Houston but also has the potential to be interesting. And that's a challenge that I have. Sometimes museums will pitch something that sounds like a really great story but visually I cannot think of a way to illustrate it to be interesting for people. It has to have something to it that makes a good video and something that people want to do.
Name: Kristin Finan
Title: Reporter/Video Blogger
Outlet: Houston Chronicle
Preferred contact method: Kristin.Finan@chron.com