How web video blurs church and state lines for publishers

The struggle is most glaringly apparent at The New York Times, which recently shook up its video unit with Bruce Headlam, managing editor for video, and Rebecca Howard, gm of video, departing. Headlam is taking another “senior role in the newsroom,” while Howard is leaving the company to “pursue other business interests,” the Times’ executive editor Dean Baquet wrote in a memo.

According to one former video executive at the Times, the company’s two-headed approach to its video department wasn’t completely working. The question then arises: Should video strictly be an editorial operation, or should the business side take the lead?

In Web video, the answer is often both. Here are three publishers navigating the increasingly blurred line between church and state, with varying results:

The New York Times

Under Headlam and Howard’s leadership, the Times’ video business certainly grew. Its production slate currently counts 15 channels and dozens of new original series, and successes include a Pulitzer for the paper’s video coverage of the Ebola crisis. And yet, there was also constant tensions between the editorial and business sides.

For video to grow at the required scale for the Times, the paper needs one executive to oversee all aspects of the business, said the former executive, who came up on the business side.

An executive at another major news organisation echoed the sentiment, stressing that the opportunity in video goes beyond editorial content and requires a leader who understands that. “Video has a marriage to the [editorial] experience but has a standalone opportunity beyond that,” said this executive, who has a business background. “There very well may be editorial folks out there who can do it, but threading that needle between issues like production costs, distribution and even managing the balance between text and video, and still being able to run a fully scaled operation is, I think, beyond what I’ve typically seen coming out of editorial.”

Source: Digiday

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