For my MA report, I conducted a small survey about multimedia production in Portuguese newsrooms, and although it is not statistically relevant (only 13 responded), it was answered by some of the most important media companies in Portugal, including two reference national dailies and two major TV networks.
The results do not fall far from the expected: there isn’t still a solid investment in the newsrooms to create and publish multimedia/interactive content, in spite of the desire to do so, mainly because they lack the skilled professionals to do so.
Point by point here are the conclusions reached with the survey:
Confronted with the importance of multimedia in today’s news practice they all consider it is at least important but most don’t have the habit of producing them. This may be explained by the insufficient staff available to create them, many times overlapping functions as page makers, and the habit of only use in house production.
Most of the interactive content that comes from external sources is created by LUSA, the national news agency, which sells exclusive infographics or retail videos.
As you can see in the following chart, the types of content are mostly very simple to produce, being photo galleries and videos the most common. Very few take the time to build their own multimedia packages, but these have increased significantly in the last years in other brands that did not respond to the survey, some of them featuring multimedia packages on a regular basis.
When asked if their companies were interested in buying content created by others, the answers were quite conservative. It is understandable that they wish to have control over the process despite paradoxically they don’t produce multimedia content due to staff limitations.
And how much they would be willing to pay for a basic multimedia package? The example given was one with 4 videos plus an interactive chart. Most of them indicated the usual price range here in Portugal for this type of products, between 75 to 150€. This is clearly insufficient, even if we look at it as a one-man-band endeavour. To make them profitable, these packages would have to be made in a 10 to 15 hour period, and have at least 10 orders per month.
I’m currently producing a similar package and first video only took 7 working hours total (it was more than that but i’m not counting with hardware glitches).
But the idea of acquiring multimedia kits, which by definition would be pieces that could be assembled and adapted to each newsroom’s editorial and design guidelines, was more appealing. Again, the issue of control over news content creation is present.
I also asked for their insights about the need for multimedia production in Portuguese newsrooms and the answers were pretty similar: many agreed that though multimedia content is important “newsrooms aren’t ready enough to operate them” and “there isn’t enough money to invest in external production”.
This seems to be a structural problem within news organizations, as pointed out by others: there is a lot of interest in the newsrooms in multimedia contents, finding them valuable “from an editorial point of view” and as a support for their text stories.
However, “because of the unpreparedness of the professionals, or by having the need to recruit new staff or acquire external content, it will be difficult to persuade administrations of the importance of those contents, mainly because websites haven’t been able to impose a profitable business model”.
The idea that media administrations are reluctant to invest in multimedia was also reinforced in other answers.
So, as a freelancer, things don’t seem that bright for me. And all I can say from first hand experience is that there is a strong will to produce multimedia content in portuguese newsrooms. They just don’t have the time or the money in most of them.
What do you make of this picture? Let me know in the comments.