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Interview: Sara Maria Manzo at NZZ discusses the value of explainer videos.

To meet the growing demand, publishers are experimenting with live and producing a greater variety of video formats, such as explainers.

By Ella Wilks-Harper | Dec 8, 2017

In this interview Sara Maria Manzo, director of video at Neue Zürcher Zeitung (NZZ), is a Swiss, German-language daily newspaper, published by NZZMediengruppe in Zurich, spoke to Reuters about how explainer videos add value to the newspaper’s content.

 

What’s your day-to-day as Director of Video at NZZ?

My day is structured along three major tasks: I work in terms of content, concept and coordination.

First thing in the morning, I look at the news situation, searching for exciting aspects that could use further explaining. We focus primarily on explaining complex topics and providing background information on current events.

At the same time, we always try to think a little bit around the corner: Mugabe has resigned – why are there actually so many long-term rulers in Africa? Independence efforts in Catalonia – where does this conflict originate? The final concept for our video projects is then a team effort.

Before we start production, we discuss the topics with the respective departments or with our foreign correspondents. I coordinate between the different departments, our newsroom and my team, and try to make sure that we find the best workflow for all trades. In addition, I check and approve all storyboards and the final videos, develop new formats and existing ones. If time permits, I also produce my own videos, but these days this happens rather seldom.

People long for explanation especially when they feel scared–and the numerous tests of North Korea certainly scare many people”

How many videos does NZZ produce on average? And what is the average video length?

On average, we produce about 20 videos a month. Many videos are four to five minutes long.


What is your most popular video? Why do you think your audience engaged so much with it?

That depends on which platform you are looking at. On our website, a video explaining North Korea’s nuclear and missile program was so far the most successful this year. The video explains why the dictator Kim Jong-un seeks nuclear weapons.

People long for explanation especially when they feel scared–and the numerous tests of North Korea certainly scare many people. The video also provides a good mix of background information and a visually appealing design with lots of animations. Moreover, another reason for its success was certainly its timing. With each new nuclear test, we again put the video on our front site and offered it as related content in all articles on the subject.

On Facebook, where we reach a wider and more diverse audience, so far the most successful video this year is a portrait of a Swiss mountain farmer who has launched a political initiative to allow cows to keep their horns. There is no doubt that the rural figure of this man and the homeland theme was a deciding factor of the video’s success.

Published by NZZ Mediengruppe in Zurich: With 37 years in power, Zimbabwe’s ex-president Robert Mugabe is one of the longest-serving heads of state in the world. Why are there many long-term rulers in Africa?

Why does NZZ focus on explainer videos? What is the format’s value?

With explainers, we are at the core of the NZZ brand: providing background, analyzing, and putting the news into perspective. Explainers are meant to complement the ongoing reporting in a meaningful way, providing real added value. Video is great for making complex content visually understandable; often much better than relying purely on text.

Reuters Institute research found that most video consumed is short. What is NZZ’s approach to short videos?

We focus on videos that are typically four to five minutes long, sometimes even longer. Despite their length, they have a very good completion rate, even if they are longer than many other videos on the Internet. Our users appreciate that we do not only offer the news, but also dive a bit deeper into a topic. I believe it’s misguided to obsess about video length. Every subject should get the length it deserves. Our rule is: a video can be long, but it must not feel long.

What is your experience using Reuters video?

We use raw videos from Reuters in many of our explanatory videos and very much appreciate the service. Without it, we would not be able to cover international events quickly with some video explainers. Moreover, we often take a look back in history, and the Reuters archive is very helpful for finding the right material. ”

The interview is edited for length and clarity.

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