Ben Cohen

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How A Newspaper Webcast Became More Like A Blog

When Ledger Live, The Star-Ledger’s webcast, debuted last July to critical raves, it was about as conventional as a daily video podcast from the newsroom could be. Host Brian Donohue spent most of his time behind his desk, in classic anchorman style, and the rundown of stories resembled a cable news show. Interaction between Donohue and his audience was limited.

A year later, though, the show has evolved into something almost entirely different. For starters, it’s no longer daily and (no matter what the name says) no longer live. Donohue is rarely immobile now, and the format hardly resembles your grandfather’s newscast. Audience numbers are way up, and Ledger Live has even attracted one of the most obvious markers of success: a sponsor’s ad for 15 seconds before every show. The show’s evolution shows the limits of borrowing from an established model when building something new. Just as early TV had to evolve its own formats and get past just being radio-plus-pictures, newspaper online video is evolving beyond the metaphors television has handed it.

“From a newscast, it got a lot more bloggy, which I like and have more fun doing — and I think it works better,” Donohue told me. “What we wanted to do was just go back to doing a video show the way reporters talk to each other. It’s more conversational. It’s snarkier. It’s a lot more fun. What you need for video to work on the web is more of a voice. For the web in general, you need a voice.”

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Filed under: Nieman Lab

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