February 23, 2017

Two years after creating a video lab in Washington, D.C., McClatchy is heading out West.

Today, McClatchy announced Video Lab West, a 10,000-square-foot venture near the company’s headquarters in Sacramento, California. At the heart of the project will be experiments in production, collaboration and distribution for types of storytelling that haven’t quite hit the mainstream. That includes virtual reality, augmented reality, 3-D and 360 video. (Full disclosure: Poynter has a training partnership with McClatchy)

“It’s an important part of storytelling that’s going to be big, but it’s also undefined and unclear from a revenue model and distribution standpoint,” said Meghan Sims, McClatchy’s director of video products, who will be leading the lab.

The lab, based at the Sacramento Valley Train Station, will offer room for workshops, training and focus on working with fellows from outside the company. Google and YouTube employees will collaborate with the the fellowship classes, which will begin in 2017.

The goal is to build what’s coming next together, Sims said.

“This industry has seen the power of building community,” she said. “We’re really looking for a home base for these creators to come and learn more about this important new wave of video production.”

The company will build on what it’s already learned from centralizing video production, said Andrew Pergam, vice president of video and new ventures. That includes making money, growing audiences and transforming the culture in McClatchy’s legacy newsrooms.

Teams have to be nimble enough to grow where there’s opportunity, Pergam said, and willing to understand the business side of what they’re doing.

Last year, video views on McClatchy’s player grew four times higher than the year before, and revenue increased 250 percent, Pergam said. Video views increased across all platforms from 82 million in 2015 to 225 million in 2016.

“By all those metrics, it’s been a success,” he said. “This is the recognizing that we want to help shape the future and not just respond.”

If they wait too long to start experimenting “we’re going to find ourselves back in the same place we were before,” he added.

McClatchy’s Video Lab, which employs 28, has already created interactive and 360 video, as well as a mini-documentary and a serial documentary. Last year, it launched a branded content studio.

While a lot of news organizations are trying to figure out how video makes sense, both Sims and Pergam agreed that video isn’t the thing that will save journalism. But, Sims said, “I don’t see a world going forward without video. It’s part of everything we do.”

“I’ve said for awhile here that we shouldn’t be doing video just for video’s sake,” Pergam agreed. “We shouldn’t be doing it just because we can. We should be doing it because it’s a really good way to tell a story.”

Video Lab West’s location is intentional, too. It’s launching outside of New York and Silicon Valley, Pergam said, with the hopes of showing that innovation can happen in other places. Sacramento has also been McClatchy’s corporate home for 160 years.

“We were there for the gold rush days, we were there for the booms and busts since,” Pergam said. “And now we’re excited about where we’re going.”

Editor’s note: Poynter receives funding through a training partnership with McClatchy. The company has no influence over our news content.

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Kristen Hare teaches local journalists the critical skills they need to serve and cover their communities as Poynter's local news faculty member. Before joining faculty…
Kristen Hare

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