How The Wall Street Journal Uses Video Blocks—And Why You Should Too

The news media has had it rough lately. Today’s online readers and audiences expect far more than they did a decade ago in terms of visual media—and far more, too, in terms of the quality of this media—but they don’t want to pay any more for it.

As a result, sadly, we’ve seen a downward spiral of sacrifices. Media outlets have lost out on customers, media providers have lost out on jobs, and media consumers have lost out on content—which then snowballs into yet another round of all-around loss as the cycle begins anew.

Is this the end to illustrative media outlets? Thankfully, no. Were it, billionaires like Warren Buffet wouldn’t be purchasing publishers by the dozen. Rather, it’s a call for change.

 Prioritizing Your Shots: Behind The Wall Street Journal

Getty recently decided to make millions of photos free to embed (for non-commercial use and entities only) in a move they hope will help curtail stealing and dampen the web’s rampant lack of attribution. Meanwhile, a great deal of news media producers are no doubt cutting their art budgets—but others are instead reevaluating their priorities and finding new ways to get more out of existing resources.

An essential component of this priority-check: revisiting a habit of shooting every bit of footage with in-house resources.

The Wall Street Journal, for example, is continuing to generate a trove of new media content day in and day out—but they’ve been observably strategic in their use of available resources. Cases in point? Their many uses of Video Blocks stock over the past quarter—encompassing everything from the healthcare footage seen here to the travel-related shots embedded below:

Such a strategy is really a win-win for all parties involved—and a vast improvement over the destructive cycle referenced in the intro. When growth is bullish, it’s easy to be aloof, inefficient, and overcommitted by doing everything in-house. But following both a recession and a boom of media-ready smartphones and tablets, it’s probably wise to look for every available opportunity to stretch budgets without sacrificing quality.

Just the footage The Wall Street Journal has attributed to Video Blocks in the past few months alone, for example, would cost tens of thousands of dollars to shoot in-house—accounting only for production time and travel costs. But, depending on their subscription choice, it likely cost them a few hundred dollars or less.

Meanwhile, says Video Blocks CEO Joel Holland, saving money is really only half of the incentive for using stock video footage—the other half being freedom of choice:

“One of the key reasons we’ve remained so aggressive in expanding our library is to maximize our subscribers’ available options and artistic freedom. If a producer needs footage on deadline, they’re often limited not only by budget, but by weather, season, geography, etc. Having access to our footage simply removes these limitations . . . and adds hundreds if not thousands of aesthetic angles as well.”

And Then There’s Michael Bay . . .

The landscape of flexible, multi-use footage, meanwhile, isn’t a sign of weakness limited merely to recessions and wavering or fledgling industries. Remember Transformers—the Hollywood franchise that bested $100 million at the box office in a single weekend, ultimately raking in billions worldwide?

It’s also a franchise known for reusing past footage—as outlined below:

Admittedly, of course, Transformers director Michael Bay’s treatment of stock footage is decidedly different—as he’s retooled it to the point at which it’s nearly unrecognizable from its original state. But that’s really just another aspect of Holland’s push for freedom:

“The aim to ‘transform’ footage has always been on our radar,” he explains. “Our goal is definitely to support customer projects by expanding their options and offering on-demand flexibility. Sometimes that means using footage exactly as downloaded. Others, it means styling it and making it your own. How else can you simultaneously address the needs of news outlets, cable networks, churches, and ad agencies all at once?”

 Matt Siegel writes about design, leadership, branding, and pop culture for Video Blocks. Follow his work at

Joel Holland is the founder and CEO of subscription-based media providers Video Blocks and Graphic Stock.