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The New York Times Gets Into the Viral Video Business

And it gets off to a good start.

Peter Kafka covers media and technology, and their intersection, at Vox. Many of his stories can be found in his Kafka on Media newsletter, and he also hosts the Recode Media podcast.

The New York Times has taken many swings at Web video, and it hasn’t connected yet. But it’s not going to stop: Yesterday the paper promised advertisers that it would be rolling out more than 30 video series and offered a sneak peek.

Here’s the one that started populating my various feeds last night. With good reason! It’s awesome, even though I suspect that no one has made it through all seven minutes.

Clip first, backstory after that:

As the Times explains, this is a re-enactment of an actual deposition from an Ohio court case, with the dialogue presented exactly as the court reporter recorded it. Amazing, right?

If this strikes you as the kind of thing you’re not used to seeing in the Times, there’s a reason for that. Creator Brett Weiner has done lots of cool Web stuff — you’re most likely to have seen something from the “Honest Trailer” series he made — and he didn’t make this one for the Times. If you were at Sundance this year, you could have seen it then.

But credit the Times for recognizing that the tone and delivery of this one would fit perfectly with the paper, and for buying the movie for itself. Now it will make more of them, using talent from the excellent Upright Citizens Brigade.

And one other tip of the cap to the Times: Nice job using the annual NewFronts — the multiple-day pitch session where websites are supposed to convince advertisers to buy their videos — to actually show off some videos.

This seems like a no-brainer, and showing off clips is one thing the TV guys do very well at their upfront presentations, the model the NewFronts are using. But lots of Web guys are still inviting ad people to sit in a room and watch them talk about videos instead of showing them.

There are real-world reasons for this — Yahoo just started scrambling to find videos in the last few months, and Microsoft has its own problems — but it doesn’t make it any more pleasant to sit through.

Also! If you’re a “Mr. Show” fan who finds “What Is a Photocopier?” extra entertaining, there’s a reason for that. It stars the most excellent John Ennis, a series regular.

Some of you may recall him as the GloboChem CEO, for instance. This clip is not safe for work if your co-workers don’t enjoy swearing, but I’ll use any excuse I can to embed it.

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