The future of video journalism online (Part 2)

By VideoJournalismOnline

On VJO we’ve been looking ahead to the future. What’s in store? And how will the latest developments prove to alter the direction of online video journalism?

In the second part of VJO Interviews, Ross Cullen asks Alex Dibble, Umar Farooq, Chris Creegan and Phil Georgiadis where they see the industry going:

Non-Citizen Journalists

By Emily Craig

A US government press conference - the type of event to which only a professional journalist can gain access (Creative Commons licence)

The term ‘citizen journalist’ has become part of the media lexicon. Citizen journalists are those non-professional people out on the street who report information. And many of their reports are in video form, with their footage then uploaded online. ‘You might not be inclined to trust me’, they may as well be saying, ‘but you can see for yourself what’s going on’.

These journalists specialise in showing us what other professional journalists haven’t seen, many of whom are constrained in how they can practice their trade. Whether it’s a case of filling in a 40 page employee risk assessment or compromising on a story to maintain a working relationship with a press office, the professional journalist is not always a free agent. As Channel 4 reporter Jonathan Miller describes, officially-registered journalists are often corralled into attending dull press conferences or herded en masse to staged events. Meanwhile the real story, the news, is happening somewhere else out of sight.

That’s often the time when citizen journalists, with light equipment and local contacts, can get on with their reporting. At the very least, they’re more likely to be in the right place at the right time – and not on the coach tour. In such circumstances (a conflict zone, a foreign country, a remote or closed community), the local, citizen journalist probably has contacts that the professional journalist lacks.

So is the professional journalist a dinosaur doomed to extinction? There are scenarios when citizen journalists are able to showcase the best of their work and, by comparison, the professionals appear lost. But whilst at one level we are witnessing the ‘democratisation’ of journalism, many of the events reported as news are closed off to citizen journalists. A press pass means that you’re a member of an exclusive club – and big events like a national political debate or an entertainment awards ceremony are members-only. In these situations, citizen journalists find themselves ‘disenfranchised’.

Broadcasters are confident that by default they own the monopoly rights to sports and entertainment video journalism and the huge commercial investment that accompanies it. A broadcaster can guarantee stars and sponsors high-quality footage and maximum viewers. What is more, only a professional journalist will be cleared by security. The same broadcasters and agencies are then able to share their videos socially on internet sites like YouTube and UStream where citizen journalists also go to upload content.

For national politics, sport and entertainment, there are different rules for video journalism in comparison to other forms of online media. Anyone can sit at home and live-blog whilst watching a political conference or a football game on the television, but video requires someone to be there on the ground and in sight of what’s happening. The superbowl, the Oscars, the UK political leaders’ debates – people want expert footage of these events, with slow-mo replays or reaction shots. This kind of occasion calls for (more) expensive equipment and a team of journalists to film different angles on the shoot. There’s not much point hanging around at the back door or lingering on the sidelines.

So the big broadcasting beasts are getting social. They’ve paired up with the likes of YouTube for the Oscars and the US political debates. What’s a citizen journalist to do? There’s always ‘the alternative view’ – not from inside the tent, but outside it. A search for ‘political debate’ on video-sharing website Vimeo offers a variety of spoof takes on the format. And there’s always the need for analysis and interpretation…

At the moment, it looks like video journalism is not quite the democracy it might appear to be.

On the Move Online

By Ross Cullen

The future of video in online journalism should be secure if journalists look to the developing world.

I recently attended a panel discussion on ‘Latin America and the British Press’ at Canning House. The panellists agreed on four significant points:

1) Newspaper readership in the UK is falling

2) UK newspaper coverage of Latin America is falling

3) Views of online versions of newspapers (with their video content that is obviously missing from the print copies) were growing, both in Latin America and the UK.

4) Radio audiences are also dropping; it was noted that the BBC had recently ceased its Spanish-language radio broadcasts for the region.

These problems afflict both the UK and overseas and I suggested one way news providers could adapt to the changing journalistic environment was by exploring the world of online video. There is no doubt that the biggest growth area in journalism is online and of that online content, it is the moving, interactive items that will engage the future generations.

In the UK, but especially in developing countries such as those in Latin America, South East Asia and some parts of Africa, the young are mobile in two important senses.

Firstly, the use of mobile phones in emerging economies is increasing, particularly smartphones, which offer users the chance to surf the web and also carry video-capturing and video-viewing capabilities.

Secondly, the young are on the move. They travel more than their parents and they are connected in a totally different way from how previous generations were. They maintain international links through their mobile phones and social media sites. They Skype; they send picture text-messages; they share and discuss videos online.

If news providers in the UK and in these developing regions want to hold onto their consumers, then they need to follow them online, and they need to do so with video content that will engage a new generation in the medium.

Cut, Paste, Play

By Ross Cullen

The rise in use of video by both professional journalists and citizen journalists has called for an increase in online portals to aid the editing and storing of such videos.

You grab your smartphone or high-powered pocket camera and go. You shoot; you capture; you record. You have a lot of footage that needs tidying up before, finally, you can tell the story. Where do you go?

To follow the upward trend in use of video and the posting of videos online, there has been a rise in the number and capabilities of online video editing websites.

As this is a fast flowing and developing medium, editing-software designers have also had to adapt to the changes. There are many of these sites and some of them rival each other directly with what they can offer.

Both A-Frame (website shown above) and Pixorial have realised that video journalists need somewhere to store their work online, without having to use a default mass-content provider such as YouTube. There is a need for websites that have a more professional and editorial feel than YouTube, which can be seen, at times, as a multinational giant overlooking the small, corner shop-keeper.

For pure, simple editing, many use YouTube’s software, (although that can feel a little raw), Adobe’s ‘Premiere Express’ and JayCut (website shown above).

There are also sites like photobucket (website shown below) which strive to promote the simplicity and pleasure of photo and video creating and sharing.  On the other hand, other sites such as Kaltura, try to show off how their technical, unique editing platforms can help you.

However, the danger for these websites is that they can be squeezed for space in a growing and changing market, of which, as noted above, YouTube is the dominant power.

The Internet is now the base for video journalism, with the days of shelves of tapes and film reels long gone. Companies are moving their bases online as well, and offering the range of adaptable services that such a moveable medium demands.

Next Generation Journalism?

By Emily Craig

First generation phone technology? (Creative Commons licence)

At the beginning of this week, the UK communications regulator Ofcom announced that it would be auctioning off sections of the 4G mobile phone spectrum in 2012. Most mobile phones currently operate using third generation or ‘3G’ technology, allowing users to check their emails and surf the Internet. But it’s easy to become frustrated – 3G coverage is patchy and websites frequently drop their connections. Streaming or uploading video on a 3G phone is a particularly thankless task. So will the new 4G technology liberate video journalists?

When 4G mobile phones arrive on the scene next year, networks will be able to offer an Internet connection that is 25 times faster than the average home broadband. In the US and Germany, the 4G spectrum has already been divided up and the development of next generation phones is continuing apace. The iPhone 4, which boasts two separate cameras, allows you to shoot video in HD at up to 30 frames per second.

So what will next generation technology mean for video journalism? There is certainly the potential for more quality footage to appear online, in the sense that we’ll be looking at higher resolution films. However, it’s less clear what the impact will be on the content of video journalism. In theory, more people will be able to shoot and upload their own videos and it will be easier to live-stream. But will new gadgetry necessarily produce better video journalism?

At one level, it would not be surprising if 4G technology enabled the proliferation of citizen journalism in the UK. Yet citizen journalism is a phenomenon that’s been celebrated most fervently for the role it’s played in the Arab Spring. Would 4G technology make a difference to citizen journalism in these places?

For a start, there’s no sign of 4G technology being introduced in countries like Egypt or Libya. But, even if it did exist, what would be the use of owning a phone capable of uploading HD video if the authorities succeed in blocking access to the Internet (as has happened across the Middle East)? Furthermore, is it logical to expect a country without a free press to be eager to develop 4G technology?

British newspaper journalists observing the Egyptian uprising earlier this year described (not without nostalgia) how they were forced to dictate their articles via satellite phone. When the Internet is down, broadcast journalists can send back their footage via satellite. By contrast, citizen journalists without professional tech support can find themselves in a position where they can’t share what they’ve seen and heard.

There are 5.3 billion mobile phone users in the world and 90% of the global population is in range of a mobile network. But as more countries develop their 4G capabilities, there’s a danger of assuming that improved communications technology will inevitably result in ‘improved’ journalism.

4G technology could enable more varied, more interesting and more immediate video journalism. But occasionally technology fails or is sabotaged – and when it does, it’s important the journalism doesn’t disappear with it. Sometimes there can be no substitute for a professional journalist with a camera.

Being Smart With Phones

By Alex Dibble

Some news media are missing a trick when it comes to gathering citizen journalism

The image above shows the iPhone apps for BBC News and Sky News. They’re both designed well, with a ‘user friendly’ interface which makes navigation easy and brings the top stories to smartphone users in an instant.

Another interesting feature of these two apps can be seen here:

Both include an option to send your own story to the newsroom. But, crucially the Sky News app allows you to attach a video (as the image below shows), while the BBC equivalent facilitates just photos.

Does this give Sky a significant advantage?

It’s difficult to tell. So far, 2011’s been the year of citizen journalism (in terms of video at least).

The uprisings in North Africa, as well as the natural disasters in New Zealand and Japan have made for some incredible footage being filmed on mobile phones.

But if you’re on the rooftop of a building in Ishinomaki filming the tsunami as it engulfs the city, where would you post the footage?

These days, if you want the world to see what you’ve just recorded, your best bet is either TwitVid or YouTube. If the footage is ‘good’ enough it’ll be seen by news media and used for broadcast.

So for Sky to provide a video uploading facility on their iPhone app doesn’t pay off when major events are occuring overseas.

But what about happenings within the UK?

We all know that when it comes to consuming news most of the public have one provider they tend to stick with.

Whether it be the BBC, Sky, ITV, Channel 4 or any other, loyalty keeps most consumers consuming from one source.

So if, for example, a newsworthy event was captured on an iPhone belonging to a Sky News fan, there’s a good chance they’d want to give Sky News exclusive access to that footage. And so the video uploader on Sky’s app would come in handy.

When it comes to loyalty and news consumption though, the public is ‘defined’ more by the newspaper they buy.

But despite being increasingly concerned with online video content in recent years, none of the major daily’s in this country provide a platform for user generated content on their smartphone apps.

On the Guardian’s app, for example, you can’t upload a photo, let alone a video.

With user loyalty such an ingrained part of news consumption in the UK, the BBC as well as the newspapers are missing a trick.

When Sky’s given that one clip – the exclusive video that transfixes the nation – the BBC and  daily papers will regret they haven’t provided their own consumers with a means to send similar footage from their smart phones.

Citizens on Citizen Journalism

By Alex Dibble

The growth of citizen journalism has been one of the major developments in online video journalism in the last decade.

VideoJournalismOnline’s documented this evolution in previous posts.

But here, in the second VJO challenge, Alex Dibble asks members of the public their opinions on online video, and whether they’d watch amatuer footage.

With a 3 minute time limit and no editing allowed, what’s the result?