The future of video journalism online (Part 1)

By VideoJournalismOnline

What’s in store for online video journalism? It’s a question we’ve had in mind as we’ve researched and written about the topic.

So here Alex Dibble asks Ross Cullen, Emily Craig and Toby Coaker for their predictions about the future of VJO:

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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.

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.

Monetising The Market


A graphic demonstrating the growth in the video journalism online market (Creative Commons licence)

By Emily Craig

The Internet has opened up huge opportunities for journalism, but it has also exploded our understanding of what journalism is. Now print editors and broadcasters alike are trying to figure out how they can monetise their online operation. The problem? How to get people to pay for what they have up till now been enjoying for free. Advertising is one way of making money. So the question is – can video journalism pay for itself and, beyond that, even turn a profit?

Ad revenue has yet to exploit the online video market

Video journalism of all different types is attracting people online, but it appears that advertisers are not yet willing to bank on it. This means – as a general rule – that online advertising is currently cheaper than the print equivalent.

To put it another way: advertisers don’t yet want to abandon the full-page ad in the national daily for a banner ad around the edge of a video; at least, they’re not going to choose the latter in place of the former. This is despite the fact that it’s much cheaper to advertise online – it’s tens of pounds for an online newspaper ad and thousands of pounds for a print equivalent.

In a discussion about the future of newspapers on Newsnight last month, Alan Rusbridger, editor of The Guardian, claimed that video is becoming more and more important to newspapers. But he also said that the newspaper’s print edition (with a circulation of approximately 270 000) brings in more advertising revenue than guardian.co.uk (boasting more than 2, 250,000 daily users). For broadcasters and newspapers alike, there is still more ad revenue in the ‘old’ media.

But as more and more people opt to visit a newspaper’s website instead of buying its print edition and as the number of online news outlets increases, advertisers might express greater interest. In fact, video journalism presents advertisers with a particular opportunity. Whilst it’s easier for someone reading a website article to scroll past advertising, video can offer advertisers a better chance of securing a captive audience. A pre-roll video advertisement, screened before a video, can’t be skipped. Alternatively, adverts can be embedded around a video – so-called banner ads – and the viewer can’t avoid these adverts without the video disappearing from view.

YouTube earns most of its advertising revenue via these display banners and it claims that 35% of its visitors have purchased something they’ve seen advertised on the site. The likes of YouTube and Ustream also allow their video producers to sell ads around their content.

Video advertising is not without its risks. As Ashkan Karbasfrooshen, who set up video entertainment website WatchMojo, explains, ‘when it comes to ad-supported models, marketers will never feel 100% comfortable advertising alongside user-generated content’. 50% of YouTube videos have been commented on – and nobody seems to be defending the standard of contributions.

So the idea is that advertisers want professional content. And whilst most of YouTube’s videos don’t fit this description, the business of professional journalism is in a position to benefit. The more that newspapers and broadcasters spend on producing interesting, informative and entertaining video content, the more likely it is that advertisers will want to target their audience.

The New York Times offers advertisers the chance to sponsor its ‘latest and most newsworthy’ online videos. Perhaps most importantly, one advertiser is guaranteed 100% SOV (Share of Voice) so their advert will be the only one to appear in front of the viewer. The advertiser’s monthly sponsorship includes a 15 second pre-roll video advert before the  first and fourth videos on nytimes.com. They’re required to produce more than one version of an advert, so the same adverts will not appear back to back.

With this approach The New York Times recognises that its online readers do not expect to be exposed to a barrage of competing adverts when they view video content. But in this case, less can mean more. With fewer adverts, there is less danger of the viewer becoming bored and distracted. The thinking is that the discerning consumer of high-quality video content is a potentially valuable customer – the typical NYT reader is educated, well-travelled and wealthy. A case in point, the car company Jaguar is currently providing adverts for video.nytimes.com.

Newspapers and broadcasters are in a strong position to monetise online video, as long as advertisers are assured that they’re attaching their brand to professional content. But at a time when most newspapers (and some broadcasters) are facing an uncertain future, crippled by financial losses, how many will take the risk and spend money to make money?

Local News – The Future

screenshot courtesy of Ledger Live

We’re all familiar with a newspaper’s ‘comment’ section. Or, as some of them like to call it, their ‘opinion’.

These have been stalwarts of print journalism for many years. But, as Toby Coaker outlined for videojournalismonline back in January, The Times is the only UK based paper to transfer this type of journalism onto the web in video format.

In the States things are a bit different – one example of local political opinion transforming into online video is Ledger Live, from New Jersey’s The Star-Ledger.

Here Brian Donohue gives an often sarcastic/satirical take on the affairs of local government.

A good example is this not too complimentary assessment of Govenor Christie’s selective economic policy.

How does this relate to the UK?

Donohue’s producing something that doesn’t really exist in the UK, because national broadcasters (the BBC, ITV, Channel 4 and Sky) have to be impartial and national newspapers just haven’t got on board with the idea behind Ledger Live.

The Future

David Cameron’s been a champion of local government since his time in opposition.

As Prime Minister he’s devolving power and says he wants to create more vibrancy in local politics – to get people interested in the affairs of their local councils as part of his ‘Big Society’.

And Jeremy Hunt’s plans for local TV news slip nicely into line with this ideal.

But if the whole plan works and political activism flourishes once again in the boroughs and constituencies of the UK, you can bet that intense frustration will be kindled in the general public when it comes to local TV news.

Local output’s required to be impartial too. As a result Council failure won’t be reported with the angst needed to reflect the voters’ views.

In this political climate there’ll be an opportunity for partial ‘comment’ or ‘opinion’, and the websites of local newspapers will be the platform capable of supporting such a development.

Could they afford it?

On one hand it’s unhelpful to draw comparisons between state newspapers in the USA and their British ‘equivalents’ because New Jersey, for example, has a population of about 9 million and the Star-Ledger’s circulation is about 220,000.

Each UK constituency has an electorate about 66% smaller than the Star-Ledger’s readership, and local papers would reach dramatically less than that.

But print journalism’s suffering in the US in the same way it is here.

Sponsoring online video is now an option – adverts screened prior to the content beginning – and could bring in valuable revenue.

And if Ledger Live shows us something else about the future, it’s that you only need basic equipment to bring politics alive for the next media generation.

Here’s The Washington Post’s Dana Milbank proving this very point. Can you imagine a similar video poking fun at 4 or 5 candidates in Garston and Halewood?

The battle for Zawiyah – professional journalism trumping online video content

By Phil Georgiadis

Many of the posts on this blog have been looking at how powerful user generated videos have been at documenting the unrest throughout the Arab world.

Clearly, the power of social media offers a glimpse into events which otherwise would go undocumented, as mobile phones and digital cameras become powerful tools at offering the outside world glimpses of events.

But some of the professional journalism which we have been watching throughout the unrest has highlighted the flaws in citizen video journalism.

Youtube clips of demonstrations and atrocities do not offer a coherent picture- instead they are snapshots into events, often presenting a dislocated narrative which it is hard to form a clear picture through.

Recently, Sky News has been showing a report by its mulit-award winning Asia correspondent Alex Crawford, which documents the battle for the Libyan town of Zawiyah with extraordinary clarity and power.

If you haven’t yet watched it I recommend you click on the video below- it is a brave and compelling piece of journalism.

Most importantly, this is a rare opportunity to gain a full idea of what was happening on the ground. Instead of snatches of footage from the protestors, this is a linear narrative of a full weekend in the town, as it came under relentless assault from pro-Gaddafi forces.

The fact that it is also presented from a personal perspective, the first person narrative is particularly striking, adds both to the coherency, and also verifiability of the piece.

Crawford is a trusted journalist, we know when watching the report that isolated incidents are not being hyped upped- it is instead a sober and realistic view into life under assault in Libya.

It is a staggering piece of journalism, and although online video content delivered via social media has essentially been the heartbeat of media coverage of regime crackdowns in the Middle East, this report should make us all take stock, step back, and remember that on the rare occasion that it is possible- professional journalism from the scene remains the most powerful way of reporting global news events.

The Libyan Dilemma

By Chris Creegan

Why citizen video journalism will play a far greater role in Libya than in Egypt

Citizen video journalism has been useful in providing us with information during the recent uprisings in the Middle East. With Egypt in particular, it has supplemented the reports of mainstream news media organisations around the world.

Now, however, attention has shifted to the protests in Libya. This African nation is very different from neighbouring Egypt, and it poses far greater challenges when it comes to reporting.

Crucially, Egypt allowed Western journalists significant access to the country. Even those that reported from the safety of their hotel balconies were able to cover the uprising with a degree of detail.

Libya, on the other hand, does not permit foreign journalists within its borders. It also appears to be clamping down on citizens who attempt to relay information with greater force than we saw in Egypt.

Added to this, the country’s internet has effectively been shut down. Libya is truly cut off from the rest of the world.

News organisations have therefore had to rely solely on the eyewitness accounts of a small number of Libyan citizens for information. ‘Unconfirmed reports’ and inflated death tolls have become an inevitability.

The lack of reliable, newsworthy information coming from the ground in Libya means that citizen video journalism is more important than ever before.

Whilst anti-Kaddafi protesters may report distorted numbers of those who have died, there is at least an assurance of accuracy with the old adage “the camera doesn’t lie.”

Footage shot by Libyan citizens on camera phones has been making its way onto the internet over the past few days, despite the attempts of Colonel Kaddafi’s regime to limit communication with the outside world.

This footage, secured by ITN, appears to show members of Libya’s security forces opening fire on crowds of protesters.

Whilst the reporter points out that it cannot be independently verified, the amateur video provides some of the best (and only) picture evidence of what is happening in the country.

As the situation develops, footage like this will continue to play a vital role in telling us the story of Libya.

Without it, we are completely in the dark as to what is happening in the country.