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:

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.

Changes are coming in the regulation of online video journalism…

photo courtesy of ATVOD

 

By Chris Creegan

A ruling published earlier this week revealed that the Authority for Television on Demand could gain the power to regulate the video content of online newspapers.

ATVOD, the body responsible for regulating the Television on Demand services offered via the likes of BBC iPlayer, 4OD and ITV Player, could be soon be able to regulate the video content on the online version of newspapers as well.

Newspaper providers are arguing that they should be exempt from this regulation. They feel the ruling should apply only to “TV-like” content, rather than the more journalistic and news-based content they offer.

These papers, which include The Sun, The Sunday Times, News of the World and Elle, are now appealing to Ofcom to try and have the decision rescinded.

If their appeal is rejected, it means that the newspapers and magazines affected would have to pay an annual sum to ATVOD for the regulation of their online services.

Those that fail to pay this fee could face fines of up to £250,000 and have their video offerings suspended.

What is interesting about this development is that it means, for the first time, the UK press will come under an external regulator’s control (it is currently self-regulated by the PCC).

Papers looking to expand their online video content in the future could now face a far greater challenge than broadcasters, whose news content does not fall under the same regulation.

This story highlights some of the issues that can occur when news organisations take their services to a new platform, and it shows some of the complexities found in online regulation.

This story is likely to develop throughout the coming weeks, but if you want to know more, head on over to the ATVOD website for more details.

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?

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.

An Evening With Guardian Films

By Emily Craig

Jacqui Timberlake was emphatic. ‘We are a broadcaster’, she declared to the assembled audience. And the Production Manager of Guardian Films has good reason to make this claim. Guardian Films’ 2006 production, Baghdad: A Doctor’s Story, which screened on the BBC and HBO, won an Emmy.

The film is a 45 minute offering and, in the days before many people uploaded or streamed video online, it was made for TV. It’s possible to find excerpts of Baghdad: A Doctor’s Story on the Guardian’s website, but it wasn’t designed as an internet documentary.

Back in 2006, the Guardian Films team had pitched their idea to the BBC. Now, says Maggie O’ Kane, the Editorial Director of Guardian Films, they’re competing with the same broadcasters that they relied upon before.

Broadcast journalists are not the only ones out on the street with a camera (Creative Commons)

Maggie O’ Kane had pushed for the creation of Guardian Films in the days before video journalism had become an online phenomenon. As one of the newspaper’s foreign correspondents, who spent time in the likes of Burma and Afghanistan, she says broadcast journalists would come to her and her colleagues, after they’d been working on a story, and expect to be handed a list of names and contacts so they could follow up with a film piece.

When the BBC’s Fergal Keane did just that after she’d endured the discomfort of the Burmese jungle as part of her research for a G2 feature, Maggie O Kane asked the question of Guardian editor Alan Rusbridger: ‘Why aren’t the Guardian making films?’

As a result of their conversation, Guardian Films was created. And, with the development of Internet technology, its focus has shifted from TV features to the newspaper’s website. Now Guardian Films produce videos to tie in with articles that appear in the newspaper and, simultaneously, on guardian.co.uk.

Many of their videos could be described as investigative. As Maggie O Kane put it, by incorporating video into a piece of journalism, ‘It’s a way of saying ‘This is important”. Their undercover report into the racist violence of the English Defence League is an example of this theory in action. The video appeared on the Guardian’s website as the print edition went to press with the story in article form on the front page, above the fold. And the newspaper ensured maximum coverage by publishing the story on the day that the EDL planned to stage another demo in Newcastle. The video has had some 195 000 views – and counting.

Sometimes, the Guardian Films team will write the article accompanying their video. The rest of the time, they link up with journalists on the paper. But Maggie O’ Kane admitted that ‘it can be a case of the left hand not talking to the right hand’. Recently they were forced to work solidly for 48 hours in order to make sure that their Wikileaks Iraq log video could be uploaded alongside a print story due to be published.

The Guardian Film team insist that video media is not only a compliment to online copy, but it can be a way of introducing the viewer to a story. In other words, the video can come first – it’s not a badly-produced afterthought.

And the other bonus of making videos exclusively for the paper’s website – and not for a broadcaster – is that the videos exist in ‘web perpetuity’. Newspapers own this distinct advantage over the likes of the BBC and C4.

And, whilst this was an event promoting the output of Guardian Films, more and more newspapers (the New York Times, for one) are eager to draw attention to their investment in multimedia journalism and their successes in pursuing it. Their message? Broadcasters beware.

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?