Making History (Profitable)

By Chris Creegan

The internet has made it possible for news broadcasters to offer vast quantities of footage to the general public – whether free or at a cost.

Thanks to the advent of 24-hour rolling news, video journalism is truly driven by a focus is on the ‘NEW’ the ‘NOW’ and the ‘NEXT’. What is the freshest angle to the story? And how is it going to develop in the future?

But now, thanks to the online medium, there is another element that comes into play. Quite the opposite of the ‘NOW’, but rather, the ‘THEN’.

What I am referring to is video archive.

The internet has made it possible for news broadcasters to upload vast quantities of video footage onto their websites from the years gone by.

They offer a vast, searchable resource of news for users to plough through at their leisure. This is something that was never possible solely within the TV medium.

Thanks to the net, we are able to revisit the same story as many times as we want, or find old stories at the push of a button.

The BBC news website, for example, allows you to search through the past three years of footage – thousands upon thousands of video stories are available:

screenshot courtesy of BBC news online

 

And then of course there is the BBC Archive, found at BBC Motion Gallery. This, unlike the news website resources, is a paid service, where you can purchase clips from the news archive dating as far back as far back as 60 years:

The BBC Archives boasts over eight million hours of BBC content

 

The BBC Archives website also acts as the exclusive global representative of footage from CBS, CCTV in China, the Japanese broadcaster NHK, and Austalian broadcaster ABC.

ITN also offers a similar resource – ITN Source:

screenshot courtesy of ITN source

 

ITN Source is one of the world’s largest commercial video resources, and it represents the world’s largest collection of video libraries. This includes not just ITV, but also Reuters, Fox News, Nine Network (Australia), UTV, ANI, and Fox Movietone (as well as other specialist collections).

Whilst these are perhaps the best examples of online news footage, this is by no means a niche practice. Most other broadcasters make use of the internet to provide a resource of online video.

As news broadcasters continue to acquire more and more footage through external contribution and citizen journalism, the need to keep it well-organised and readily accessible will remain vital.

The fact that this footage can then be sold on highlights the financial benefits of such a practice, and so the rewards to companies that engage in it are plentiful.

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The Skype’s the Limit

News organisations around the world make use of Skype to talk to people in Japan

By Chris Creegan

After the devastating earthquake that hit Japan last week, news broadcasters are turning to Skype to get in touch with those that have been affected. But is this increasingly popular interview format limited by the very technology it uses?

We saw it in Haiti and now we’re seeing it in Japan. In the aftermath of events that touch the lives of many, Skype becomes a useful weapon in the news broadcaster’s arsenal.

Unlike a simple phone-in, Skype provides a live video feed where we can actually see the talker. It brings an enhanced level of intimacy that changes the way we relate to them.

These people are no longer a distant, disconnected voice at the end of a phone line, thousands of miles away. It brings their story to life and enhances the human interest element of the incident being covered.

And, perhaps most important, Skype is easily accessable. The technology behind it is very user-friendly. All you need is a decent broadband connection and a webcam – the latter of which comes built-in to the majority of modern laptops.

Little technical expertise or financial investment is needed to set up a Skype interview. The calls themselves are free computer-to-computer, and only 2p a minute to a landline or mobile.

And this low-cost factor is crucial to the news broadcasters too. When resources are stretched, having a direct video link to the interviewee negates the need for an on-location reporter. In a way, it allows the citizen to do the reporting themselves.

Of course, Skype does have its drawbacks too.

Ultimately, interviewing people this way doesn’t provide the same diverse cross-section of the population as a simple, randomly selected vox-pop. Skype may boast more than 700 million users, but the majority of these fall into the same age categories and socio-economic groups. Most users are middle-to-high income earners between the ages of 20 and 55.

Providing balance is vital to solid journalism, and interviewing people in this medium only gives voice to a narrow spectrum of the population. It alienates those who are not comfortable with the technology, or those who simply cannot afford it. In essence, Skype can only ever really give us access to the views of a minority.

Another disadvantage is that the people being spoken to are generally not directly affected by the incident themselves. The very fact that they are able to sit in the comfort of their homes and chat to a foreign news provider suggests their situation isn’t representative of the suffering that is a major element of the story. They are not quite at the heart of the incident.

Overall, Skype has its positive uses to news broadcasters. When resources become stretched it can provide a cheap, quick and direct link to the ‘people on the ground’. In such cases it becomes a great example of how online video can supplement good journalism.

However, it should be used sparingly and only when the person being ‘Skyped’ has something truly insightful or newsworthy to say. Broadcasters have to avoid over-using it, particularly when it doesn’t add any extra value to the report.