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.

A selection of you surveyed!

By Umar Farooq

The results are in. 20 very kind people and video journalism enthusiasts (I’m guessing) took part in my “Online News Video Watchers Survey” published on 13th Feb. The aim was to get to know:

1) Our audience, and…

2) …their viewing habits

The raw data

The facts and figures from the Video Watchers Survey (in their raw form)

So what can we conclude…

A fascinating set of results. From the research, based on the short sample, I think the following findings are interesting.

  • An internet-savvy young audience: 85% are aged between 16-25. 70% watch news content online everyday or 3 to 4 times a week.
  • Video-sharing websites are only a part of your online news video watching experience: Just over half watch under 30% of their news content on video sharing sites. Furthermore, majority of this content comes from broadcast news providers (The majority watch over 70% of their online news content from broadcast companies) which shows that people trust conventional media with their news, even if it’s online.
  • The BBC’s YouTube channel is the most popular among you for news content with 53%. Interestingly, the BBC World News channel has been removed from YouTube. Sky News was chosen by 21%, Al-Jazeera and CNN were tied on 11%. Surprisingly, only one person selected ITN News which has one of the best online news channels.
  • Finally, many of you still prefer watching online news on your PC/Laptop in this day and age of the smart-phones and tablets. 80% choosing PC/Laptop.

A big thank you to all the entrants who took part in this short experiment. I think the results point to habits of a modern-day video journalist. The details are interesting and I shall leave you with them.

* The links in this post can be accessed and shared on the VJO delicious page.

Thank you!

Video journalism – on the radio???

By Phil Georgiadis

Building on Chris Creegan’s post about the role of video journalism on radio station websites, for our latest post Video Journalism Online has been speaking to the BBC’s Vassos Alexander about the ever expanding use of video content on the 5 Live website.

Vassos is the voice of sport on the 5 Live Breakfast show, and also presents many of 5 Live Sport’s outside broadcasts from around the world.

Vassos told us that video content is a key growth area on the website: ‘5 Live are trying to offer a fresh and distinctive product online, and an important part of that is our live streams of the shows. Not only can you, of course, listen live and back to programmes on the iPlayer, but you can also watch them, as they go out, live.’

Vassos continued that ‘this is a completely different way of offering content to the consumer, and I think it has been very successful’.

But what about the presenters themselves? Does the increasing role of video content change the way they broadcast?

‘To be honest, we forget that the cameras are there and get on with it, we aren’t treating it like TV, and constantly thinking where the cameras are and so on. I mean the thing is, essentially all your are seeing is a load of people in a studio talking into the mics, we aren’t looking into the cameras or anything, the audio still drives the experience- but web users seem to like being able to see what we’re doing’.

In addition to this, the 5 Live website offers highlight clips of big name guests in the studio, which allows one to watch edited clips of programmes.

There is a lot of discussion on this blog and elsewhere considering the relationship between TV and web video- but it seems that the radio is successfully getting in on the act too.

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?

Online News Video Watchers’ Survey

By Umar Farooq

A key component of video journalism online is understanding your audience. This is because the online world epitomises the modern day bilateral relationship between the writer and reader, the publisher and consumer or the journalist and the audience. In my last post, I briefly touched on producing content catered towards the needs of a certain audience. However, the first step is always about getting to know your audience. This blog, for example is aimed at a number of different groups including video journalists or video journalism enthusiasts, online video watchers and the social media and tech savvy.

YouTube 'Insight,' comprehensive analysis of video viewing statistics.

My short experimental survey (8 questions) has been designed to help us understand some of the your online news video watching habits. The questions relate to news channels and video-specific websites.  If you’ve got any questions about this, feel free to get in touch via twitter @UmarOnline / @videojournos or e-mail videojournalismonline@yahoo.com. The results will be analysed in future posts.

Click HERE to take part in the Online News Video Watchers Survey.

Thank you for your time.

* The links in this post can be accessed and shared on the VJO delicious page.

You Chose the News- Skynews.com TV

By Phil Georgiadis

The blurring boundaries between TV news and online journalism- a new phenomenon which has only taken off in the past year or so? Maybe not.

Between 2007 and 2010 Sky News aired a half hour long evening programme called ‘SkyNews.com’, presented by the brilliant Martin Stanford, which brought the web’s agenda onto our TV’s for the first time.

As the channel proudly proclaimed, it was a groundbreaking programme, which ‘set out to change the shape of television news by integrating the web and TV’. Sky and Stanford realised that web content worked well on TV, and also that streaming TV content online offered access to a wider audience.

It won a prestigious Royal Television Society gong in 2008 for innovation, with the judges praising it because “it lets the public rather than the news editor set the agenda.”

Well before it was the accepted norm for channels to stream their content live online it simulcast on TV and on the Web, and even offered exclusive content for web viewers while the main TV channel was off on advert breaks.

The show would track topics which were ‘trending’ across the web, and offer a rundown of the day’s viral videos, taken from sites such as Youtube. It also took a serious journalistic interest in the internet, and how it was increasingly shaping the news agenda.

It created a ‘user-generated agenda’ well ahead of its time, and is missed.

Take a look at the clips below to get an idea of how the show worked:

Follow The Money

the FT

Financial newspapers are investing in online video journalism (Emily Craig)

By Emily Craig

It’s becoming more and more evident that the big broadcasters and their alter-egos, the solo vloggers, aren’t the only ones investing time and money in online video content. Many in the media have noticed that newspapers such as The Guardian and the New York Times have been building increasingly sophisticated multimedia platforms over the past few years. But there’s now a new player in the market as the financial dailies get involved in creating and sharing video content.

So why are financial newspapers in a category of their own? Why is their interest in online video journalism more surprising?

This question can, perversely, be answered with a question – would we expect video journalism to add anything to business reportage? For a medium that relies on creating a visual impact, how it is that footage of brokers and traders staring at computer screens in strip-lit offices has the potential to make an interesting or arresting piece of video journalism?

Admittedly, the likes of the Wall Street Journal and the Financial Times do not confine themselves to only reporting financial news, but it’s certainly the main focus (and the most profitable part) of their output.

Now the websites of both newspapers are experimenting with the video format – and, apparently, making money out of it too. Perhaps crucially, each newspaper’s website is ring-fenced by a paywall. Their readers are paying for expert information, be it stock tips or expert analysis of the market.

And this means that their video journalism doesn’t have to be ground-breaking or particularly original – they have a captive audience, who come to their website for niche or ‘exclusive’ content, regardless of the form in which it is delivered.

But how exactly have these newspapers made a success out of the online video format? The Wall Street Journal now has 10 million streams per month of its latest videos, with more than 20 people working to produce up to 5 videos per day. Each video is bracketed by an advertisement, normally of about 15 seconds. The ‘shows’ normally come in at under 10 minutes, with some less than a minute in length, and all of them are filmed live.

We’re not talking cable television production values. Against a prosaic corporate-HQ-type backdrop, we hear live from correspondents in the newspaper’s other bureaus (another corporate-HQ-type backdrop…). Any newsworthy footage is usually provided by an agency like Associated Press or Reuters, with stills also used as wallpaper for a voicer from one of the newspaper’s journalists.

So far, not so inventive. But the style of the video ‘broadcasts’ has been compared to that of the cable TV bulletin in the US. With American networks continuing to produce programs that are more opinion-focused and less news-based, the Wall Street Journal could be onto something with its daily briefings at 8.30am and 4pm.

Video journalism online could also be a new source of commercial revenue. Advertisers are willing to pay more for a premium video slot once they’ve seen the impressive CPM (cost per thousand impressions) figures. It might even be that journalism is following the money, rather than the other way around – although that’s a difficult one to prove.

In contrast to the Wall Street Journal’s bulletin-style analysis, the Financial Times is not looking to reproduce an existing TV format. This arguably means it can afford to be a little more creative with its video output, since it’s looking to produce stand-alone ‘complimentary’ features.

However, for both newspapers at this stage, you’re left with the impression that filming a conference or interviewing a talking head is their idea of video journalism. Neither newspaper has been driven to experiment with video as a way of widening its audience or broadening its appeal.

There’s no critical need for either of these publications to be creative with presentation when they can afford to rely on the nature of their content to attract subscribers.

But, having been offered the chance to boost commercial revenue on the cheap, it’s hardly surprising that these newspapers are capable of identifying a shrewd investment. They’ve woken up to the trend, and it seems like they’re cashing in on it.