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.

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Never Miss A Beat With Livestation

By Toby Coaker

If, in the age of 24 hour news channels and online media, you find it difficult to cram even more current affairs in to your schedule, think again.

While you might have used Livestation to stream live television over the Internet, perhaps you won’t have used its news video player.

It works in a similar way to the BBC’s iplayer. Yet Livestation aggregates all of the channels below (and more!) and allows you to watch each one – at the same time – on a multi-screen (see above):

Al Jazeera (English), BBC Arabic, BBC News, BBC Parliament, BBC World Service, Bloomberg Television, Channel 4, CNN International, CNBC Europe, euronews, France 24, ITV, RT (English), Sky News

The concept is simple – but it might just revolutionize the way we consume journalism.

Now it’s even easier than ever before to pick and choose between varying news providers – keeping an eye on all but listening to the one story you want to hear.

Such demanding news consumption has, up until now, only been accessible to those with multiple television screens or computer monitors. This is fairly rare beyond the walls of City University’s Journalism Department…

So for those savvy and concerned enough to use Livestation, it could mean the end of brand loyalty. Instead, we pick and choose what we want to engage with – an interview, a package, a two-way… The web is encouraging more competitive video journalism than ever.

There are other features too: Live chat allows you to share opinion with your community. If I was watching a compelling interview on Al Jazeera, for instance, I could encourage others to do the same.

The more impersonal but equally influential Twitter can also be used to quickly respond to changing events and broadcast titbits. Look below at how twitpic is used to rapidly inform others of what the news – and its providers – are doing:

If popular, Livestation will create the most hyper-responsive, critical, and discursive audience of video journalism ever. How should broadcasters react? Let us know.

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.

Modern Media’s Multitask Task

By Alex Dibble

Doing the broadcast splits is too big a stretch for some

Traditional news media’s being forced to branch out. As the amount of news content consumed online increases, both newspapers and television news departments are adapting and taking their material onto a new stage.

The problem for newspapers is they’re having to do something that wasn’t in their job description until ten years ago – producing video for their websites.

But if a major demand of the internet viewer is video content surely TV channels are laughing when it comes to online supplements?

Not so.

The problem for TV is similar, yet (crucially) different. Channel 4 and ITV have, like the rest, produced news websites to accompany their television output.

But ITV News doesn’t have a huge budget – it’s around the £35m mark. That pot used to fund just its TV service, but now has to pay for the website as well.

It’s not a big surprise, then, that the ITV News website is relatively poor. More than this, the website’s video content is lifted straight from the main television broadcasts. In the process of transferring news from one medium to another, nothing changes in the way it’s presented.

Contrast that to the BBC, who’s budget’s in another stratosphere. Not only is their news website vast, it offers an alternative method for viewers to consume content – it’s not just a re-hash of BBC News at 6, for example .

Stories (almost always) appear in written form (despite the fact that the BBC has never been a newspaper), and these articles are supplemented with video (Paul Bradshaw calls this the ‘Daily Prophet approach‘ after the newspaper in Harry Potter).

The two aspects combine to produce a news experience that reflects the unique demands of the internet as a new medium.

Channel 4’s online offering seems to find some sort of middle ground. No editing’s done on TV packages before they’re uploaded, but video’s still accessorised with written content.

Expert Opinion

VJO asked award winning video journalist David Dunkley Gyimah why the multitask task is proving such a challenge.

“The relationship between video content and online news output is such a recent development that broadcast media are learning an awful lot very quickly.”

For Gyimah though, the key is maneuverability:

“You want to watch news, get directed to somewhere else that contextualises what you’ve just seen, and then come back.”

“The nearest thing we’re getting to this at the moment is PBS in the States. They imbed video in a way that facilitates wider consumption.”

Organisations like ITV literally can’t afford to experiment in this field – their funding is to produce television.

The “newbies”, as Gyimah calls them, can play with the platform because that’s the market they’ve entered. Their principle objective is to master it.

Paul Bradshaw agrees, and offers Rocketboom as an example of how it looks in practice. A new kid on the block can grapple with online video journalism without the baggage of a print or broadcast history.