Watch What’s Happening

By Emily Craig

More and more people are directly streaming their own video online. Not all of it’s journalism in the traditional sense, but some of it is – by design and by chance.

Citizen journalists (and in some cases ‘people in the street’ would be a better way of describing them) are going out armed with nothing more than a mobile phone and with this technology they’re streaming content for others to consume. The Guardian’s website, announcing the fall of Egypt’s President Mubarak in live time, embedded on its homepage a Ustream video of the protests in Tahrir Square.

This type of reporting requires planning – establishing contact with someone on the ground in preparation – but it means a newspaper can play at being a rolling news provider. The Guardian’s Ustream channel has attracted more than 1 million viewers in the 2 months since it was set up.

Ustream describes itself as an ‘interactive broadcast platform’ that ‘enables anyone with an internet connection and a camera to engage their audience in a meaningful, immediate way’. Minus the PR speak, it’s a Californian dotcom company that allows people to stream video content live on their own channel. With the proliferation of 3G phones, websites like UStream are capitalising on the number of people uploading and consuming video content.

Qik.com, justin.tv and YouTube all offer a similar service. Justin.tv sees 300 million visitors per month. Rival Ustream has 2,000,000 registered users and 5 times as many unique hits so it’s hardly surprising that it now wants to expand into the Asian market with the help of a Japanese investor.

Some of these streamed videos could be described as journalism in the old-school sense. For instance, Ustream provided coverage of certain debates in the 2008 US Presidential elections. But a lot of these videos are socially valuable, rather than newsworthy; in other words, you might think you’ve arrived at a social media site rather than a news portal.

But, crucially, can a website be both? The likes of Ustream and justin.tv are undoubtedly democratic in their approach. People, rather than television networks, decide what’s popular and what’s worthy of being shared (although users can opt to share their videos privately with a select group).

All these video streaming sites emphasise the importance of allowing people to ‘engage’ in a ‘social’ way by sharing video. But with the quality of video content varying widely, will the best videos be the most popular and the most shared?

It’s difficult for Ustream to argue that its service is ‘all about premium content’ when there’s no editorial processes at work. And it’s important to remember that people are streaming their videos live – they’re not editing their footage . This can make for raw immediacy or CCTV-type wallpaper.

In the words of qik.com, ‘Interesting moments can happen anywhere’. The challenge for these video streamers is to be in the right place at the right time.

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.

I Came, I Saw, I Watched Again Online

screenshot coursety of Bloomberg website

Broadcast media focus their main efforts on live broadcasts but the role of video is growing.

Consider calling a correspondent in rural Bangladesh – normally France 24’s reporter would appear via a videophone link.  What about making contact with a person affected by, for example, flooding in Australia? Sky News simply used Skype and conducted a video call with a local journalist. These two examples show how video is an indispensable tool to connect with faraway contacts during live broadcasts.

All major television channels’ homepages now have a separate section dedicated to video. There are many reasons for this: to facilitate visitors to the site looking purely for video; to showcase specific clips from previous broadcast content; and to offer users extra video content that may not have been broadcast or seen, for example extended highlights of an interview of which only a short excerpt was used on TV.

Users love watching content but the nature of today’s working environment means that few have the time to sit down and consume TV for long periods of time. This is one of the reasons networks have regular updates and repeat headlines (albeit edited and re-written) – the audience changes every half-hour. On the way to work, on the train or the bus, those users who watched TV news for 30 minutes with their breakfast can watch a longer video package on the mobile versions of channels’ websites.

photo courtesy of Sky News website

And when they are back at a computer they can return either to watching a live stream of the channel itself or shorter videos on specific items from the homepage.

Video has immediacy about it and the broadcast media appreciate that because, after all, their business is based on breaking news, constant updates and beating rivals to scoops the minute they occur. Two or three-minute updates in video format are popular with the BBC and Sky, offering users the news quickly without having to scroll through lots of different pages or watch an entire televised bulletin.

Finally, the fact that users can upload their own content adds a feeling of interactivity and openness that shows the public that they can create the news as well – not just watch it. And if they miss it, they can watch the news again and again (and their own clips) through the video portals on the channels websites.

I Watch, Therefore iPad

Apple's ipad (promotional image)

Apple's iPad - introducing video journalism to the mainstream? (apple.com)

By Emily Craig

When it launched the iPad, Apple described its new product as ‘revolutionary’. And, with its 9.5 inch high resolution screen, it has been designed with video in mind.

Aware that more and more people are consuming video content online, the iPad is marketed as ‘the best way to experience the web, email, photos and video’. But is Apple responding to a demand for video content that already exists, or is it stimulating that demand?

There is clear evidence to support the latter. YouTube and Apple have collaborated on a new app, designed specifically for iPad users. Steve Jobs, CEO of Apple, and Rupert Murdoch, the most famous risk-taker in the journalism business, have just launched a new newspaper – The Daily Its focus? Delivering video content.

At the same time, a new report suggests that people are more likely to spend longer viewing videos on a mobile device than when they’re sitting down at their desktops. Those who own iPads demonstrate the longest ‘staying power’ (about 5 minutes). So it looks like Jobs and Murdoch might be onto something.

It could go either way for The Daily. At the moment, everything Apple touches turns a profit; Murdoch, the traditional newspaper man, is searching for a game changer. But if The Daily succeeds, it’s unlikely to be the first attempt at capturing the iPad market.

The iPad is allowing people to consume content in a different way. In fact, it’s a device designed for content consumption. Unlike a laptop, there isn’t a keyboard; unlike a laptop, with its connotations of work, the iPad advertisements show us young, attractive men and women lounging and ‘playing’.

It’s one thing to watch a music video on your iPad via its YouTube app, it’s quite another to expect the ‘news’ to arrive this way. Apple successfully sells entertainment – arguably, it’s the iPod that’s enabled the company to secure mainstream sales figures. But it’s not yet clear whether the iPad will understand, or will promote, more serious video journalism.

Many people are waiting to see what happens to The Daily. 10 million iPads are expected to be sold by the end of the year, as Apple’s competitors launch their own tablet computers.

If this new technology doesn’t invite video journalists to the party, it’s difficult to imagine who or what will finally secure them their mainstream popularity.

Setting Up Citizen Journalism

By Alex Dibble

Your role and mine in shaping the world of online media

Since a camera was first added to a mobile phone, citizen journalism has come alive. A story without an image is much less of a story (at least in the eyes of online media organisations) than a story accompanied by visuals.

And so with a mobile, Joe Bloggs suddenly had the potential to generate online news content.

Stephen Jio is the eBusiness Programme Manager at Dell, and says that “no discussion about citizen journalism can happen without talking about the photo taken by Janis Krums on the 15th January 2009.”

On that date a US Airways airliner crash-landed in the Hudson, with all passengers and crew surviving. Krums happened to be crossing the river on a ferry, and took this photo.

The image has come to all but represent the new media phenomenon. If you search ‘citizen journalism’ on Google images, it’s right at the top.

Within 24 hours it had been viewed more than 40,000 times. More importantly, it was used by news media around the world. It couldn’t have been a better shot.

While that’s a fantastic photo, we’re here to uncover the role of video in online journalism.

Smart-phones have made citizen journalism incredibly easy from a video point of view: get your phone out, record something and upload it. All in a matter of minutes.

The value of this user generated video content will be the subject of future posts.