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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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.