Live event blogging: when text and video come together

screenshot courtesy of guardian.co.uk

By Phil Georgiadis

Live event blogging was originally conceived as  a substitute for video coverage- a way of keeping web users up to date in the absence of any pictures.

It started in the mainstream sphere through sports coverage- a chance for people in the office or without Sky to access some form of coverage.

Its success is clear- a simple look at the Guardian Sport website shows that whenever live sport ‘minute by minute’ coverage has been available on any given day, it invariably is one of the most read items. As you can see from the image (right) – today’s live coverage of the India vs Pakistan cricket World Cup match is the most viewed page in the sports section.

More recently the phenomenon has moved to news coverage. Staying with guardian.co.uk, they are currently running Middle East daily live blogs, as well as their regular politics live feed.

But, crucially, video content and live blogging do no have to exist entirely in separation; particularly in journalism, where holding the rights to various sports’ is not necessary to stream video content.

This screenshot from bbc.co.uk demonstrates how successfully text and video can be integrated into live event coverage

Here, text, graphics and tweets are used to augment video feeds from BBC World and the BBC News Channel, to add an extra dimension to the news coverage. Additional reports and viewer feedback further build on the video journalism.

Sky News’s ‘Live Plus’ service, available via skynews.com offers a less text rich service. Instead of a timeline of text updates for major events Sky tends to use tweets from their own journalists to build up a picture of the news to add to their video content.

As is visible from Sky’s screenshot, they also offer users the opportunity to ‘Chat’ via Facebook during political events- further incorporating social media into the experience.

It is clear, therefore, that the recent developments in the online coverage of live events have blurred the divide between traditional web journalism and live video content.

They exist not in separate spheres but instead in symbiosis- with each adding to the others’ strengths.

 


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Watching TV News Live Online

By Phil Georgiadis

Regular readers of this blog will know how important online video content is to both Sky News and the BBC News Channel

But I wonder how many readers actually watch news channels online? Both stream their news channels live through their websites at the click of a button, but is this a service which goes unnoticed?

The first thing to consider is the vast extra audience that this could add to both channels. While everyone in the world of journalism regards both channels as essential watching- tools of the trade, in terms of a national picture they hardly figure in the multi channel ratings. Last week, for example, neither channel could achieve more than a 2% share of the audience.

But their websites attract a far greater and broader reach- and therefore the opportunity to distribute their live news channels to a huge additional audience.

Usefully, the BBC News Channel’s controller Kevin Bakhurst regularly tweets audience figures for the Beeb’s output- and taking a look at these demonstrates the power of the Beeb’s online audience to grow the News Channel’s viewers.

On Monday, Kevin tweeted that as well as a large audience for the News Channel on TV, he added that the channel was also viewed nearly half a million times online.

Bearing in mind the channels’ relatively small daily audience, this is a major figure, which is not counted by the Rajars.

The News Channel live feed almost always crops up in the most viewed video content at any time on the BBC News website, so it does seem that more and more people are taking to watching live news online. Meanwhile, both Sky and the BBC stream their news channels via their iPhone services too.

Moreover this is a rare example of the BBC streaming live content online- and very successfully, more evidence of the boundaries between TV and online journalism became less definable, and increasingly merged.

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.

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 Sky News iPad App- First Look

By Phil Georgiadis

Well they do like to be ‘First’, and a day early the Sky News Ipad App is out and available to download.

Its streams the main Sky News channel live, in line with the website and iPhone app. You can also rewind and pause the live channel- rather like Sky Plus.

But the really interesting thing about the App is the way it lets the user choose the news through video content.

Last night Sky’s Political Editor Adam Boulton held a preview session for tech bloggers in Sky’s Westminster newsroom, and the general consensus seems to be overwhelmingly positive.

The Random Mel blog has uploaded a video here of Adam Boulton showing the app off.

It’s interesting to note that the blogger says that she believes that the app ‘will revolutionise the shape of our news consumption going forwards’, echoing up Sky’s promotional publicity.

But why is this such a potentially important step forward?

Clearly as befits the nature of the Ipad, the App is very video heavy- that’s visible from the screengrabs and demos available. But crucially Adam Boulton says that the way that the interface is designed allows you to essentially build your own news bulletin, with related video appearing immediately along side content being viewed.

This backs up my preview post yesterday, which suggested that it turns the user into a vision mixer, directing online video content so as to make bespoke and individual news programming.

Sky have an editorial team of fourteen people working full time on the App, so clearly it is something they have heavily invested in and expect big things from.

At the moment it is free to all users, but in the future they say they plan to charge non Sky subscribers to use the App.

If you have the App leave a comment and let us know what you think of the App. Revolutionary or style over substance?

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.

You Direct the News – Straight From Your iPad

By Phil Georgiadis

Later this week Sky News is launching a new service- ‘Sky News for iPad’, a new take on its existing iPad app. Many news providers have been capitalising on the ever increasing smartphone and tablet market, offering what are essentially paired down versions of their online content.

However, Sky News promises something different with their service for the iPad. They claim that it will offer ‘an entirely new way’ of delivering news events- allowing users to ‘decide what they watch and how they watch it’.

Sky is well known for pushing the boundaries and trying to innovate at every step, so what does this new app mean for online video journalism? Details on Sky’s app are still sketchy, and essentially are confined to this intriguing promo video.

The app is out on March 17th, and until then we can only speculate, but judging from the video it does seem as though it will go some way to putting the online viewing experience into the user’s hands. This raises the fascinating idea of taking editorial judgments out of the news provider’s control. Instead the user picks and chooses which video to watch and when- becoming an amateur vision mixer.

Sky have form on this, their Sky News Active service, which has since been paired down, used to offer eight screens of video content for the viewer to flick between. This seems to be an advanced version, using the touch screen versatility of the iPad to create a polished and intuitive app that crucially puts the online video journalism experience firmly in the hands of the user.

Come back on March 17th for a review of the app, and to find out whether it lives up to the hype.