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.

Advertisements

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!

Cut, Paste, Play

By Ross Cullen

The rise in use of video by both professional journalists and citizen journalists has called for an increase in online portals to aid the editing and storing of such videos.

You grab your smartphone or high-powered pocket camera and go. You shoot; you capture; you record. You have a lot of footage that needs tidying up before, finally, you can tell the story. Where do you go?

To follow the upward trend in use of video and the posting of videos online, there has been a rise in the number and capabilities of online video editing websites.

As this is a fast flowing and developing medium, editing-software designers have also had to adapt to the changes. There are many of these sites and some of them rival each other directly with what they can offer.

Both A-Frame (website shown above) and Pixorial have realised that video journalists need somewhere to store their work online, without having to use a default mass-content provider such as YouTube. There is a need for websites that have a more professional and editorial feel than YouTube, which can be seen, at times, as a multinational giant overlooking the small, corner shop-keeper.

For pure, simple editing, many use YouTube’s software, (although that can feel a little raw), Adobe’s ‘Premiere Express’ and JayCut (website shown above).

There are also sites like photobucket (website shown below) which strive to promote the simplicity and pleasure of photo and video creating and sharing.  On the other hand, other sites such as Kaltura, try to show off how their technical, unique editing platforms can help you.

However, the danger for these websites is that they can be squeezed for space in a growing and changing market, of which, as noted above, YouTube is the dominant power.

The Internet is now the base for video journalism, with the days of shelves of tapes and film reels long gone. Companies are moving their bases online as well, and offering the range of adaptable services that such a moveable medium demands.

VJO chats to… Broadcast Magazine’s Michael Rosser

Michael Rosser (Courtesy of BroadcastNow.co.uk)

By Toby Coaker

This week VJO spoke to Michael Rosser – Web Editor at ‘Broadcast’ magazine. Michael holds responsibility for the operation of Broadcastnow.co.uk, managing the daily news content and overall strategy for the site. He has been in the job since 2007.

Trying to paint the ‘big picture’ of VJO, we asked him the key questions:

Michael, how well are broadcast institutions making use of online video journalism?

The BBC are leading the way with this as always. All you have to do is look at how they’ve approached the recent earthquake in Japan – on the web page you’ve been able to find the latest  reports, interviews and other video from the ground. They’ve also been running a live stream as well as their news channel. I think this combination of streaming what is being broadcast digitally via cable and satellite, as well as furnishing users with pre-packaged reports – that is why the BBC is the strongest. ITV – not so much. Something they have significant problems with is ITV Player, where they have still got technical speed bumps to overcome there. All you have to do is go on Twitter and type in ITV Player and you’d find an absolute litany of complaints and criticism for this piece of technology. As devices such as iphones and ipads become more widely used, video online from major broadcasters is going to become increasingly important – it’s just a natural progression – but, again, it’s clearly the BBC that are leading the way with this.

How much does citizen journalism fit in to the online broadcasting market?

Hugely. I think that in general it’s going to be professionally produced content that will find it’s way on to major broadcast news sites. But for major incidents, citizen journalism has become an increasingly useful tool – from the 7/7 bombings, when citizen video journalism came to the fore for the first time, to again what we’re seeing in Japan with people shooting the most significant raw footage, because they are there first. This can be packaged together professionally with a voiceover. A combination of the two provides the most compelling footage.

Are these new forms of online video journalism a threat to the big broadcasting corporations?

At the moment, there is no significant threat to the major news organisations. It’s fair to say that, as technology improves so that anybody can have a camera that can shoot HD footage, and as people become savvier to how you shoot and present this sort of footage then, sure, there is an emerging sub-culture of video news outside of the major organisations. But traditional broadcasters have the resource to be able to cover everything. It’s the big boys that have got seemingly bottomless pockets; that can send their journalists around the world; that can buy in the library footage; that can attend the court cases or the inquests… They also have the proper training, the proper skills. It’s very easy to look unprofessional on camera. Just one tiny slip and that completely negates your professionalism. You only have to look at how a major news broadcaster could slip up on one shot and suddenly its all over youtube and everyone’s tweeted about it. Citizen journalism provides a service, but a cheap one in comparison.

Is the trend for online multi-platform journalism diminishing the role of broadcasters?

News brands have to move towards a multi-platform approach as print continues to decline. And they have done. While its not at a level that an organisation like the BBC can provide, it is at a strong level. But, for something like The Telegraph or The Times, their core product remains the newspaper. Times are changing and who knows how things will change. Yet do I think that Telegraph TV will eventually provide a rival service to BBC News? No. What The Telegrah’s core offering could be, going forward, is the Internet. It’s a newspaper still, its a source of news. But thinking about PDAs and apps… these could become the primary way in which their content is consumed.

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?

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.

The battle for Zawiyah – professional journalism trumping online video content

By Phil Georgiadis

Many of the posts on this blog have been looking at how powerful user generated videos have been at documenting the unrest throughout the Arab world.

Clearly, the power of social media offers a glimpse into events which otherwise would go undocumented, as mobile phones and digital cameras become powerful tools at offering the outside world glimpses of events.

But some of the professional journalism which we have been watching throughout the unrest has highlighted the flaws in citizen video journalism.

Youtube clips of demonstrations and atrocities do not offer a coherent picture- instead they are snapshots into events, often presenting a dislocated narrative which it is hard to form a clear picture through.

Recently, Sky News has been showing a report by its mulit-award winning Asia correspondent Alex Crawford, which documents the battle for the Libyan town of Zawiyah with extraordinary clarity and power.

If you haven’t yet watched it I recommend you click on the video below- it is a brave and compelling piece of journalism.

Most importantly, this is a rare opportunity to gain a full idea of what was happening on the ground. Instead of snatches of footage from the protestors, this is a linear narrative of a full weekend in the town, as it came under relentless assault from pro-Gaddafi forces.

The fact that it is also presented from a personal perspective, the first person narrative is particularly striking, adds both to the coherency, and also verifiability of the piece.

Crawford is a trusted journalist, we know when watching the report that isolated incidents are not being hyped upped- it is instead a sober and realistic view into life under assault in Libya.

It is a staggering piece of journalism, and although online video content delivered via social media has essentially been the heartbeat of media coverage of regime crackdowns in the Middle East, this report should make us all take stock, step back, and remember that on the rare occasion that it is possible- professional journalism from the scene remains the most powerful way of reporting global news events.