Tag Archives: vodcasts

Online journalism’s must-read blog posts

Shane Richmond is asking for contributions to a list of classic blog posts on online journalism. For some reason my comments don’t seem to have gone through, so here’s my list of the essential reads for online journalists:

  1. For an overview of the forms and possibilities of online journalism: Jonathon Dube’s Online Storytelling Forms
  2. For a mind-blowing insight into the journalistic potential of computer technology: Adrian Holovaty: A fundamental way newspaper sites need to change
  3. For reflection on how the online news environment changes the nature of journalism: Dan Gillmor’s The End of Objectivity (Version 0.91)
  4. For reflection on journalism ethics in the MySpace/Facebook/UGC/digital doorstepping era: Robin Hamman’s posts virginia tech bloggers: approach and confirm or link and disclaim? and his coverage of a debate on virginia tech coverage
  5. For a sliding scale of ideas on how to involve the audience: Steve Outing’s The 11 Layers of Citizen Journalism
  6. For a succinct and clear explanation of moving from the TV mindset to an understanding of online video: Andy Dickinson: Moving from TV to Online
  7. For a quick list of tips when moving into video: Newslab’s Tips for Photographers
  8. For an outline of the possibilities of Flash for interactive storytelling, and experiences of its use: Mindy McAdams’ Flash journalism: Professional practice today 
  9. For a step-by-step overview of how to treat a story in a multimedia way: Mindy McAdams’ Journalism stories: A multimedia approach Parts 1, 2 and 3.
  10. For a conceptual exploration of interactive storytelling: The Elements of Digital Storytelling
  11. I’ll agree with Richmond’s inclusion of Ross Mayfield’s post on his own blog: What makes wikis work
  12. And it pre-dates blogs, but answers very effectively that recurring question of “Is blogging/wikis/databases/broccoli etc. etc. journalism?”: G. Stuart Adam’s Notes Towards a Definition of Journalism

Video tips from award-winning videographers

The joys of pingback have led me to the News Videographer blog – and just in time for my lesson this afternoon in Flash video galleries: Video tips from award-winning videographers, summarised from NewsLab. My favourite tip:

Don’t stop the action for the interview. “Go with the flow,” Tim says. “Try to ‘interview’ your subject while they’re doing what makes them comfortable, or doing what your story is really about.””

Marie Claire podcast raises product placement ethics

Women’s Wear Daily (not my usual breakfast reading matter) has raised the issue of magazine podcasting ethics separating advertising and editorial after Marie Claire’s Unilever-sponsored “The Masthead With Marie Claire” podcast featured repeated mentions of the company’s products.

“sponsored by Unilever with occasional chipping in by Diesel as “patron.” … Nearly every one of the eight segments so far has prominently featured Unilever beauty products in scenes with the magazine’s editors, and the most recent one included footage of the Diesel New York show, with Marie Claire fashion director Tracy Taylor explaining in the podcast, “What I love about Diesel….”

The article goes on to quote American Society of Magazine Editors board member Jacob Weisberg as saying “[Advertising] can’t include the editors and shouldn’t be produced by the editors.”

Of course fashion and women’s magazines have never been renowned for their editorial integrity or independence. And Marie Claire seem to think they can avoid the issue by claiming “ASME guidelines do not extend to podcasts and Webisodes.”

“‘The Masthead With Marie Claire’ is a podcast that is designed as a television show produced for the Web. From reality shows such as ‘The Apprentice’ to scripted shows like ‘The Office,’ brand integration is the norm.”

Nice try.

Marlene Kahan, executive director of ASME, disagrees. “The general codes do apply” to digital productions by members, she says.

“All online pages should clearly distinguish between editorial and advertising or sponsored content,” the ASME guidelines read. “A magazine’s name or logo should not be used in a way that suggests editorial endorsement of an advertiser. The site’s sponsorship policies should be clearly noted, either in text accompanying the article or on a disclosure page, to clarify that the sponsor had no input regarding the content.”

Seems pretty clear to me.

Rocketboom may charge for shows

Advertisers aren’t interested in 200,000 users, reports MarketWatch:

“So, how does Rocketboom keep the lights on? Baron says the video blog has become kind of a loss leader and a promotional device for the real money. Like a blog, he says he has established the Rocketboom team as experts in using video on the Web. “We get consulting opportunities, conferences give honorariums. For us, there are many off-shoots.””

Steve Smith: Mobile Video – Didn’t We Do This Already?

Steve Smith, writing about mobile video in general (registration required), makes a very informed point about the attempts to ‘crack’ the medium, with some historical anecdotes. Here’s his summary:

“Much of the technical and aesthetic experimentation in mobile entertainment may already have taken place in a Webisodic format that never took hold on the medium for which it was intended. To go back to history, a lot of time and money gets spent trying to squeeze the last medium’s successful formats into successes on the new medium. But it is just as likely that we should look to the failures of the previous medium when planning the next.”

What he’s talking about is this:

“Back in the day of TheDen, TheSpot, PseudoTV or even the early AtomFilms, for that matter, the fledgling Internet was all about birthing a new art form. “Webisodic” fiction, online reality shows and soap operas, the renaissance of the short subject, and the new venue for animators — all this and more were promised by the new Web.”

Publishers grapple with web video – or rather, selling ads on web video

Jemima Kiss reports on the Association of Online Publishers web video forum, with a focus on advertising:

“ROO Group executive director Robin Smyth had some pretty solid basic tips on incorporating video: add mini players within the site, embedded video in the site (that means not having a pop-up media player, like the iPlayer…), having a simple content management system, good marketing, a user content element and focusing on live events.”

Defining and conceptualising interactivity

A conversation with a radio colleague yesterday about a new course that I’m involved in – a Masters in Television and Interactive Content – threw up the question of how people define interactivity.

“What you mean by interactivity is probably not what I think of,” he said.

“I see interactivity as giving the user control,” I replied.

“Well OK then, we both think of interactivity in the same way. But to most people interactivity is video on the web and flashy things, which couldn’t be less interactive.”

I began thinking about this idea of how you define interactivity. “Giving the user control” is a nice summary, but what does that mean? How do you conceptualise it to make the process easier? Rolling it over in my head I’ve come up with two dimensions along which interactivity operates. Firstly:

  • Time: where broadcast required the user to be present at a particular time, and print to wait for the next edition, technologies such as Sky+, podcasts, mobile phones and websites allow the audience to consume at a time convenient to them. The PDF newspaper is an interesting development that also allows readers to avoid the dependence on print cycles.
  • Space: where television required the user to be physically present in front of a static set, mobile phones, mp3 players and portable mpeg players and wifi laptops allow the audience to consume in a space convenient to them. Portable radio and portable newspapers have always had this advantage.

Both these seem to be about hardware, and miniaturisation. The second level of interactivity is more about software:

  • Control over output: With linear media like TV, radio and print, the consumer relies on the ability of the producer, editor, etc. to structure how content is presented, or output. New media allows the audience to take some of that control.
    • At a basic level, for instance, hyperlinks allow the reader to dictate their experience of ‘content’.
    • With online video and audio, the user can pause, fast-forward, etc. – and if it has been split into ‘chunks’, the user can choose which bit of a longer video or audio piece they experience.
    • RSS, meanwhile, allows users to create their own media product, combining feeds from newspapers, broadcasters, bloggers, and even del.icio.us tags or Google News search terms.
    • Database-driven content allows the user to shape output based on their input – e.g. by entering their postcode they can read content specific to their area. At a general level search engines would be another example.
    • And Flash interactives allow the user to influence output in a range of ways. This may be as simple as selecting from a range of audio, video, text and still image options. It may be playing a game or quiz, where their interaction (e.g. what answers they get right, how they perform) shapes the output they experience.
  • Control over input: Again, the old media model was one that relied on the producer, editor, etc. to decide on the editorial agenda, and create the products. The audience may have had certain avenues of communication – the letter to the editor; the radio phone-in; the ‘Points of View‘. The new media model, as Dan Gillmor points out, is one that moves from a lecture to a conversation. So:
    • Blogs, podcasts, vlogs, YouTube, MySpace, etc. allow the audience to publish their own media
    • Forums, message boards, chatrooms and comments on mainstream media blogs allow the audience to discuss and influence the content of mainstream media, as well as engaging with each other, bypassing the media
    • Live chats with interviewees and media staff do the same.
    • User generated content/citizen journalism sees mainstream publishers actively seeking out input from consumers, from emails to mobile phone images, video and audio.
    • Wikis allow the audience to create their own collaborative content, which may be facilitated by mainstream media
    • Social recommendation software like del.icio.us, Digg, etc. allow users to influence the ‘headline’ webpages through bookmarking and tags.
    • A similar but separate example is how page view statistics can be used by publishers to rank content by popularity (often displayed side by side with the editorial view of what are the ‘top stories’)
    • I hesitate to add the last example but I will anyway: email. Although we could always, in theory, contact producers and editors by telephone, they didn’t publish their numbers on the ten o’clock news. Email addresses, however, are printed at the end of articles; displayed on screen alongside news reports; read out on radio; and of course displayed online.

I’m sure I’ve missed examples, or entire other dimensions. If you have an input to make, comment away.

Four types of online video journalism

Well my search for wisdom on the subject of online video took me down the corridor to my genial colleague Bob Calver, Senior Lecturer in Broadcast Journalism, and a fellow online journalism lecturer. I recorded the whole thing on video (naturally) – link to come. But here’s some thoughts that came out of the discussion, as well as from looking at online video around the web.

Firstly, I think you can categorise online video (journalism) into four types:

  • ‘Moving pictures’. I call this the ‘Daily Prophet approach’ after the newspaper in Harry Potter where the images are magically animated. This is where video is added to a text story as an illustration, without narration but in the same way as a still image might be used. A good example is this story from the Eastern Daily Press. I’m also thinking CCTV footage would fit here;
  • The Video Diary. This splits into two sub-categories:
    • The video blog/vlog: person speaks into camera about their thoughts/opinions/experiences – Ian Reeves’ first attempt is a good example, which also happens to include some reflections on online video journalism;
    • The personal account: person with a story to tell is filmed by another person about their thoughts/opinions/experiences. This may be combined with others to form a video feature. The Washington Post’s ‘Being a Black Man‘ is one example of such video being integrated with a multimedia interactive.
  • Edited narrative. This is essentially a replication of the TV documentary or package, but in (generally) shorter form. The Exeter Express & Echo seem to have the right idea here, going out onto the streets to talk to (gasp) people (one student commented that the story itself would have been much duller in print), although they also do…
  • TV show/vodcast. Again, this is replicating broadcast techniques and is generally the most redundant type of online video. Rocketboom is an example of it done well (most likely because they are not coming from a print or broadcast organisation, but are online-only). The Daily Telegraph do it with their Business Daily, as do many local newspapers, including the Bolton News and Manchester Evening News. For advertising sales departments, it’s a useful way of tapping into TV advertising budgets, but for readers it’s redundant compared to searchable, scannable web text. Its only real use is for readers who want to download a video bulletin to watch on the move (vodcast), so why do so many newspapers force users to stream it? Control, control, control.

When should a journalist turn to the video camera?

When it adds value, Calver says. When the moving images contribute something that couldn’t be conveyed any other way. Interviews, for instance, can be done quite adequately in print or audio and may, in fact, be less interesting on video – unless the interviewee’s facial expressions are significant enough to be essential (the shifty politician, for instance), or there are visual tools to be used.

A couple of faux statistics emphasise the importance of thinking creatively about your filming: “People get bored after – what is it? Eleven, twelve seconds of an image being on screen? And they say 80% of information is not from the words people hear but from the images they are seeing. So you need to film movement, film the subject working at their computer, entering the office, etcetera, for cutaways” (these are cliches, so more creative options would be even better).

“Make sure you have enough pictures to cover the story too. You often see stories on news channels where they’re repeating the same images – a train on an embankment; waves crashing on a beached ship – over and over again because they didn’t get enough images.”

The Blog Effect

Bob agreed that blogs have influenced video journalism online so that the journalist themselves becomes an ingredient of the story. Since journalism became a conversation “part of that is who you’re talking to – what are they like, how are they dressed”, and video journalism allows you to include those signals. Rocketbom is a good example of how the medium has taken on vlog conventions; ze Frank is an example of those vlogger tricks (quick editing, user contributed content, jump cuts) and quite simply a vlogger par excellence. When I showed one of his vlogs to my students yesterday one asked “Can we watch another one?”