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August 01, 2008

Rethinking Your Editorial/ Publishing Workflow

One of the problems I've encountered in working with our clients on digital strategy is that many try to impose the same old workflow patterns they're currently using for broadcast or print.

For example, once a story gets published in a newspaper, that's typically the end. There may be a follow-up, or some letters to the editor. Otherwise, the story - at least in print - gets retired.

In the digital world, things don't happen in such a confined, linear way. Stories online, once published, continue to live. That's partially because with each new link to the story, there's boundless possibility for commentary, feedback, and additional stories based on what originally appeared. It's also because the story becomes part of a broader discussion, whether it happens via Twitter or on someone's blog or even (hopefully!) within the comment sections on your news org's site.

Those producing digital content need to change their workflow habits. Reporters need to get in the habit of multifaceted story development. They should offer hyperlinks and contextual/ related information - not the copy desk. Editors and producers need to feel comfortable adding information as the day progresses, even adding in more hyperlinks or other information long after a story has been published.

Below is our suggested workflow for online editorial content. You'll notice that part of digital content production includes a discussion with your advertising team, a step to republish your content across multiple channels and platforms, and creating meaningful ongoing conversations with your local community. I'm willing to bet that your newsroom is currently doing only half of what's below - and that's on a good day. You'll see that there's no real beginning or end. That's because digital content production is an ongoing process involving folks inside - and outside - your newsroom.

Print this out, bring it to your next managers meeting and start re-thinking how you're going about content development. And please keep in mind we're strategists and coders here at MyDigiMedia- not artists.

 

April 24, 2008

Old-school "convergence" again? Why bother?

I'm trying hard to understand why the Star Tribune in Minneapolis is bothering to build an in-house TV studio. They're planning to call it StribTV, and it appears that reporters will cover topics already in the newspaper for quick standups and for other longer videos. Content will be available on-demand.

I haven't seen a real newspaper-to-streaming-newscast success story yet, at least not beyond the Studio55 project at the Naples Daily News, which basically looks and feels like a regular television morning news broadcast and not necessarily an interactive web video experience. There are individual examples of how to make compelling video - David Pogue at the Times, Dana Milbank at the Post - but I'm wondering what will make StribTV stand out.

In a memo to her staff, Editor Nancy Barns asked for help:

Some of you will (very soon) be tapped to produce content for Strib TV; certain content is a natural fit. However, we also will need people to host the shows, and read our newscast. If you think you have a voice and or a presence on camera, here's your chance to shine. We haven't determined exactly how we are going to audition people, but we are asking for names of people who would be interested. This is open to anyone in the newsroom, or in the company. Email Will Tacy or Cory Powell if you are interested.

I'm all for getting in the sandbox. I firmly believe that every journalist should play with all the digital media available and that they should feel empowered to take advantage of new publishing tools.

But auditioning print folks for on-camera reporter spots? Here's another example of adapting technology - in this case, video distribution via the web - but not adjusting personnel to meet the new challenges of your project. Why not find folks who've produced video for the web and use them? The Minneapolis/ St. Paul area is gigantic - surely there are some talented multimedia people who understand the nature of digital video? If StribTV must be staffed by reporters in the newsroom, then they're going to need lots of training. And I'm not talking about how to operate a camera or even how to make your voice sound great on camera.

It's not about reading the newscast or trying to fill space with commentary. It's about creating content that makes sense on the web and not duplicating what's already being done by your local network affiliate. That takes real creativity. And ultimately, it means approaching the web with a digital perspective first, not the perspective of a print journalist who's trying to play catchup.

My hope is that StribTV succeeds and sets a new example for other print-based publications to follow. But it doesn't sound promising.

December 07, 2007

2007: The Year of Online Video (Part Two)

I've described this list in the post below. Please have a look at that for more information. This list isn't meant to be comprehensive, but instead a great way for newsrooms to get started with video...

VIDEO AGGREGATORS



Video aggregator, posting the best of what's currently on Revver.com, a user-gen video site. Requries Quicktime to play.

Magnify.net is a platform allows users to aggregate video from YouTube, Google, Yahoo! and others. Lots of social networking tools as well.

Splashcast.net is an aggregator that allows users to create channels to view offerings online. See more here.

AJAX-based app that enables users to download streaming video content from YouTube and Google Video. Requires Flash video player to view downloads.

 

 

VIDEO PLAYERS

VLC Media Player is an easy-to-use, cross-platform multimedia player. Works beautifully on virtually any operating system.

 

MythTV is a Linux-based open source tool that allows you to watch TV using a tuner card. Sort of like TiVO for your home computer.

 

 

VIDEO EDITING

Windows Movie Maker comes free with the Windows operating system, which means that if you're using a PC you already have it installed. Easy to create photo-audio slideshows and basic video.

iMovie is part of the iLife suite on a Mac, however strive to find and use the '06 version. The recent update (iLife '08) is among the absolute worst I've ever seen - the new program lacks the features and power of the original. (Don't worry - if you've installed the update, you still have iMovie '06 on your machine.)

There are other video editing tools: Nero, Adobe Premier, Pinnacle Studio, PowerDirector, Final Cut (Pro, Express), Avid...

 

VIDEO PRODUCTION

Shoot and share videos, limited to one-minute for teh free version. Requires a web cam to use. Pre-shot video cannot be uploaded.

A free service allowing users to shoot and share videos. Currently no limit on time or bandwidth.

Online video service that enables users to record, upload, encure, edit and share their videos. Platform-agnostic web tool that uses Flash video. Videos are limited to five minutes each.

Embed and display clickable tags within an audio or video file. Allows users to create chapters and to embed information - also enables search engines to crawl video content.

 


Syncro allows users to add lots of elements to online video: ads, external links, images, navigation, menus, tags, etc. (Free trial, but this is a white-label service.)

 

VIDEO HOSTING

Blip.tv is a popular vlogging and podcasting service. Free, and includes unlimited (for now) hosting.

 

Brightcove is an enterprise-level web video service that offers social networking tools, hosting, advertising possibilities and more.

 

Hosting service that also allows users to share video via blog accounts and mobile devices (iPod). Right now, the service is in Alpha, and users are given a year of free basic service with unlimited bandwidth and 100MB of storage.

Hosting service for multimedia files. Uses Flash to encode and distribute.

Hosting company, allows users to share videos via email. Long-term storage options available.

 

Similar to YouTube, however it also allows for downloads to various devices. Premium content is priced starting at $0.99.

 

Hosting service that also includes a playlist system. The unreleased white label version is supposed to support hi-res video once it launches.

 

Link hosted media to your site or create online storage for your own video files via channels. White label private channels are available as well.

 

Upload, edit and host videos. Also allows for mashups. Various pricing plans available, however there is a free version (maximum of 5 hours of video or 500 photos).

 

YouTube is the now ubiquitous video hosting/ social network site owned by Google.

 

Hosted streaming video service offering user-generated content only. Limited to 100MB per video.

 

Hosting site. Free for small files, however files more than 10MB require registration. Primarily a user-generated video/ community site.

 

 

VIDEO SHARING

P2P platform for users and publishers to share content. Requires that you download the Azureus client.

Transmission is a multiplatform, opensource BitTorrent client (for Mac). Easy to use and free.

Aggregator sites to look for files: Torrentz, IsoHunt.

 

Download legal copies of movies to a variety of devices. Part of the Starz Entertainment (cable) network. Attempting to compete with Netflix and iTunes.

Important note: My company, MyDigiMediaGroup LLC, its partners and I remain vendor-neutral. This list is intended to provide information for journalists and others seeking to learn more about online video.

November 20, 2007

Hulu.com Launches in Beta

In the past month or so since I've been out, Hulu.com, the joint NBC Universal/ News Corp. venture, has launched in private beta. I'd really, really hoped that Hulu was just a code name for something more cutting-edge. I'd fully prepared to play with Hulu for a while and then make some snide comment comparing the silly name to a silly presentation or content...

...and I can't. Hulu ain't half bad.

But it's also not half as good as it could be.

Last March, the two companies announced the site, which at the time, still had no name. The best of prime-time TV as well as other original and vintage programming was meant to be made available for streaming.

From the original press release:

“This is a game changer for Internet video,” said Peter Chernin, President and Chief Operating Officer of News Corporation. “We’ll have access to just about the entire U.S. Internet audience at launch. And for the first time, consumers will get what they want -- professionally produced video delivered on the sites where they live. We’re excited about the potential for this alliance and we’re looking forward to working with any content provider or distributor who wants to take advantage of this extraordinary opportunity.”

“Anyone who believes in the value of ubiquitous distribution will find this announcement incredibly exciting,” said Jeff Zucker, President and CEO of NBC Universal. “This venture supercharges our distribution of protected, quality content to fans everywhere. Consumers get a hugely attractive aggregation of a wide range of content, and marketers get a novel way to connect with a large and highly engaged audience.”

I don't know if News Corp has so far delivered on what Chernin predicted ahead of Hulu's launch: Much of the video currently available doesn't interest me all that much. I'm not seeing a wide variety of content yet - that may change, obviously - and the interface doesn't exactly motivate me to share my thoughts with others using the site.

On the other hand, there's little interfering with the video presentation. Blinking ads aren't competing for my attention, and the interface is really, really clean.

I decided to watch some old episodes of St. Elsewhere, one of my favorite shows growing up. The streaming quality was quite good - no interruptions, no hiccups even. As promised, there were very limited commercial interruptions. I think that I counted less than 10 seconds total devoted to Nissan, the program stream's sponsor. At the bottom of the screen were two thumbnail rows: one showed other St. Elsewhere episodes I could stream, the other offered digital video clips and episodes of other shows it categorized as "related videos."

The related content section is useless. No matter which St. Elsewhere episode I selected, the related videos shown included Prison Break, Bionic Woman, and, inexplicably, Season 15 Episode 2438 of the Conan O'Brian show with John Krasinski of The Office. Hard to tell if certain NBC content is being pushed on me because of some promo or if the site isn't exactly working yet...

The video player is lackluster - I'd expected something with more features and pizzazz. Instead, it reminds me of a very basic Flash video overlay. Nothing compared to what Fora.tv launched a year ago.

Here's what I think Hulu has going for it:

  • unobtrusive advertising
  • a clean and easy to use interface
  • a personal playlist that actually works
  • decent (though not as comprehensive as I'd like) notes and information on each episode
  • a good-enough-for-now search system that allows users to browse by most of the Netflix categories

What's lacking? All of the things I love about Netflix: the ability to really search, social networking a la LinkedIn, a system that "learns" more about me as I rate and rank movies, etc. To me, Hulu looks a lot like a streaming version of what Netflix used to be. With $100 million in initial financing from Providence Equity Partners and the backing of two massive media organizations, I'd expected something...more.

Kara Swisher has more on the viability of Internet-only programming at All Things Digital. CNET says that Hulu has "nailed the basics" but that "the site featured a bare bones look, just a laundry list of show titles and thumbnails. Click on a link and a video player appears. Below the player are links to other recent episodes. Right off the bat, I felt myself wishing they offered shows from previous seasons. If you've never watched Heroes before, a show with lots of characters and subplots, good luck trying to get caught up on Hulu.com."

I particularly like Christopher Breen's take on Hulu (to be sure, he's extremely pro-iTunes): "You’ve heard of this iPod thing, right? The device that lets you take your media with you? Completely useless for Hulu content because that content is not portable. You can’t download it and therefore can’t put it on your iPod. I’m as nostalgic as the next guy but being forced to enjoy content on a device tied to an electrical outlet and Internet connection is so Three’s Company."

As journalism continues moving into the web video arena, I think it would be best to pay close attention to what the media giants are wrestling with now. How users respond to Hulu (and Netflix and all the other sites) should ultimately help to inform the decisions your newsroom makes...

 

 

October 04, 2007

ABC News Takes the Plunge: One-Man Bureaus

Very glad to hear that ABC News is creating one-man bureaus in seven cities around the world. It's about time. This will give the network a broader base of reporters and allow greater coverage without breaking the bank. And hell, it's a smarter way to distribute resources... Folks will act as their own producers, bookers and reporters.

It's easier to collect multimedia reporting now than ever before. Consumers demand news and information from all over, not just their immediate communities. And many broadcast news orgs just don't have the capital to support offices with lots of staff filing glossy, two-minute stand-ups once or twice a week. Not when a local citizen with a handheld digi-cam can capture breaking news out of Burma, for example, and file it to YouTube.

Marcus Wilford, London bureau chief for ABC News, spearheaded these changes and worked on the plan while at the Punch Sulzberger Executive News Leadership Program at Columbia. (Full disclosure: I'm a consultant/ trainer for the program and learned about the new one-man bureaus earlier in the summer.)

Not everyone is so thrilled with the idea of morphing large, centrally-located staffing operations into smaller offices throughout the world. See Broadcasting & Cable, Hollywood Reporter, comments at Lost Remote...

I'm wondering why, with the available technology and demands for Internet-distributed video, some are arguing that this isn't a good idea.

September 05, 2007

Hulu.com, iTunes vs. Amazon and the Race to Distribute Video Online

Here was my original theory: NBC Universal and News Corp., at long last, released the name of the video distribution service announced back in March. It's called Hulu.com, and it's still in private beta for now. Partners also include Microsoft, AOL, Yahoo and MySpace (part of News Corp.). I'd thought that at some point, NBC would pull its content from iTunes, distribute it via the new service and match or undercut iTunes' $1.99-per-episode model.

From the original press release:

“This is a game changer for Internet video,” said Peter Chernin, President and Chief Operating Officer of News Corporation. “We’ll have access to just about the entire U.S. Internet audience at launch. And for the first time, consumers will get what they want -- professionally produced video delivered on the sites where they live. We’re excited about the potential for this alliance and we’re looking forward to working with any content provider or distributor who wants to take advantage of this extraordinary opportunity.”

“Anyone who believes in the value of ubiquitous distribution will find this announcement incredibly exciting,” said Jeff Zucker, President and CEO of NBC Universal. “This venture supercharges our distribution of protected, quality content to fans everywhere. Consumers get a hugely attractive aggregation of a wide range of content, and marketers get a novel way to connect with a large and highly engaged audience.”

And today, I read that NBC Universal will sell episodes on Amazon's Unbox instead. (Hadn't heard of Unbox? You're not alone.) Same basic pricing structure ($1.99 for TV episodes, $7.99+ for movies).

So what of Hulu? Aside from the wildly bizarre, market-inappropriate name, I see another problem: Video content on Hulu will be...wait for it...monetized solely through advertising. This, after early backlash against the embedded ad overlays on YouTube videos and after developers quickly created software to block them.

Here's my new theory: Sometime in the very near future, news consumers are going to demand ad-free content. In a sense, they already are. Recent studies point to widespread ad aversion. As a consumer myself, I can tell you that last fall I decided not to visit the Philadelphia Inquirer's website, philly.com, anymore because of a horrible, inexplicable bouncing jack-o-lantern that forced me to chase it with my mouse and click on a tiny-tiny "x" in order to make the damn ad go away. And let's not forget the Free Porn ads that ran...

In the end, it is advertising that made me a paid subscriber to many of the sites I visit regularly...or permanently drove me away from the sites that didn't offer me the opportunity to pay a set price for an ad-free experience. I consume a huge amount of digital content, and I'm still spending less than $20 a month in total. If it meant I'd get an episode of South Park with absolutely no interruption or embedded ads, I'd be more than happy to contribute a buck or two to a distributor. I'd definitely pay a yearly subscription to get access to Wait Wait, Don't Tell Me and all the other NPR podcasts I download regularly. Same goes for newsprint online.

I mentioned in an earlier post that a graduate class I'm teaching now will explore alternative ways of distributing content using a model that doesn't rely solely on advertising support. I believe strongly that journalistic content can itself be monetized. If the content is compelling and seen as a public necessity, then folks will likely be willing to buy it. They still plunk down a dollar for their local newspaper, right?

 

July 31, 2007

Convergence, Again...

From this morning's wires:

The New York Times announced it will collaborate with MSNBC.com/ NBC News to cover the 2008 presidential election. The Times will share national print content with the MSNBC site, and in return, NYTimes.com will run NBC political video coverage on its website. (via AP) Read the release

And the UK-based Financial Times is searching for a multimedia partner. Says Marjorie Scardino, chief exec at the Times' parent company Pearson, "we're talking to all sorts of people about different distribution channels." Possibilities include CNBC. (via IHT via NYT)

Maybe journalism will get convergence right this time around... The problem in the 90s was in distribution. Newspaper stories - especially long, investigative pieces - don't translate well to the 15-second soundbite platform on our local nightly newscasts. And video content didn't seem transferrable to a print product.

The Internet changes things. Bring the best of a paper's content and the best of a local news station to the web and we might find an ideal, meta-info site.

Also see:

  • Interesting story by Chris Gabettas about convergence in Tampa at the RTNDA site.
  • A warning - and call to arms - from Vin Crosbie back in 2004
  • The API's searchable media convergence tracker

 

June 14, 2007

NAHJ: Digital Revolution

I'm at the opening Plenary session: The Digital Revolution. Speaking are George Lewis (NBC), Meredith Artley (VP and Exec. Editor, LATimes.com), Josh Cohen (biz product manager for Google), Shermaze Ingram (spokesperson for the NAB DTV Transition Team), Liz Lufkin (Yahoo), Susan Gonzolas (Comcast) and Randy Stearns (East Coast deputy editor for MSNBC).

George Lewis started by showing us a piece he did 15 years ago about the then-new San Jose Mercury project to put archived and new newspaper content online. Showed a US News screen dowloading...took several minutes. We all got a chuckle - the change has been dramatic these past years. I've forgotten what it was like before. (Hoping that I'll find a copy of the clip or that George will make it available on the web - it's a must watch for everyone.)

MA: Everyone is still producing online news as if they're writing for a paper. Reporters should start to gather news as if they were producing for the web first. Stories shouldn't just be updated, instead, why not blog?

This is so refreshing...first, I'm more than excited to see an exec position within a major media .com staff go to a woman (Artley is newly hired). Second, it absolutely makes sense to blog breaking news events rather than writing a traditional news story. Why aren't more msm outlets doing this?

See the LATimes.com breaking news blog (fire entries)...

GL: If the new media puts the old media out of work, where will Google get its content?

JC: Simply putting up print on to the web isn't a smart digital strategy. Same goes for video. It's no the best format to stream a half hour of a newscast. Figuring out what works best for print, for images, for video needs to be part of a editorial digital strategy.

I think that George makes a very strong point - as much as I think the new tools and content production opportunities are important, aggregators don't work without content. And until bots can gather and create that for us, we're going to need good, human reporters and editors...

SG: Everyone should tell people about DTV, let minority communities know about gov't-issued vouchers for the converter boxes for their analog TV sets. The people who need vouchers won't be on Google and Yahoo to learn that analog TVs will go dark in 2009.

The last two speakers are talking about the switch from analog to digital television...kind of disjointed, given the previous speakers. I didn't know there was a voucher system.

We're back to journalism now...

RS: It comes down to content. People are hungry for the information, they just want it in different formats...

GS: Are we going to be eating junk food journalism, since people can now pick and choose?

JC: Newspapers were the core of the local community before. Classified ads, everything that comes with the community were a part of that. What's behind Google news is that peole want to be exposed to news from different sources. Yes, they'll search for Paris Hilton, but there are people who are digging much deeper into a variety of sources that may not have been able to with jus ta newspaper. At Google, we're presenting a variety of sources. We're not trying to force feed people. Users should be part of the process.

I really wish that Josh could be telling us about some of what Google's working on...wish that he would also address Street View and how that may or may not impact journalism. Same goes for video and how some newspapers are throwing their video up on YouTube.

RS now says that we (journalists) need to pay attention to data:

RS: If you take away hard news, people get upset. The big drivers at MSNBC are breaking news stories. People get tired of overplaying certain stories (re: Anna Nicole Smith). People continue to care about news because they can go so much deeper to get information.

SG: Content is driven by demand. Comcast has a portal online as well as cable because the public demands content. There's an opportunity for growth...with so many different sources, one story has the opportunity to get your name out there as a journalist.

MA just said that the LATimes.com has been meeting with consultants and wireless providers and that they'll be rolling out mobile content and other mobile services in the very short future. She says that mobile right now is the web of 1993. Amen!

I'm uploading an mp3 of the panel right now ... speed is a little slow. As soon as it finishes I'll post if for download/ streaming.

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June 06, 2007

Shift Happens: Networks opting for widgets

Clearspring is expected to announce that it has been chosen by NBC to be the sole provider of widgets from now on. What is Clearspring and what does this mean for journalism?

Clearspring is a cross-platform widget service based in Arlington, and counts ex-AOL staffers as top management. The theory is that content can be syndicated and monetized in a much more efficient way using a widget rather than a stand-alone dynamic site. I've covered this issue in the past, showing how widgets can be used effictively for advertising, to make a site stickier, to engage users from their desktop and to enable widespread viral marketing in order to increase audience loyalty and site traffic.

The deal with NBC comes just as the company is set to launch a new social site this month. Since early spring, NBC has been saying that it intends to launch "the NBC.com social network, allowing all of our fans to connect with each other and interact with our shows in exciting new ways." Features are set to include personalized profiles, video and photo galleries, blogs, groups, message boards and...yes...widgets.


Clearspring widget for the NBA.

No word yet on what exactly the widgets will do, but Clearspring founder Hooman Radfar explained why widgets are now so important to traditional media on Read/WriteWeb:

...he emphasized the shift he is observing in media companies. He says that these giants are recognizing that broadcasting/silo approach is not going to work for much longer. Instead, the companies are looking for platforms and channels to access the users, to get people's attention anywhere online (this is something NBC rival CBS has also been doing -- in fact, CBS is another Clearspring partner). And this is where Clearspring comes in.

When NBC starts building on Clearspring's platform, it will get a solid platform for delivering widgets to both its internal sites and anywhere else online. The scalability of Clearspring platform has probably been the first major factor in choosing to work with the startup. The second major factor was probably comprehensive metrics. According to Radfar, these metrics are critical in order to be able to monetize the content outside of the typical network portal environment. He explained that context and user interaction numbers will help NBC determine the right monetization model.

I have to absolutely agree. Again, it isn't a particular platform that we crave. It's information - and our unfettered ability to get it, process it, share it and contribute it on our own.

As a side note, CBS has aquired streaming music service last.fm and NBC is making a move towards greater platform diversification. Makes me wonder where FOX and ABC stand...

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May 08, 2007

Fora.tv - Finally, a good web video model.

Yesterday, Russ Roberts introduced me to Fora.tv, an exciting still-in-beta information resource. To be frank, the site blows me away.

Fora aggregates video from a variety of sources (World Affairs Council, Hoover Instruction, C-SPAN, Heritage Foundation, Politics + Prose, Council on Foreign Relations...) and enables you to search based on institution, subject or person. For example, I typed in "poverty" and the search yielded more than 60 videos, including:

  • James Manor talking about third world countries at the U of London
  • John Edwards stumping in front of the South Carolina Democratic Party
  • Mayor Ray Nagin talking about how Hurricane Katrina has ravaged the economy of New Orleans

I selected the Nagin video, originally from C-SPAN, which includes a descriptive introduction:

Mayor Ray Nagin
National Association of Black Journalists - Indianapolis, IN

News Coverage of Hurricane Katrina

New Orleans Mayor C. Ray Nagin speaks about devastation to New Orleans created by Hurricane Katrina and on-going recovery and reconstruction efforts in the city. Prior to his remarks a panel of award-winning journalists and officials who were in New Orleans and South Mississippi during and after Hurricane Katrina speak about their experience covering the storm and the societal issues the storm uncovered. The discussion was moderated by Michelle Norris.

Video launches in the Fora player, which so far, carries no ads. It's not the video that compels me, it's the options available in the player. I have the ability to share and get code to embed the video on my site...but I can also visit a forum where people are discussing the video. I can view links related to the topic and speaker. I can view a transcript! There are chapter markers allowing me to skip ahead or to review particular content. The list goes on and on.

 

I'm typically not a proponent of web video - most of what I've seen on news sites isn't produced well, or isn't carried by enough bandwidth or seems superfluous.

This is a model that resonates with me. It aggregates rather than strives to create original content, which for many reasons is a winning model. It provides rich supplementary material related to the topic and/or guest, making this an effective site for research. It enables sharing and viral marketability and never loses its branding.

If I had any complaint, it would be that the font is too small - but I'm willing to deal with a little eye strain to get access to all that's on Fora. On the site, Fora is also soliciting for freelance videographers to record events...I'm hoping that Fora doesn't try to turn itself into a newsgathering outfit, because it's done a tremendous job of aggregation. Also looks like Fora is about to accept "sponsorships" for video feeds - I'm not sure how that would work, redistributing content from a public source with an outside ad attached.

For now, the site is near-perfect as is. I'd encourage those publishers eager to launch video on their news sites to have a look.

April 01, 2007

Multimedia Highlight: A tale of two Planets Earth

Here's a tale of two multimedia projects and a rare glimpse into how the exact same copy can render in two completely different ways.

The subject? Planet Earth, the new(ish) series on Discovery. We've been TiVoing it because we never seem to be home when shows originally broadcast. I'll say this right off the bat: the footage is stunning. Amazing. Memorizing.

Planet Earth is an 11-episode series, coproduced by the BBC and Discovery Channel. It took five years and millions of dollars to create. Monday night we watched a snow leopard that was captured in the wild for the very first time. Then we watched strange and beautiful fish living in the deep ocean. Sigourney Weaver is narrating, and the whole bloody thing is shot in high-def.

The series has been touted as a "multimedia experience," so naturally I was looking forward to the same level of innovation online.

I went first to the BBC's site, and I got most of what I expected. I often say that the BBC has the best online news site in the world, and Planet Earth certainly reflects that. There are interactive maps, lots of background on animals - the breadth of information is as fierce as the leopards we saw on the show. My only disappointment came when I realized that some of the streaming video is restricted to UK visitors only because of bandwidth allocations and because the BBC is funded as a public trust.

I went to the US site next, and I was completely blown away by the opening screen. It's gorgeous with what seems like pages and pages of content. The interface is slick, and I instantly thought I'd be spending the next several hours exploring Planet Earth digital.

Then I started clicking. That stunning landing page is just a cover - all of the other pages are disjointed and designed to fit with the main Discovery page templates. The experience reminded me of walking into a bakery because of a rich, delicious smell...only to take a bite into a disappointing, subpar baguette.

Interesting, though, that both sites had the same content to work with - and finished with dramatically different results.

Seed Newsvine

March 29, 2007

Weather Or Not: How to increase your web traffic

A report this morning from Nielsen//NetRatings shows that 15.4 million unique visitors came to TV station sites hosted by Internet Broadcasting last month, setting a new record for the company. This is a 12% increase from January, which held the previous high.

Internet Broadcasting is the largest publisher of local news for broadcast affiliates and serves such sites as NBC10.com in Philadelphia, NBC4.com in D.C. and Telemundo47.com in New York. This company provides both a content management system and content to populate local TV web sites. I know that in many cases, sites are populated by an IB employee and not a journalist hired by the local affiliate.

What's behind the spike? IB says the weather. Users are visiting these TV sites for meterologist blogs, where they can get immediate, interactive information from their local weatherpeople and comment directly back to them. As part of the weather blog microsites, many of IB's stations also solicit and publish user-generated photos and videos during storms.

This absolutely dumbfounds me. I lived in Philadelphia for three years and was always surprised at the amount of local air time devoted to storm coverage. I'm from Chicago. We're no strangers to snow storms, tornados and record heat -- sometimes all in the same week. And yet in Philly, I remember watching a nightly newscast devoted almost entierly to Glenn "Hurricane" Schwartz's announcement of the impending weather apocalypse.

On the NBC10.com site, the weather plays a very prominent role: forecase, news, media, features, blogs, and plenty of user generated content.

Now here's the kicker. I think that a lot of publishers and editors think they know what users want: lengthy, heady stories about political corruption, videos of community events. More white space. Less clutter.

The top-ranked websites in terms of traffic continue to be search engines/ aggregators and social networking sites. Of the top 25, only four differ: Microsoft (#15), CNN.com (#16), Mapquest (#24) and...wait for it...Weather.com (#23).

Maybe all we really want is a good search platform and the ability to know what it's like outside while we sit in our windowless offices.

More on this issue:
WeatherBug from Steve Rubel's Micro Persuasion
Weather-o-Rama from the American Press Institute

Seed Newsvine

March 22, 2007

News Corp./ NBCU Internet Video Service Just Announced

News Corp. and NBC Universal just announced a new online video sharing service to meant to challenge GooTube for visitors and, ultimately, advertising.

Initially the service, which has yet to be naned, will be stocked with TV shows and movies, and users will be able to modify and share clips with others registered with the service. It's slated to launch this summer.

From the announcement:

“This is a game changer for Internet video,” said Peter Chernin, President and Chief Operating Officer of News Corporation. “We’ll have access to just about the entire U.S. Internet audience at launch. And for the first time, consumers will get what they want -- professionally produced video delivered on the sites where they live. We’re excited about the potential for this alliance and we’re looking forward to working with any content provider or distributor who wants to take advantage of this extraordinary opportunity.”

“Anyone who believes in the value of ubiquitous distribution will find this announcement incredibly exciting,” said Jeff Zucker, President and CEO of NBC Universal. “This venture supercharges our distribution of protected, quality content to fans everywhere. Consumers get a hugely attractive aggregation of a wide range of content, and marketers get a novel way to connect with a large and highly engaged audience.”

This is big news, because News Corp and NBCU have established relationships with Yahoo and Microsoft, and will now be able to feed content directly into AOL and MySpace. Together, this massively multiplayer multimedia partnership claims 96% of the monthly U.S. uniques on the Internet.

At the same time, last week Viacom, Inc., which owns MTV and a host of other networks, slammed YouTube with a $1 billion lawsuit for unauthorized distribution of copyrighted material.

And yet, I think that GooTube will succeed. I pray that you read the following carefully.

Young people are ad averse. The reason for YouTube's extreme populatiry is because of its open nature. People can upload, mash, share and explore video, for the first time, without real control or barriers to entry. It's not just that we want to watch sitcoms online. For God's sake, most of what's available is hard enough to watch on a TV set that doesn't depend on bandwidth or a fast Internet connection.

I'm not going to watch Borat or 24 on my computer as streaming video unless I'm on my T3 at home. And I probably won't even do it then. (To be fair, our house has a killer home theater with a movie screen that's 10 feet wide.)

I may be premature in saying this, but I don't think the News Corp./ NBCU streaming service will necessarily succeed or proliferate in a way that challenges YouTube.

Parental control hasn't been a proven method to herd youth in the past. Control + advertising might equal avoidance, but I might be wrong...

Read what folks are saying at Bloomberg, Reuters, Forbes (but you'll have to suffer through the ad first).

Seed Newsvine

March 08, 2007

Citizen Journalism: Here's what I know about Chris Noth

I'm writing this from the window seat of a plane, en route to Chicago. While I was standing on line back at the terminal, a man who looked enough like Christopher Noth to make me stare uncontrollably, boarded the flight. And as luck would have it, I wound up sitting right next to him. (Seriously, he's reading a copy of USA Today right now - I'm watching him!) This is a situation, a Mr. Big Moment!

It's now been an hour, and the flight attendand came by to ask what we'd like to drink. His order, for a decaf coffee with a little water added and also milk which she should add because we've hit a skosh of turbulence and he has a very important meeting, led me to determine three things. First, and perhaps most importantly, this guy ain't Chris Noth. Secondly, a pair of Coach sunglasses and shiny leather bag do not a savvy businessman make.

The third thing I realized is this: the Internet is the great equalizer. That because of this medium, my children may never have their own Mr. Big Moment. Let me explain how I arrived at this point...and I promise, what I'm arguing will also impact journalism.

I'm fascinated with Chris Noth, partially because I'm attracted to him, partially because I associate him with the role he played on Sex in the City. And so I'll often sit through TV shows or movies featuring him but that aren't particularly good. Same goes for Clive Owen (my crush happened in "Closer"), the guy starring in "300" (because he reminds me of Clive Owen) and Rufus Sewell, a tremendous U.K.-based actor who America has yet to really discover.

I've seen these men with and without their clothes, in cineplexes and in my home theater. They're special because I've seen them on a big screen, and only a fraction of people ever appear in larger than life like that. My friends and family recognize these men, their images, their names...Chirs, Clive and Rufus...so they're Big in real life.

And yet I mistook the guy next to me for one of them.

Before the Internet, they only way to cultivate that kind of celebrity - because there were only a few, unattainable venues like theaters and televisions - was to appear in a movie. And now we have inexpensive video cameras and digital recording devices. We can upload video without really having any programming skills. We can spread that video virally without spending a penny, and ensure that millions of people around the world will see us.

I wrote yesterday about Paltalk, and I just can't stop thinking about the myriad ways in which we collect and perceive information is about to dramatically change.

There's nothing preventing the guy next to me from crafting a sitcom-style program and launching it on YouTube except, perhaps, for his whiny voice and drink ordering fetish. (On the other hand, Meg Ryan made a mint...) Hell, enough people appear to be watching network shows, 90% of which I think we'll all agree are terrible. So why not him?

And so let's say that he does launch a show, something akin to Lonelygirl15's YouTube adventures except with a more straightforward plot. And let's say that the show is uploaded to YouTube and that he also keeps a blog, a sort of personal diary, about the show. The blog and show are tagged and spread around the web using Slide, Stumble Upon, bebo.

Now, this average guy is suddenly a celebrity, recognized for real in the airport. And maybe people start mistaking Chris Noth for him.

Unlike filmmaking, which costs a lot of money and requires deals and relationships to get a movie produced, distributed and ultimately seen by people, there are no barriers to entry in the digital world, save for a few hundred bucks to buy equipment and the ability to think creatively. And so now there are movie star doppelgangers running all over cyberspace.

But when something unattainable and special becomes ubiquitous, it becomes ordinary. With all this access to both produce and receive media, won't the playing field eventually equal out? Sure, fantastically talented or attractive people will always command more widespread attention than others, but the field itself will be larger than ever before, with limitless players and possibilities.

Barriers are falling down everywhere. Some companies, such as Anheuser-Busch, are already taking advantage of this. I'm referencing bud.tv, which so far has been a commercial success. You already know my feelings about Paltalk.

Now consider the career trajectories of the men behind PerezHilton and Daily Kos. Neither Entertainment Weekly nor People magazine was banging down Mario Armando Lavandeira Jr.'s door asking him to report for them. Markos Moulitsas was a consultant, not a Woodward or even a Bernstein for the Washington Post.

We're still in the early stages of this media transition, but I'm starting to believe that as services and access become more widespread - and it may take a generation or so - more people than probably should will become content providers.

That brings me to journalism. There are more publications right now than any point of our global history, if you include blogs and websites. Enough people understand the basic way you craft a story: call a source up, ask him a few questions, call another source up, ask a few questions, repeat. Check notes, write story, repeat. Check facts. Publish.

Journalism's silver screen is gone, and gone forever. Yes, most people look to recognizable brands such as the New York Times and Washington Post for news. But more people, especially millennials, are open to PerezHilton and Daily Kos and the thousands of other topic-specific blogs out there. Citizen journalists have access to people, companies, government sources, etc. to do their reporting.

Will the old cache journalism once held evaporate? Working for Newsweek, I'd make a call for an interview and was never, ever told no, because, well, it was Newsweek. I can't say that 10 years ago I had the same success writing for Japan, Inc. Magazine.

My perception, even as a journalist, has changed. If the New York Times called me up wanting an interview on digital media, I'd be pretty stoked. But if I got an email from Michael Arrington or someone from Boing Boing...that would knock my socks off.

Seed Newsvine

March 07, 2007

Paltalk: The world's largest chatroom you've probably never heard of

Everyone remember when chat rooms first became available? You could sign up and sign on to have inane 10-word conversations with strangers from around the world. I certainly joined in the fray...and quickly learned that when people are offered a no-holds-barred anonymous system of speech, they use the privilege to talk about, what else?, sex.

Enter Paltalk, a Manhattan-based video chat service founded in 1998 that streams live multi-person chats. There are more than four million active members using the online service, and Paltalk World's list of media and advertising partners would make most Web 2.0 companies drool. Using your webcam, you can join in ongoing chats, set up your own private room and even purchase upgrades to ensure a smoother video feed.

If you're a journalist but not covering tech, you may not have heard of Paltalk. The general audience skews young, at least from what I've seen. While businesses and others may be using the service, they're likely doing it privately.

In the past, Paltalk has hosted celebrity sessions featuring folks like the Rev. Jesse Jackson and New York Times best selling author Douglas Preston.

And the latest celeb to join is CNN Radio Bureau Chief Gary Baumgarten, who's left CNN to become Paltalk's Director of News and Programming. The announcement was made this morning.

Wait, you say. I didn't get that. A chat service provider -- not a broadcast news station -- nicked a Peabody Award-winning journalist with 38 years of experience in the field away from CNN?

Yes. And yes.

Baumgarten is going to head the development of original programming on Paltalk and will host News Talk Online, which is a daily interactive program allowing guests and the audience to interact wit heach other. Guests include, and I'm not making this up, Dave Koz, Arianna Huffington, and Kenny Kramer. (Sadly, I can't seem to be able to play archived shows.)

I just don't know what to do with this information. How does someone in media, who's worked within a very confined context and whose industry has always followed a certain paradigm, begin to understand the changes that are afoot?

I teach a class at Temple University about how to report and gather information using Web 2.0 tools. But the curriculum at that school, as it is at all journalism schools around the country, is really based on the idea that trained reporters will go to work for a newspaper, magazine or broadcast station. S/he may work for the online division, but practicing journalism means doing it at one of these places.

Clearly if Baumgarten succeeds in developing news programming and talk show-style interactive shows at Paltalk...and why wouldn't he?...this would represent a true paradigm shift and a cause to rethink our multimedia strategies as journalists. This isn't just some newspaper throwing video up on the web. It's interactive, live news talk allowing guests and users to see and hear each other as well as to use and share websites and other electronic information as part of that show's content. It's a new editorial product, delivered electronically.

Yahoo! has a very active, productive team of journalists. Seven years ago, Yahoo! was simply a search engine that listed categories like News and Culture to help you "surf the Internet." Paltalk is poised to be a serious news content provider. And there are others.

Anyone else feel goosebumps?

Seed Newsvine

March 01, 2007

Says Cuban: "OVERWHELM!" YouTube

Mark Cuban had some interesting comments on how networks are using -- or refusing to use -- user-generated television content. His most recent blog entry references the Oscars, and how its head honchos demanded that YouTube remove videos of the show.

Cuban argues -- and I agree with him completely -- that it would have been smarter for the Oscar folks to upload snippits of content (comedy bits, speeches) themselves and then redirect users back tothe Oscars.com site for the full footage. And not just a few clips here and there, but dozens and dozens of them.

To capture Youtube viewers, the first step would be to OVERWHELM Youtube with partial clips of full length that tease Youtube users and point them to Oscars.com. For this Will Ferrell clip, I would have created a video that showed the first 10 secs of the clip, then had 4 minutes of a billboard that said " Great videos from the Oscars telecast and exclusive behind the scenes videos are all available at Oscars.com"

IN addition to the billboard in the video you would have an active link to Oscars.com on the Youtube video page. I wouldnt post this video 1 time. I would post this video 100 times.

And i would do the same thing for EVERY moment and segment in the Oscars.

According to Comscore, Oscar.com got 139,000 hits on Sunday when the show aired. No word yet on YouTube traffic to video clips of Jack Black/ Will Ferrell or Jennifer Hudson.

(Is it appropriate here to say that, for the love of God, I'm tired of hearing that woman's name?)

Seed Newsvine

Alibris

February 20, 2007

Found: Great web development resource for journalists

Just found the htmlPlayground, a still-in-beta XHTML and CSS reference site. You can click on any tag and it will display what that tag does, what the surrounding code should look like and how you can use that tool on your own website. So far, it's genius - and I think a fantastic tool for journalists working on the web side of their newsrooms who might get stuck once in a while and don't have a code monkey to call for help.

And here's another application: It seems to me that this model, a true interactive dictionary, might be used for certain kinds of reported stories. I could see something like this accompanying a health story, a football story, a local politics story...video could be thrown in, too.


Seed Newsvine

February 14, 2007

100 oldest domains...but where was journalism?

Just found this list of the first 100 domains registered. Have a gander. What do you see missing?

Create date  

Domain name

15-Mar-1985

SYMBOLICS.COM

24-Apr-1985

BBN.COM

24-May-1985

THINK.COM

11-Jul-1985

MCC.COM

30-Sep-1985

DEC.COM

07-Nov-1985

NORTHROP.COM

09-Jan-1986

XEROX.COM

17-Jan-1986

SRI.COM

03-Mar-1986

HP.COM

05-Mar-1986

BELLCORE.COM

19-Mar-1986

IBM.COM

19-Mar-1986

SUN.COM

25-Mar-1986

INTEL.COM

25-Mar-1986

TI.COM

25-Apr-1986

ATT.COM

See the complete list here...


LastMinuteTravel.com

February 13, 2007

YouTube on TV: Tonight's 11 o'clock news

This has started to make the rounds, but in case you missed it...

My friend Karl Martino told me a few days ago that a Clear Channel-owned TV station in Santa Rosa, CA fired its news staff and chucked its business model in favor of citizen content. So if the folks in Santa Rosa want news from now on, they've got to produce it themselves...

November 16, 2006

Paying for Citizen Journalism

So the BBC announced that it will begin paying for some user-generated content.  The Guardian reports this morning on the company's new policy, which says:

"Material is submitted to the BBC under published terms and conditions. These give us a free, non-exclusive licence to publish on any platform, and the person who took the footage/pictures retains copyright.

"However, on very rare occasions where material is particularly editorially important or unique and depicts something of great significance, we may consider making an appropriate payment.

"In newsgathering, journalists should consult their senior editor, before entering any negotiations on payments; in English regions referral should be made to [heads of regional and local programmes] and through heads of news and current affairs in the nations.

"Audiences should not be encouraged to think that payment is the norm, or in any way encouraged to take risks, put themselves in danger or break any laws in order to secure what they perceive to be material of high monetary value."

"In return for payment we may negotiate an assignment of copyright or exclusive rights - but bear in mind that material other than photographs may be copied and used by other news organisations under 'fair dealing'.

"Bear in mind also that under the standard terms the person sending in material generally retains the copyright, so they are free to give or sell their material to others. They may go on to agree an exclusive deal with another outlet, which would in effect terminate their licence to the BBC, and we would not be able to reuse the image, video or audio. We would not have to delete the archive though."

Appears as though BBC is angling to secure exclusive rights to content in exchange for cash.

This is an interesting proposition for two reasons.  First, it would intimate that the content citizens are able to get on the ground is potentially as good or better than what trained journalists might get in the course of their daily work.  If not, why enforce an exclusivity clause?  

Second, it calls into question the entire idea of what we're calling "citizen journalism."  Paying people for their "reporting" makes them freelancers, no?  And it suddenly gives them a financial incentive.  I get the feeling that many citizen jurnos were originally motivated by a sense of civic duty, to uncover information that the mainstream missed (or wouldn't report on).  To now pay folks for information now would change the impetus -- and in my opinion, the outcome of that kind of news-gathering.

August 21, 2006

Tune In to Talk of the Nation...

I'm a guest on today's Talk of the Nation (NPR), which begins airing at 2:00 p.m. EST. Please tune in - more information is available on the NPR site.

August 18, 2006

My Digital Diet: A month without print or broadcast media

In June, I embarked upon a Great Experiment: I went on a strict digital diet, spending 30 days without any form of traditional media. I wanted to know which was more important _ the medium (television, newspaper, magazine, radio) or the information itself. I kept a daily journal of my successes, irritations and failures. The story ran in the Philadelphia Inquirer on Sunday, April 20th.

The Rules:

  • No reading magazines, newspapers, etc.
  • No listening to the radio or watching television. Listening to a broadcast online is OK, as is downloading previously aired television shows.
  • No looking at newspaper stands or boxes.
  • Also, no looking at flyers or copies of print stories.
  • No books, unless they can be read or listened to online.

My story is featred in this Sunday's Philadelphia Inquirer. Below, I've listed some of the tools that I used, websites that I visited and a handful of pictures... NOTE: Please read my disclaimer about my use of Apple products.

The Equipment:

  • Fifteen-inch PowerBook G4 (Mac).
  • G5 with 20-inch cinema display (Mac).
  • BlackBerry 7105t.
  • iPod Photo (30 gigabytes of memory).
  • Canary Wi-Fi Digital Hotspotter (to find open wireless networks).
  • DSL connection at home.
  • T-1 connection at the office.


 

I read most of my news using an RSS aggregator called Bloglines. It delivers headlines and summaries throughout the day from the 27 feeds I subscribe to. I'm also able to access all of my feeds on my BlackBerry, which means that I'm able to stay on top of the news 24 hours a day... or as long as my batteries are powered. Here's what my "digital newspaper" looks like:


Even before the experiment, I typically work on multiple projects at once so I toggle between Bloglines, various websites and Word documents I'm using for work:


Because I was relying primarily on digital sources for information, I was always on the watch for useful sites. Here are some that I continue to use today...

Web 2.0 Search Engines:

Search blogs: http://www.blogdigger.com
Search for specific feeds: http://www.feedster.com
Crawl through discussion forums for information without actually visiting each one: http://www.omgili.com
Search Google and Yahoo at the same time: http://www.gahooyoogle.com

Fantastic News Sites:

BBC
washingtonpost.com

How I Watched TV...

First, a word of caution: There are laws against distributing copyrighted material. I'm not advocating that you start burning copies of your favorite television shows to share them with all of your friends on the Internet.

That said, there are plenty of ways to download or stream broadcast content -- some legal, some questionable.

Legal TV: I downloaded copies of The Office from the iTunes store.

Questionable TV: YouTube is an easy site to search for video files. Sites offering downloadable torrents are also good resources for video files. I've used BitTorrent as my client.

A note to Mac users: I would suggest downloading a copy of VLC, a cross-platform media player that will allow you to view files intended for PC-only applications.

 

 

 

June 30, 2006

Video Feed - norgs + Media Giraffe Project

I was at a really interesting conference yesterday with my colleagues from Philadelphia. The Media Giraffe Project is currently hosting "Democracy & Independence: Sharing News & Information in a Connected World," the first summit conference of The Media Giraffe Project at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst.

From the site:

"Traditional and citizen journalists, political strategists, educators, bloggers, developers, technology and media researchers convenedJune 28-July 1, 2006 at University of Massachusetts Amherst for the first Media Giraffe Project conference. The Media Giraffe Project, a non-partisan, interdisplinary research effort of the UMass journalism program, is hosting the roundtable summit and how-to sessions designed to:

1. Consider and recommend answers to changes to the financing and practice of journalism
2. Bridge the gap between new and traditional media
3. Show and consider the impact of new media technologies on journalism and the "public sphere"
4. Spotlight emerging business models
5. Create new networks of media innovators which bridge traditional carriers among journalism, education, politics and technology
6. Watch and share innovations in media-literacy education."

Part of this conference included a virtual panel discussion by norgs, a Philly-based group of journalists, engineers, programmers and bloggers who are trying to envision what Will Bunch originally called a "news organization of the future."

On our panel were: Wendy Warren (Daily News), Paul Socolar (Philadelphia Public School Notebook), Karl Martino (PhillyFuture.org and Comcast), Carl Lavin (Inquirer), Chris Krewson (Allentown Morning Call) and me.

We talked a lot about the fate of Philadelphia's newspapers and about how to implement multimedia strategies in the newsroom. Here's the Quicktime video (click right to download). You'll see the Philly group and our colleagues at the conference.