Why video is a must for radio stations

If you think that it’s just TV and newspapers having the video discussion then think again. Mike Mullane’s post, at Multimedia meets radio, shows that the debate echoes across the industry – even in radio

Managing change is always a serious challenge and nowhere more so than in a radio newsroom. Journalists are a conservative lot: hidebound, inflexible, technophobes and whingers by nature.

Ouch. But fond as they are of corduroy and jumpers the radio lot are not too intractable as Mike notes. After a grudging acceptance of the web:

…the debate has moved on and the new mantra is that radio journalists don’t do video. Apparently, it’s one thing to encroach on the territory of print journalists by producing text for the website, but they draw the line at video.

That’s TV, they claim. Sadly, they still haven’t grasped multimedia and don’t understand convergence.

Join in if you know the words. Give the man some support.

He finishes the post:

Broadcasters have been forced to embrace the Internet and must now produce video if they want to survive and stay relevant. Young people in particular are turning their backs on radio and TV in favour of podcasts, or video sharing sites like YouTube.

BBC Five Live is rising to the challenge by providing images to accompany many of its sporting programmes. I have heard that they are turning Mark Kermode’s film reviews into video podcasts.

No doubt, some of my colleagues will accuse Radio Five Live of making “cheap television.” Pay no attention: for the most part, they are the same people who predicted no-one would ever read a news article online.


Use soda to attract the best

Interesting advice on attracting multi-platform savvy people from Alan Schulman, Chief Creative Officer of Brand New World (via MediaPost)

As always, talent right out of school comes to the industry through very different doors. Some from design; others from typography, animation or illustration. Some from film school; others from journalism school. The difference is, few if any discriminate between above- and below-the-line disciplines. They just want to do great work in a great place.

My advice? Feed them software and sodas, don’t expect them in before 10 a.m., and watch what happens while their hybrid skills, from design and animation to filmmaking and typography, come to life both on-air AND online… without ever placing one above the other.

For me the killer line in that is : “The difference is, few if any discriminate between above- and below-the-line disciplines”

Does your newsroom?

How long should online video be?

Two great responses to the question ‘How long should online video be?’ from the Newspaper Video list.

Davin McHenry from Bakersfield.com says:

The only limits we have here in Bakersfield are: If your video is over two minutes you have to have another editor watch the video and suggest possible cuts.

I think blanket limits are silly. There are video stories that can’t
be told in two minutes. We’ve had stuff that ran 6-7 minutes.

The trick is to allow freedom of length without people abusing it.
It’s very easy to fall in love with your own footage and let videos go on and on. You have to be self disciplined and, frankly, be brutal with your footage.

His first point is a great idea and his last point is one of the toughest lessons to learn in video (online or broadcast)

Another Bakersfield bod, Jennifer Baldwin, notes:

I actually made a two-parter because my video would have been 12 minutes if I hadn’t!

It’s worth remembering that we can break content in to blocks and show it on the same page. Look at Yolanda’s Crossing over at the Dallas News as an example

Pre-roll idents should go

Steve Outing talks about Newspapers in an unbundled world in an article over at Editor and Publisher

The whole article draws a number of parallels with the changing distribution and business the models the music industry deal with and the problems newspapers are facing.  Steve highlights ways that we can learn from the music biz’s move from a model that was based on buying a CD to a more open model of music shareing:

As many a music and tech industry pundit has pronounced lately, the CD is nearly dead.

Anybody notice the parallel with newspapers?

It’s Interesting stuff and a worthwhile take on trying to get people to understand the way the newspaper industry is changing (interestingly Howard Owens takes music as his theme for expanding on the development of online video.)

Outings main point seems to be get your content out there rather than expect people to come to you and you will benefit from this new consumption and distribution model.

He has specific advice for video:

If you’re going to the trouble and expense of getting into video news, then make sure you spread it around; don’t horde it on your own website and expect that to be enough.

Unlike some of the TV networks these days — which send out the lawyers when one of their clips gets uploaded to YouTube by zealous fans — newspaper companies should jump for joy that their video work can be distributed and seen by Youtube’s huge audience. Think about getting your video work on multiple video services (there are lots of them).

Important, of course, is effectively incorporating your branding onto the videos. In caption fields, include the URL to get viewers to your website. Include a watermark logo in the video, and an intro that covers who produced this video, and perhaps sponsors.

Just as with newsworthy photos and Flickr, major news video can attract a significant audience on Youtube, et al. Newspaper companies should take advantage of what these online video services can offer in terms of exposure. And don’t just tolerate your video work showing up on such services — actively encourage and promote it!

Radical stuff for an industry that still (for the majority) cant get beyond thinking that online is a way to get more people reading your newspaper rather than developing new audiences. Give our stuff away! Why would we do that?

But I’m not going there (not today) What piqued my interest was the idea of branding your content to get your name out there.

Pre-roll overload

I’ve been watching a lot of online video lately just to keep an eye in and as part of my training course with newspaper journo’s and the issue of branding became one of those things that bugged me.

A lot of the other video I watched had 3 sometime 10 second pre-roll idents. Little music and graphic stabs that told you, usually with a whooshing noise or an explosion, that you where watching video from the dailywherever.com. For an immediate medium I was waiting a long time to get the info I wanted – the actual video

We already know that users are pretty intolerant of pre-roll ads in video and no matter how much we kid ourselves, our indents are pre-roll ads. And before anyone says that users will live with that as the price for better quality video, let’s not forget where that debate gets us.

So a circle to be squared here.

How do we take advantage, as Outing suggests, of this brave new world and put our content out there whilst still making it work for us if the way we brand our content winds the user up?

On a practical level my view would be go post-roll and watermark the video with a small graphic in the corner.

But on a broader level maybe, if we are still hoping to leverage our brand ‘control’ our content and funnel users from these community spaces, we still don’t really ‘get’ how these spaces work.

Newspaper Video: Debate highlights good practice

The discussion about the judging of online video has the capacity to become a real meta-conversation but, as with all good chat amongst people with experience and passion in the area, it also throws up the useful stuff.

In the Newspaper video yahoo group, where a lot of this stuff plays out, Chuck Fadely has linked to ‘good’ newspaper video.

But in clicking round the comments I’ve also found one or two people doing the ‘taxonomy’ thing for online video that I did a while back. It’s fair to say that my take on it feel more in to the production process and output side of things.

Paul Bradshaw’s defining areas fall in to the same area but have a much more editorial slant:

  • ‘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.

I like the idea of the Daily Prophet in particular.
But if Paul’s and my definitions of online covered the production aspects then The Five E’s of online video from Jeff Rayport’s talk from the Online Publishers Association conference in London. (via Jeff Jarvis’ blog summary ) cover the pre-production and why element.

  • Extend content you have and bring it to online media.
  • Expand video activities to make new and experimental forms of content.
  • Expose (let the outside in; e.g., NY Times wedding videos, Le Monde user videos).
  • Explode (let the inside out; syndication, in other words).
  • Exhale (you don’t know what will work so relax).

Put them all together, and add a bit of Moncks Monikers and a dash of Kevin Anderson and I think there is enough there to at least start to answer the Why, what and how questions of online video.

I might set my students the task of using the defintions here to quantify and assess the video that Chuck links to.

Microphone choices

Jack Lail asked what other mic’s I would recommend for use apart from the M58 reporters mic I mentioned in a post on audio.

Those who know these mics will know that it’s a pretty mixed bag but I have used them either on external work or at the University so feel I can comment on them. But, this is a personal/this is what I have worked with kind of thing which I though would be better aired out in the open so it can be trashed, added to or picked over by visitors who may have better options or more experience.

Lav/tieclip mics – TRAM  TR50. These are pricey ( £300 )but the best lav mics I have used. I can also recommend the Audio Technica lavs. They have radio and tied mics in the range.

I tend to use the Trams in conjunction with Micron radio kits. But these are pricey so at the lower end,  the Sony UWp radio mic kits are nice. They work well and the mic that comes with it is pretty good. 3-400 dollars for the lot, but you will need to buy things like windshields separately.

The M58 would be my choice for a reporter mic

I would look at something like a SM58 as a throw around dynamic microphone to stick in front of speakers etc. It’s directional where the M58 is omni, so it can be pointed and it’s designed to be kicked around by singers etc. The 57 is a version without the spherical basket on top which may make it easy to poke in places. Both are so simple and robust. I have found myself attacking them with a soldering iron on stage when they go down and then plugging them straight back in.

For shotgun mics I have always picked out the Sennheiser 416 or the longer 816. Other people like the MKH60 – not too fussed either way myself – but with a grip and rycote I think either are great for reporters. Again you will pay another 200 dollars for a grip and windjammer.

I have used the Audio-Technica ATR97 omni boundary mic, which is pretty good with audio recorders for picking up meetings etc.

I will link this post up and add more as I get chance.

Journalism blogs: You bunch of wasters, you.

There is something joyful about the serendipity of trackbacks and stats. They are a great way to keep track of the debate, discover new voices and remind you of old ones.

I checked my stats today I someone had come back my way via a trackback comment I left on a post over at Andrew Grant Adamson’s Wordblog.

Andrew’s post was a really useful roundup of the what to teach journalism students debate, that flared up a while back – still worth a read.
There had been a few more comments after my trackback, which included a peach of one by Alan Hiscock, a University Lecturer at Westminster in the UK

It starts:

It brings a wry smile to my face to see how much of this tosh about the new media comes from US sources. Journalism in the US has never had much in common with that in the UK; and that is still the case, both in print and on-line. The all-round quality is much higher in the UK.

You know where this is going don’t you. But just in case:

In all the main places where jobs in journalism are advertised in the UK, there are still vastly more print jobs than those in the new media.

Only three publishing companies in the UK have so far made significant money out of web-sites.

Most web-sites show an appalling ignorance of typography and have little opportunity to make it more refined. The result is that column measures, founts and typefaces, not to mention the inordinate length of some stories, mitigate against the reader persevering with or enjoying the experience.

Which three? And column measures and founts are, in a sense, redundent terms in web-design, unless you want to enage with stylesheets.

Now the main thrust of the comment is anti-blog which Hiscock equates to columns.

Columns and blogs are high in opinion, mainly cock-eyed opinion, but low on facts; and that’s not the journalism I have come to love and practise for 38 years.

In fact, they are not just worthless in a journalistic sense…

What’s more, I work hard in a committed way to do a first-class job. Those who have the time to blog can’t have much of a life nor a demanding job.

So, blogs are crap and unprofessional. That’s his opinion. A “mainly cock-eyed opinion”, but everyone’s allowed an opinion.

The thing that I’m surprised at most is that someone who professes to be ‘no dinosaur’ can, in the current climate (and the comment is only a month or so old) still see a distinction between print and ‘new-media’ and still labour under such an obvious print bias.

Still, spending all this time blogging, what do I know.

Small format cameras website

A great little site by Brian Poulter who teaches photojournalism at Eastern Illinois University.  Called ittybittyphoto:

Welcome to itty-bitty photo a website and blog. A site dedicated to “tiny format” cameras: cell phone cam’s, PDA phones, and digital point and shoot photography. Photographers make photographs, not cameras. Are you up to the challenge? Can you shoot with under these limitations? Use the link at top of this page to submit your photos.

Great stuff.

Newspaer Video: Belfast Telegraph

Recently I posted about the Belfast Telegraphs efforts in moving in to video, commenting that was sceptical about the approach and compared it with the online video from another local paper, The Irish News.

Paul Connolly, Deputy Editor of the Belfast Telegraph left a comment on my post about the Telegraphs efforts to go online.

1. Quality: You would not put up with inferior websites, or badly designed newspapers. So why on earth should the public endure inferior broadcasting on the web just because it’s from a newspaper? Papers invest vast amounts of energy and money on their brand – why would we thrown that away by producing poor quality products?

2. The news bulletin at launch date was the starting point. We don’t copy broadcasters, we bring newspaper values to TV in a watch-able way via the web. If you go on now (late Feb), you will hear the distinctly un-coached sounds of our reporters with their local accents breaking stories that leave broadcasters scrambling to follow up. In the past week or so, we have revealed a big sex abuse probe at a hospital for psychologically disturbed patients, a bugging scandal at Masonic HQ in Belfast and a secret plan to slash £300 million from the budget of our police force. We are big on showbiz, too, which, when local TV bothers to cover it, is so sycophantic it’d make you sick.

3. The news bulletin is just a tiny part of our multimedia approach, don’t be fixated with it. We are forging ahead with our video and audio journalism and a range of other measures. First, we need to train our staff … then you’ll see the results.

Point one is fair if you equate quality with high (cost) (TV) production values.

The debate about what constitutes quality is the crux here. I have said before that TV news is seen as a marker of professionalism for print journos moving in to that area. What you do to reflect that but not get stuck in the TV trap is something to discuss.    But I think this may come down more to a discussion of function over form.

It may be that the form – fancy TV studio, presenter etc. is something you can afford as well as training journos, kitting them out and winning the editorial hearts and minds battle to get the production functioning.

One school of thought is that the form is less important that the function. More importantly, mimicking the form of TV is a poor investment given the differences in consumption. Of course the reverse of that is that if you invest high to start with, you nail your colours to the mast and everyone raises their game.

In the end it’s a balancing act – match journalists and consumers expectations, based on their experience of TV, but then develop your output.  Make it your own.

Given what Paul says in point 2, it sounds like that’s the aim for the Telegraph, but I still think that in  form they are copying the broadcasters. Funny  when they say that’s not the aim. But I suppose that anyone who does video is, to some extent, following the form of TV. The framing conventions, the processes and tricks of the trade. That in itself is no bad thing.

What Paul stresses is that the ‘function’ is the important thing. The move to multimedia will keep the journalistic drive. In “breaking stories that leave broadcasters scrambling to follow up” the approach hits disruption nail on the head and I’m sure the audience will appreciate it.  That said, I think celebrity news, even if it’s less sycophantic, tips us back in to TV land  – but I accept that’s just me. But, I still have to question whether wrapping it in such an obvious TV form doesn’t tie it too far back in the TV camp.

Paul’s last point gives me pause to reflect again on the pressure of  time in developing an online video presence. As I have said before that in the rarefied air of the blogoshpere debate we can over emphasize the minutiae but miss the bigger picture.

We do need to give these things time. Enough time to get comfortable with working in a particular way; enough time to develop and grow.But at the moment, it seems to me that the Telegraph have built a monument to TV news and as anyone who works in it will know, and as people have pointed out, TV news is a hungry beast.

Will the training and results always be in the shadow of this monument?