How the regional papers use video: The Belfast Telegraph

I’m back from my holidays refreshed (and a little fatter) so its time to restart my review of  the way regional newspapers use video . You may remember that I started with a rather arbitrary list of papers to look at which started with the Express&Star and then the Liverpool Echo and the Manchester Evening News.

Next on the list is the Belfast Telegraph
The Belfast Telegraph is owned by the Independent News and media group who publish the UK daily broadsheet The Independent (which I looked at before). It’ picked up a number of awards over the last few years and continues to be one of the top performers in the evening newspaper circulation listings (the reason it’s on the list)

It started publishing video in 2007 with a much trumpeted introduction of video news bulletins. I had a bit to say about that at the time and my views prompted a nice response from the Deputy Editor Paul Connolly.  who outlined where they wanted to go with the video stuff beyond the video bulletins

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.

So I was eager to see how far they had come.

The platform
The Belfast Telegraph brands its video as Telegraph TV and there is a Belfast Telegraph Television link on the main navigation. But try as I might I couldn’t see anything else on the page that flagged the video content – no links or other navigation.  So I clicked through, via the BTTV link, to their video player page.

The Belfast Telegraph Video page - its all the same!
The Belfast Telegraph Video page - its all the same!

The player follows the thumbnail jukebox style, split in to tabbed categories, with an embedded flash player delivering the video. There where a lot of videos here but I’m sure there are more and I missed some kind of archive access. Unless that really is it!

The player is a nice size although the poster-frame often doesn’t display leaving a faceless black box. Luckily the display of the video headline and intro paragraph is clear and neat with a nice big headline to identify the story and plenty of space for text. This space is very rarely used well though. I’d like to see more text alongside the video to set the scene. But despite some nice layout the whole effect is let down by the way the thumbnails are displayed.

The first category you see is the BTTV news section, exclusively made up of bulletin style content. With Three bulletins a day there is a lot of content but it all has the the same thumbnail.  It’s a thumbnail wall registering almost zero on usability. Dull. Even if the thumbnail was the same then a date wouldn’t go a miss. It’s a daily newspaper!

Looking at the special reports section everything begins to look a lot more exciting in terms of layout but the news section really needs work if its the first block you see.

Links to articles? No. But there are some links to other videos
Links to articles? No. But there are some links to other videos

The player does suffer the usual problem of a shortage of links through to related articles. There are some, including links to multipart videos like the What type of society do our children want? video which was split in to two. Others pointed to other content, like The Omagh fire: Murder hunt launched piece, but I couldn’t get any of these links to work.

There is embedded video on the site within articles but it’s usually Youtube – couldn’t find others. The article about ‘Adorable’ Derry teenager Eoghan Quigg and his appearance on X factor takes a youtube video showing an off-air recording of his audition. Once again you have to question how long this can go on considering the crackdown on copyright material.

The presentation
The Belfast Telegraph video can be considered in two halves. The main thrust of content is geared towards its bulletin which follows a very traditional news bulletin style. Produced by Macmillan Media, this is a very, very slick virtual newsroom style piece, presenter lead with video inserts. By all accounts the inserts and the studio work is all done by Macmillan and the fact that they also produce news inserts for GMTV it’s clearly visible in the style and approach.  The content is technically very well produced but the whole thing is TV with a capital, well, TV.

It's TV news time folks
It's TV news time

The three bulletin (four on a weekend) approach kind of makes sense. The evening and morning bulletins key in to the papers publication cycle (there is an AM version of the paper) and the lunch one grabs the lunchtime browsers. But the reality is there is very little to tie these bulletins to the paper.

There is a brief bit of scripted ‘in todays paper’ but it tends to be very generic or promos for  the papers evening sections; jobs, business etc.  Thankfully TV doesn’t stretch to anything other than promos. Ad’s are few and far between bar the odd short pre-roll ad and a sting for the Magners league before the sport.

The other rest of the site video falls in to the packaged feature category. Whether it’s sport, special reports or business, you can expect a nice vo, lots of b-roll and interview. Outside of the bulletins the major offering is in Special Reports. Rather than investigative stuff this is generally light feature based stuff. The only exception to that (that I could see) was Lindsey Armstrong’s Omagh piece, mentioned earlier. A solid package, confidently put together.

The packages can sometimes be too long and would stand an edit here and there.  The Belfast bus tour was a case in point.  The script sets up ‘chatting to those who are taking the tour and then goes in to a prolonged montage of the tour. We have to wait nearly 4 minutes before we get the punters which is then a bit drawn out.  The result is that all the best general shots have been used in the montage and Gary has top resort to dipping to black or the odd very shakey GV.

It does serve as a good example of the mechanics (and pitfalls) of vox-pops though. Check out Bill and Nancy Gaunt at about 4:45 in. The first part of that is just misunderstanding it should have been cut out. Vox-pops should be quick and flow, one in to the other – quote, quote, quote and out. The rest of the package has done the set-up.

But credit has to go to Gary Grattan  for producing a nice range of content. Gary is good on camera and puts together some nice stuff. Tighter packages would push the personality to the front. Take the Big Wheel Experience package as an example. A nice idea – Gary suffers from vertigo so stick him on a giant ferris wheel and film the result. (You need better office mates Gary!) – but a ponderous execution. Twice as long as it needed to be and the whole interview with the wheel guy was another package.

Vertigo video: You have some cruel office mates Gary.
Vertigo video: You have some cruel office mates Gary.

Some of the filming on the wheel piece Martin Nelson  whose work pops up a lot more in the sports section. In fact a large chunk of the Sports video and the odd special report seems to come from Martin via EagleEye Films.  Again the content is okay and generally well shot and edited. The format gets formulaic with a music intro, some gv’s with a heavy music bed and then the meat of the package. Some of the packages run very long and again the TV influence kicks in with credits at the end.

There where obviously big plans for the multimedia content at the Belfast Telegraph so have they born fruit. In short, no.

Of all the sites I’ve looked at, that disconnect between the video and the paper makes the Belfast Telegraph’s offering the most like a national newspaper I have seen. I’m not sure if that’s a good thing.

Whilst the video is often well produced and in the case of the bulletins, I would expect nothing less, it feels very disconnected from the paper. The main thrust of dynamic content is in the bulletins but i feel like I could be watching any TV news bulletin not the Telegraph TV.  The odd ‘read more in the paper’ does little to make it particular to the paper. It’s almost like they send the odd screen grab of the days pull-out and they send back a generic bulletin with the odd insert. This just reminded me of the ‘exclusive’ efforts of the tabloids.

I wanted more from the paper, more tie in and more relationship between the way stories develop through the day. The morning bulletin is a great point to flag up developing news stories and spin them through the day. There is a real chance to whet my appetite for the whole day so that I’m desperate to buy the paper in the evening. It’s a chance missed and in it’s place it’s a local newsfeed instead.

The rest of the content suffers the same disconnect. Whilst there is obviously an effort to produce good stuff the lack of tie in with the paper – good embedded video and related articles – means the video ranges off, doing its own thing. The need to split video over a few clips is a sure fire sign of a lack of editorial focus. It should be split over several articles. Each chunk complimenting the story. That’s not a criticism of the work that’s there, as I say, credit to the staff for keeping the flow of content.  It’s just that without proper integration in to the online offering it seems to do it’s own thing.

Perhaps a good deal of the problems I see can be blamed on the CMS. The lack of a solid relationship between the articles and video is a sure sign of different systems fighting each other. But ultimately there is a real lack of integration on the site. It’s a opportunity missed both practically and editorially.

For me the bulletins don’t add anything to the mix anymore. I’d rather see more news and local colour, tightly integrated in to the articles – more Garys and Lindseys please and less GMTV.

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How the regional papers use video: The Express & Star

This week I’m looking at what the UK regional evening newspapers are doing with video. I’ve selected (using a highly scientific method) seven papers to look at and I’m starting with the Express&Star

The Express&Star is the daily evening paper for the West Midlands in the UK. It’s owned by The Midland News Association Ltd and is generally acknowledged as the biggest selling regional evening paper in England.

The website got a re-design a few years ago and I have to put my hand up and say I’m not a fan. It’s cramped and the contrast of text sizes is wrong for me. But its usable and they have certainly thrown a lot at it over that time.

The platform.

When it comes to video the Express&Star is nothing if not obvious. There is a clear navigation tab at the top, a horizontal feature bar just above the fold and an occasional image teaser on the left-hand-side of the page. Go through to the news section and you get another menu item.

Confusingly the tabbed navigation and the vertical navigation on the news index takes you to two different places. The tab links to a standard Brightcove powered jukebox – chunky and functional. But the menu takes you to a video index. Given the choice I would link to the video index exclusively. It’s more usable, feels richer and sits better ‘in’ the site.

The Express&Star video index page is full of video stuff
The Express&Star video index page is full of video stuff

The video index offers a great range of content that links directly to article pages with embedded video content which is fantastic. The downside is that the video player is too small, cramped in to the corner of what is already too narrow a column for content. I would cut back on the graphics and controls around the player. Double the size and run it at the top of a page rather than right-justified. It also works as a picture that way.

The page design swamps the text and squashes the video
The page design swamps the text and squashes the video

Back in the video index, there is a nice archive and you can page back through previous video articles. It’s a shame that the thumbnail disappears after the first page. The headlines need the image to help sell the story. The other problem with the video index is that you don’t need to go back very far before most of the video is unavailable (a problem that cropped up every now and again on newer content too). I’m guessing that this is due to a shift in player at some point or perhaps technical problems full stop. That’s a shame would have liked to have done a comparison between old and new video.

The presentation
The video is a mix of self-produced packages and third-party content, commonly user-generated but there is the occasional agency stuff. There is also a healthy smattering of youtube content on the site which appears in the Your Video section of the video index. This tends to be in the entertainment area. This is worrying in the sense that a copyright crackdown on youtube would effectively remove half the content on the site. The Kasabian article is a good example of this .

But stepping away from that particular minefield its safe to say that it’s the self-produced packaged content that makes up the majority of the content and there is loads of it. It tends to be 2-3 minute packaged content mixing talking heads, GV’s(b-roll) and voice over. The occasional piece to camera does creep in which sometimes works but more often than not doesn’t.

Overall the production values are good and generally the packaged stuff is shot well. The sound suffers from occasional wind noise and mic handling problems but the ever present shotgun mic generally produces good results.

The journalists seem to have settled on a workable format for their video. It tends to lead with interesting video or a snippet of interview and then a voice over comes in. Some of the packages go on a little too long with one too many vox-pops the most common reason. Take the Disney Cars feature (above). The kids are cute and well done to the reporter for getting something usable out of them. But there is too much. This package also highlights an issue with sequencing. There are a lot of cut-aways here. A shot of a wheel etc. But they are cut one after the other. It’s quite disorientating. Shooting enough cut-aways is always something to remember but they have to tie together. Get a wide shot that will make sense of the cut-away. I don’t think I saw more than one wide shot of the cars through the whole package.

If remembering cut-aways is good mantra when shooting then cutting ‘best pictures first’ is one of for the edit. It’s a concept that the journos at the Express & Star seem to gave taken to heart and it works for them. It fits the print story construction well and you can almost read the text of an accompanying article and follow the voice over. As well as trying to grab you in the first few seconds of the vid , this must cut down the turn around times for the production.

But this tie in between article and video isn’t always consistent. Take the story about people using pawnbrokers. Instead of the people featured in the article there was a video of a jeweler talking about the value of gold. I really missed seeing the people in the article who had some real human stories to tell. Where was the guy selling his wedding ring. A definite case of a story that didn’t need video.

Elsewhere the content shifts from packaged to interview based stuff shot in the newsroom. It’s been a while since the E&S has had a video news bulletin on the site but much of the content takes its cue from that format. I’ve always been an advocate of the bulletin approach as I think it is as much about building capacity as it is content. It’s nice to see the E&S have developed. But where a bulletin is easy win video, much of this stuff feels like visual podcast. The video of Peter Rhodes and Internet News Editor Tim Walters is a great example of video that should be a podcast. But it’s really the sport that takes this format to the limit – Fan forums and weekend round-ups. I’d love to see some stats on the this stuff to see what the take up is.

I suppose that the use of video in this way says more about the uptake of technology like podcasts by the audience than the appropriateness of the delivery platform. And it’s clear that there is some clear evidence of developing style there. This development also manifests itself in experimentation with live football reporting.

Last year the E&S announced a live football site. Not that you would know it on the site. Following the URL takes you to a subsection of the site with no obvious difference from the rest of the content. I will have to check back on Saturday to see the full action. But the little snippet of Qik video from reporter Tim Nash after the recent Plymouth game is good and it will be nice to see what other content appears alongside it.

I could write a lot more about the Express & Stars video offering. There is a lot of it and the content is generally technically well-produced. That said, some of it feels stretched editorially -it’s too long – and some of the content just doesn’t need video. I get the feeling that there is some kind of quota for video that someone has in the back of their mind – x number of videos a day please. But rather than push video too hard it may be better to let photographs carry the story.

The TGI fire story was a case in point. The video was okay but the pictures in the Gallery where better. They could even have run both. I don’t think the layout of the page helps with presentation, it isn’t multimedia friendly. I wonder if a bit more space to play with might encourage more of a useful presence.

That aside this is a strong start for the regional press. Let’s see what The Liverpool Echo can offer up tomorrow.

Do you work on video at the Express&Star? If you want to reply to any of the points in this review, talk about what you do or call me an idiot then feel free to leave a comment but I’d also like to offer you (and anyone from any of the other papers I review) an open post response.  A post on the blog to say what you want.  Interested? Let me know

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How the UK Tabloids use video: The Mail

It’s Friday  so it must be the last day of my review of the way the UK tabloids use video and I’m rounding things off with the Daily Mail.

The Daily Mail sits alongside the Daily Express in the tabloid ‘mid-market’ apparently setting it an order above the Red top Sun, Star and Mirror.  It’s actually one of the more successful online newspaper websites considering how late in the game they where in setting one up. The Mail have made a particular point of targeting women web users which you can see from the tone and structure of the site.

The platform

The Daily Mail's video player. Hard to find but nice information when you do
The Daily Mail's video player. Hard to find but nice information when you do

When it comes to video there was no obvious sign of video on the front page of the site either through the navigation or flagged stories.  A search on the website (please get rid of that offer of an embedded search tool or add No) revealed two articles in a video category. Clicking through took me to the Daily Mail’s video section. Fully formed, large as life but not  linked.

Its the standard jukebox player but, unlike the rest of the tabloids who use Roo, this is a Brightcove player. The player isn’t the only thing that’s different. The page layout is more in keeping with the article page layout on the site rather than the ‘TV’ box style on others.  Sections are presented in one long thing sidebar. It’s a layout that, like some of the other pages, hides too much content below the scroll. I think filling boxes with reams of links is a habit the Mail need to get out of.

One nice thing to see was the content box below the video window.  There is the usual headline, short description but there is also a byline. A nice, human touch.  Better still is some useful meta. A date, time and most impressively a source for the video is given.  It is often missing which makes me think Brightcove are supplying the information for some of this data.  I think the presentation could be better (bigger) but it’s good to see.

But it’s a step in the right direction. I didn’t see any of the  other papers crediting the Bournemouth News & Picture Service for the Mini Hendrix footage. In fact, most of the agency footage is credited which slowed me down for a half-hour or so as I looked at what other stuff they had. I suppose that’s the lot of a news agency but it was nice to see.

If it's a screen grab why not just embedd the video?
If it's a screen grab why not just embed the video?

Most encouraging though was the presence of links back to articles. At last!   When you do follow the links through the video is usually embedded towards the end of the video. I think this is shame as it often duplicates pictures on the page. A story about violent yobs (good Mail fair) features a heavy number of screen-grabs from CCTV video that is embedded further down the page. One of the pictures at the head of an article is a screen grab. It is exactly the same as the poster frame of the video. Why show both?

The presentation

Unkown source or the BBC? You decide
Unknown source or the BBC? You decide

The thing that really struck me about the video on the Mail is the lack of news feed content. There is no dedicated news feed of PA or Reuters content. In fact there is nothing approaching a news feed at all on the site. All of the content can best be described as illustrative or feature based. Like the other tabloids it’s rounded up entertaining clips from the web that it thinks will appeal to the audience and the editorial line is firmly in the middle of the paper not the news pages at the front. So we get news it’s a mix of besieged middle-Englanders battling yob culture or birds that sound like ambulances and Herons learning to fly.

The only exception to that when I looked was a video of teenage Guantanamo detainee Omar Khadr. It’s illustrative video, it supports the news story. But I single it out as it’s clearly BBC footage grabbed from TV – I’m pretty sure that’s Frank Gardner voicing it- but it isn’t credited. Having seen the Mirror pull this trick I wonder what the form is here.

There is some homegrown content on the site.  Mark Lawford’s interview with Monte Panesar was interesting but the lighting was poor and the shot could have been tighter. Listen to the interview though as a good example of a print person doing a video interview. That isn’t a criticism. Listen the way he qualifies statements, jumping in, looking for stuff that can be used as reported speech later on. It’s a questioning style that gives you print stuff but it won’t stack up for long in video.

Drop one presenter and half the time
Drop one presenter and half the time

The other, consolidated, bit of video content was the Live magazine tech-review video. James Mannion and Rob Waugh do a double-header reviewing the latest gadgets. Its shot in what seems to be a photographic studio using two cameras – or some pretty meticulous single camera set up. The idea is okay but the production and format don’t work for me. The editing is too tricksy and slows the pace. The presentation is also too stilted. They have a bit of a star in Rob Waugh and my view is that they should let him do the slot without James (no offense James). That way it could be half the length and have a lot more pace.


I get the impression that video is fairly new to the Mail. It feels cautious and the fact that the video section is so hidden away just emphasises that. But that could be a smart move on the part of the Daily Mail.

They are not selling the site as having video and then backing that claim up with feed video. This is more a site that has the capacity to use video and the video section is just a bonus. I’m not sure I would go as far as to say that they use video well; there isn’t enough of it to tell. But where it is used it seems appropriate. It could be used better on the article page and I don’t see a clear editorial line. But it’s there.

How they move forward from here will be interesting to see. My money would be on a movement more towards The Sun where the video is a mix of stuff that may appeal to the audience rather than a more broadsheet style of authored pieces. I think they may end up doing it very well.

So that’s it.  A week of tabloid newspaper video. So what did I learn from looking at The Sun, Star ,Mirror Express and Mail?  Find out on Monday.

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How the UK Tabloids use video: The Express

This week I’m looking at the way the UK tabloids use video and today it’s the turn of the self proclaimed best newspaper in the World, the Daily Express

The Express takes us out of the ‘red-top’ territory of The Sun, Star and Mirror and in to the tabloid ‘mid-market’ which it shares with its rival The Daily Mail, which I’ll be looking at tomorrow.

The Platform

The Express front page has a number of video links
The Express front page has a number of video links

The Express flags it’s video clearly on the front page with a navigation item for video, currently marked as new, and a little graphic on the right-hand side of the page. A click on either one will take you through to the video page and (once you have cleared the really annoying overlay ad) the standard jukebox player powered by Roo.

The Express player. Dull, glitchy and full of third party stuff
The Express player. Dull, glitchy and full of third party stuff

When it first loads up, I have to say it looks pretty dull. The categories are all presented as ‘accordion’ style navigation but they are all rolled up. So you are presented with a generic splash screen on the player and no nice thumbnails to entice you in. It’s almost as if you click through and discover that Express video is closed for the summer. But I’m not afraid to click around and it’s a good job too.

Clicking news presents you with another set of roll-ups, again shut tight, and more menus. This is just too many clicks. But when I did eventually get some thumbnail action – I clicked UK news – I was greeted by the familiar swish of the Press Association and then it froze.  Something that happened quite a few times on the site. The controls failed to work for me using Firefox and a mac when it first loaded. All the way through the player skipped, stuttered and jumped videos. A bit of clicking around got it working but it was frustrating.

There is no back linking to articles from the video and they don’t do embedded video. If you want to cook along with Gary Rhodes for example, then you better make a note of the ingredients first because clicking the link will take you away from the recipe page.

The Presentation
The news content on the site is a mix of Press Association, AFP and Reuters. Most of the other content comes courtesy of the Roo network. The computer games content for example comes via Aussie company Control Freaks and entertainment (and lots of other stuff) from WatchMojo. Not much in there that looked in-house. Some of the sport stuff is unbranded but it still feels like agency footage.

So I used the search function to have a look for Exclusive and Express Exclusive content. The majority of it was exclusive but to the third-party suppliers the Express uses. Where it was obviously exclusive to the Express it was either branded stuff like Gok Wan’s competition offer or submitted stuff like the London Zoo promo.  The Hungary Grand-Prix preview is another apparent exclusive. Don’t let the branding at the end fool you. You can see the whole thing at any of the other tabloids. Try it over at The Sun for example. The player is better.

The technical implementation of video on the Express is really poor. The player’s isn’t user friendly and it’s buggy. Linking to video rather than embedding in article pages is shoddy considering the Roo player offers that technology and even when they do link, the technology lets them down. The player often jumps the linked video for a video a few items down.

The actual content of the video on the website is OK. If you are in to games then Control Freaks has a nice range of stuff and WatchMojo has so much stuff on so many subjects you will always find something but I can get that stuff anywhere. There is nothing here that is produced by the Express and that means there is nothing here that says Daily Express or shows any commitment to building a video brand. And no, paying that little extra for a PR company to get the tame celeb to say Daily Express or add a graphic is not a brand strategy.

You may ask “Why does the Express have to have a video brand?” It doesn’t. It doesn’t even need to make it’s own video. But it has chosen to have video on it’s site and it needs a better strategy than simply buying all the content options from Roo.  If it’s going to have it it could take the route of selecting the best, relevant video for their audience.

One thing is for sure, at the moment the video is a very poor bolt-on and has nothing to recommend it.

So tomorrow I’ll take a look at The Express’ competition – The Daily Mail, and see if it does any better.

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How the UK Tabloids use video: The Star

This week I’m looking at the way the UK tabloid newspapers use video taking one newspaper a day. Yesterday it was The Sun and today it’s the The Star.

Owned by Northern and Shell Media Publications who also own the Express, which I’ll be looking at later this week, the Star sits firmly in the mass market tabloid market.

The platform.

The Star's video player
The Star’s video player

The Star’s video offering is clearly available from the main menu with a ‘Star Videos’ link on every page. Clicking this takes you to a Jukebox player powered by Roo which splits the content in to sections but has none of the recommended or featured sections that others have. Many of the subsection pages have a small ‘featured video’ box highlighting two videos but the editorial selection of these is, well, questionable.

The featured news - Gordon Brown does Wii fit shock! Maybe not
The featured news – Gordon Brown does Wii fit shock! Maybe not

The presentation.
The video itself is mix of Star produced/commissioned content and bought in feeds which splits pretty much along the lines of news from The Press Association and Reuters and then anything with a ‘babe’ in it.

At least I can’t complain about the pre-roll ads at the Star. They don’t have any. Instead they have hit on the great wheeze of putting all the TV ads in the video player as content.

Credit where credit is due there is some in house video. This includes breaking the world record for eating six Ferrero Rocher in one minute and an interview with street magician Dynamo. The Dynamo piece is the only thing (outside the Reuters and PA content) that approaches a package and it’s not bad.

But that’s about it.

No, that really is about it. Yesterday I commented that, if the broadsheets where a department store, the Sun was a Market. That makes the Star a seedy newsagents. Imagine a shop where there was one newspaper, a few days old, and the rest of the shelves where full of lads, TV and wrestling mags.

Not that it doesn’t aim at the right market. Like the Sun the mix of babes and celebs is where it pitches the paper, but the Sun does it better. It has a better mix of content and much ‘richer’ mix. The Star is just a nod to video, nothing more or less.

I actually found the whole thing pretty depressing. I know that in this part of the market that newspapers are morphing in to something else, like a daily gossip magazine, but this feels pretty cynical. When I see a video of a woman in a Bikini working out on a Wii highlighted as a top news story that’s a bit depressing.No offense to the lady I hope she got well paid.

Still, when a similar video appeared on Youtube even the mid-market papers picked it up so perhaps I’m being harsh. But at least they linked rather than ripping it off. And perhaps that’s the problem. The video offering from The Star is a very, very poor imitation of everything that the others are doing.

When you load the player a message appears it says

Online TV is very popular and can take a little while to appear, but its worth it!

No. It isn’t.

Tomorrow it’s The Mirror

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Jay Rosen defines Citizen Journalism. UGC dies

Jay Rosen goes multimedia with his definition of Citizen Journalism

It’s such a rich definition in that it doesn’t really define what it does as much as it defines why it’s such a challenge for the mainstream media. And perhaps why they can’t get a handle on it.

Jay cam up with the definition a while back- the video just cements things. So there is a tonne of useful after matter, as Jay calls it, on his blog.

But I posted it up as CJ was foremost in my mind when I read a post over at Online Video Watch (not sure which one of the team wrote it) proclaiming the death of User Generated Content

Well, I’m calling it – user-generated content is officially dead. Hulu is here, ABC is raking in the views with their player, the studios are still adapting but beginning to develop business models, and semi-professional content creators now have the tools to compete with mainstream content.

The argument relies on the idea that UGC is a commercial model rather than a descriptor of anything not done by the pros but used by them.But ultimately it’s purely economic

The content universe is larger than ever before, and while UGC is worthless there’s plenty of time for those with passion to become successful professional producers

If UGC is dead then all that has really died is the indusrties defintion. The industries attempt to control and corall rather than understand havnt worked. As one commentor noted “UGC is only dead to slightly dead to most advertisers, not the people who publish the content.”

I thought Jay’s definition made an interesting contrast this view. Jay’s definition is about defining the activity and not its relationship to the media. It isn’t an attempt to define on the industries terms.

Maybe UGC isnt dead. Perhaps, in Godfather style, it is just ‘dead to us’

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Liverpool Daily post, Live!

Liverpool Daily Post Live blog

The Liverpool Daily Post are trying Live blogging the news day after the success of a similar set up as part of their coverage of the local elections. Liverpool Daily Post editor Mark Thomas said:

“The success of the live blog during our local election coverage proved that our readers enjoy being a part of the news-gathering process, asking questions and sharing information.

“Now we want to take this a stage further and invite people to get involved in the production of their newspaper. Giving them the opportunity to comment via a live blog and streaming, and to actually ‘attend’ our news conference seemed the next logical step.”

Its a great idea and has already produced some interesting stuff already. In answer to a question about how many people work on video for example

Kmatt: %he Liverpool Daily Post and the Liverpool Echo share a TV unit which is staffed by two people. In addition to this, around seven members of staff from the two papers are video trained and will both write and film on jobs. We also have a “backpack” reporter for culture events during 2008. She’s called Samantha Parker and hopefully we’ll be hearing from her later.

The TV unit had made an appearance already.

It was a busy night for the TV unit. We grabbed a chat with Warren Bradley following his leadership victory and went down to the finals of the Dunlop British Open Squash championships at the ECHO arena. Check out the website for videos of both later today. Today our cameras are in Warrington where chef Paul Heathcote will be working with students at Warrington Collegiate, preparing and cooking a three course lunch will then be served to members of the public in Buckley’s Restaurant – this is the college restaurant which is open to the public. We’re also off to St Helens Rugby Club, so it’s a busy day.

A nice insight.

Lot’s more interesting and useful stuff appearing all the time. All credit to the people there for embracing this idea so well.

Go and check it out

Adding video to you DSLR

Chuck Fadely’s Newspaper video group continuously throws up some fantastic stuff. If you have even a passing interest in video (especially if you’re in the states) then you should be on it.

A kind of Chatham House Rule exists so I tend not to cross post stuff but a thread popped up that caught my geeky interest and I thought I would share for a few minutes.

A few of the contributors have been chatting about adding a video camera to their stills camera set up. I don’t just mean putting a video camera in the bag either. I mean literally attaching a video camera to their stills camera –two for the price of one.

Roger Bentley and Lilly Allen

I’d seen something similar to this idea online a few months ago where a British snapper had a small Sony camcorder attached to his rig. Turns out it’s a guy called Roger Bentley. (Thanks Peter)  (anyone remember this or have a link to the picture?).

But the sightings on the list mentioned Pure Digital’s Flip camera. It’s light and portable appeal seems to have prompted some snappers to experiment with using a shoe adaptor to attach it to their camera.

Of course there are two obvious drawbacks to this. The first is the camera noise, clicks etc, but that would be an issue if you had a videographer on the scene. The second is a more practical one – What happens when you flip your camera to shoot portrait?

Stroboframe camera flip

While browsing around ebay (looking for Flip as it happens) I saw an ad for a Stroboframe camera flip. Being a hobbyist at best when it comes to photography, I had never come across this kind of mount before.

But it struck me that this would be perfect for mounting a camcorder, like the flip, and a stills camera and not have the rotate problem. There are a few other manufacturers doing the same thing and even though they may be a bit fiddly, it may be worth a shot.

What kind of editor are you?

Do you have a hard time understanding just what makes your editor tick? Trying to get a handle on newsroom strategy? Then why not leave this handy quiz lying around in the office.

How webby are you?
When you talk to other editors and the talk turns to the web do you wonder what it is they are talking about or do they look at you like your talking a foreign language?

Take this handy quiz to find out just how webby you are:

Does your publication have a website?

  1. A web what?
  2. Yes, we have just got one
  3. Yep, we’ve had one for a while – it’s very nice

Have you ever posted a story to the web before it made the paper or on air?

  1. Absolutely not. What would be the point of the newspaper
  2. Yes, but only the ones that aren’t an exclusive.
  3. Yes, we try and get stories on the web when they break but we go for depth in the paper

Has your website published a mobile phone picture from a reader?

  1. No one uses mobiles for pictures. I get my son to show me.
  2. We let users send in pictures of their nights-out and pets but that’s it
  3. We often put out calls for pictures when there is a big local event

Do more than 1% of your newsroom staff blog?

  1. Wash your mouth out. I run a clean newsroom
  2. They may do but I’m not sure
  3. We have one or two well known faces from the paper who blog as part of the website but know others have their own personal blogs as well

Has your newsroom ever posted a video to Youtube?

  1. I’m warning you! I’m a married man. Just the thought of it.
  2. We tried it once when the paper down the road did it?
  3. We try and get as much video on as we can.

Has your website published a slideshow?

  1. I once went to a slideshow about my brothers holiday…very dull…
  2. Yes, but it was a static one that you had to click through.
  3. Yep, we started with static ones but we just got soundslides for the photographers to play with.

Can readers comment on your stories?

  1. Yes, they can send letters for my secretary to read
  2. We have a forum that runs on the site
  3. We have just got a new system that lets people comment on each story

Do you allow people to share your stories on social networks?

  1. Well, obviously, we would like them to buy a paper each. But if they leave one at their friends house at least it still gets counted in the circulation figures.
  2. We have an email to a friend on the old system. But our new site has links to digg and facebook.
  3. Yep. We are currently working on a facebook app.

Your answers:

Mostly A’s
Well done. Despite all the advice to the contrary you are sticking by your guns. Your publication has been successful for years; why change a successful formula?

Mostly B’s
You’re company is waking up to the web and giving you the tools for the job. Your well on the way but take some more risks to get really webby. Let your newsroom loose.

Mostly C’s
Congratulations you are webby aren’t you. Let’s hope that your company recognises that and supports you.

Top quality student websites

Mark S. Luckie over at 10,000 words has posted his top ‘best of the best’ student media websites from the US.

The winner for him is the Alligator from Florida U.

The Alligator is hands down the best online student newspaper and rivals the pros in its news coverage and use of multimedia elements. Just listing the stellar components that make up the site warrant its own individual post.

You can’t disagree. It’s a great site. But do read the article and take a look at the six other sites he recommends.

Its a great list and it offers plenty of food for thought. Here in the UK the structures for students journalism can be a whole lot different. At my university for example the student paper, Pluto, is run through the students union. Though students from journalism courses are involved the department maintains a distance from the publication – kind of church and state. So we tend to run smaller newsday style websites as part of class exercises

I’ve been developing the use of CMS‘ withing my courses for the last 4 years and this year all of the second years have been blogging as part of their assignments, the momentum is building for better and better online content.

The structures of courses and the university can often feel restrictive but technology seems to want to jump over them. When I see stuff like the Alligator I get excited and jealous (in a positive way) about what you can achieve.

Roll on next year.