Youtube the cable company, longtail and the rise of JWplayer

I’ve played with video online for a long time (more hours of code bashing than I care to think of or could remember!) and I’ve tried every combination of video player/platform etc. in developing web provision at work.  Just recently I’ve spent some time writing ‘widgets’ to get popular open source video player JWplayer in to our Escenic CMS. I’ve always been impressed by it and diving in to the code etc. just underlines that.

So it was nice to catch up with the news that, late(ish) last year, the makers of JWPlayer, Longtail video, secured $5million in venture funding. One of the investors,Ian Sigalow, blogged about the motivation for the investment reasoning that JWPlayer “will be the platform of choice for the next generation of online video sites, just as it was for YouTube when they first launched”

Given that JWplayer is perhaps best known as a free video player it’s not a surprise that some would question it’s capacity to go toe-to-toe with the big players. But as All things D reported:

CEO Dave Otten says he’s doing fine. He says LongTail is profitable and will come close to $10 million in revenue this year.

Ian’s post makes for some really interesting reading in terms of his view of where Youtube might be going…

Over time YouTube is becoming more like a cable operator, with dedicated content supported by the YouTube sales team.

… and his interpretation of video stats and the move away from big sites to the ‘longtail’ of smaller sites.

First off, while the long tail represents 58% of the video views, it represents nearly 70% of the time spent watching online video.  Facebook and Youtube have large audiences, but the average video on these sites is just over 3 minutes long.  In the long tail, the average view clocks in at 7.6 minutes, the longest duration of any market segment.  Second, the long tail is growing at a much faster rate than the rest of the market.  Viewership in the long tail is up over 33% since September 2011, compared to overall flat market growth according to Comscore.

The figures mirror some of the general engagement figures I’ve seen for tablets and socially shared content, so maybe Ian is not far wrong. The post is worth a read.

(h/t to Jonathan Dube at  CyberJournalist for the link to Ian’s post)

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Ivory tower dispatch: Free online video editing

This week, amongst other things, I’m pondering video. I tried to write about some of the more contextual thinking around video in a earlier post, but it’s the practical side that’s been upfront for the last week.

In the workshops for my Digital Newsroom module I’ve tried to find open source or free resources to use over and above the resources available to the students via the uni network.  I wanted them to explore the possibilities (and limitations) of using free resources and compare the workflows to the more established stuff.  In many cases the free stuff is what the industry are using; slideshare, audioboo and soundcloud for example.

When it comes to video editing the choice of free apps is pretty limited. Most are clunky affairs with a limited range of compatibility with the range of video file formats most things are spitting out these days.

There are downloadable options. If you’re on Windows for example then you can take advantage of the feature-film-ready Lightworks.  A monster app that’s truly industry standard, but there isn’t much else. And if you’re on a mac…well….

So I went looking for online video editors. Sites that offered video editing through a web interface. The results were limited.


Youtube has a pretty decent clipping editor as part of its standard enhancements. If all you want to do is adjust the start and end times (a top and tail) then the enhancements section of the editor is pretty good. You can also add audio. But there is very little in terms of even the basic functionality you’d expect from a video editor. This is sub-windows moviemakers stuff.

It’s more advanced video editor is a little more useful but let down by a lack of audio control.

Filelab video editor

Filelab video editor

Along with its audio editor, Filelab’s video editor looks like a really good bet. The ‘problem’ is that its windows only (and you need to install a plugin). That makes it a no-no for our network and, I’m guessing, for many corporate networks.


Wevideo is my current fave. It’s flash driven which may not be everyone’s cup of tea, and it does need a flash player above 10.2. But beyond that I think, for free, it’s pretty handy.

You can see that the user interface is pretty standard but it does offer nice touches like rubber band editing on audio levels and video transparency and there is a nice collection of open source audio and video files to add.

It plays well with most video formats ( I downloaded one of my videos from youtube and uploaded that) and a jpeg graphic created in powerpoint rendered nicely. It’s limited to 500MB max file size but for short video that’s no hardship

Exporting is pretty easy. The free version will create a watermarked standard definition 480p video file which you can send across to your youtube or vimeo accounts. You’re also limited to 15 exported images a month.  The watermark isn’t obtrusive but you could buy an HD 720p version for $4.99. You can pay $10 a month and get no watermark, higher resolution and 2 hours export a month. The plans themselves seem a little limited in that respect but I wouldn’t be surprised to see more granular offerings and the pricing plans are split across personal, education and business.

 Collaboration and mobile

One of the neatest parts of Wevideo is the option to integrate with Google Drive and the option of a mobile uploader.


All in all I think WeVideo is a very neat and user friendly solution to editing video in the cloud. Of course there are apps for your phone, ipad and other platforms and the flexibility of something on your desktop – FCP, Avid, Lightworks or premiere – is always going to be better. But as something to get you out of a whole, create a quick edit or tidy something up, I think it’s pretty impressive. I’ll let you know what the students think.


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Creating audio slideshows using slideshare (and more)

I’ve just been putting together a workshop which fits around some discussion about audio journalism and audio slideshows in particular (more about that in the Ivory tower dispatch later this week).

In trying to put something practical together you soon get to see the limitation of the form within the kind of ‘freeconomy’ that exists for most web output.  Publish on a blog for example and the lack of ability to upload and embed files means daddy of slideshow builders, Soundslides, brilliant as it is,  is often a closed book unless you go the route of exporting to video.

There are work-arounds. You could use Dropbox to store the files and then generate  some embed code, but good luck embedding in wordpress!

So I was interested in exploring ways to pull together an audio slideshows together that gave you editorial control but didn’t require too much expensive software. So, that rules out but doesn’t dismiss using video editors as the platform to create the slideshow. I know a lot of people who use things like FCP to create image movies. You certainly see the influence of that with the greater prevalence of mixed-media stuff that’s coming out now. But  image movies miss that navigation you get with Soundslides so…

These are couple of solutions I worked through.

The Slideshare option.

[slideshare id=14664697&doc=examplepresentation-121010032816-phpapp02]

  • Record your audio using something like Audioboo or soundcloud.  I chose these platforms because they had nifty apps for my iphone so I could record the audio and back it up at the same time. There’s nothing stopping you using native audio recording apps.
  • Create a PowerPoint file containing the images, in order, for your slideshow. Because I’m using Slideshare, PowerPoint is pretty much required. What’s nice about is the collection of tools you have to add text etc. The slides don’t need to be a set length etc. They only need to be in order.
  • Upload the finished PowerPoint to Slideshare. 

  •  Upload your audio to Slideshare. Locate your presentation in your list of slides on slideshare. Then click the Add Audio. You can either link to an online file or upload one. One of the original reasons I used Audioboo was because it was easy to get a direct link to the MP3 file (just add .mp3 to the end of the url) but Slideshare didn’t seem to like the link and wouldn’t pull the file from AudioBoo directly, so I uploaded a version that I download from Audioboo!

  • Use the Slideshare editor to match your audio and slides. This is, and I’m not underselling this part, a bit frustrating. The editor uses a kind of windowed timeline which makes moving things around a bit of a pain, but it’s not a deal breaker. Some clicking around and you’ll get the feel of it. However its biggest failing is the patchy preview which is unpredictable. I often found it easier to save and check it in the normal view.

Hey presto! You have an audio slideshow. Embedding in blogs is pretty easy and there is a tried and tested shortcode for blogs.

The Windows movie maker option

The second option I toyed with was the video route. I know, I know, I said I ruled out the video route but WMM is free!

I’ve blogged before about using WMM to create slideshows before, so I won’t go in to that process other than to flag up two things:

  1. I used Powerpoint to generate the images in the slideshow. I just saved the presentation as a JPEG and it gives the option to save each slide as a separate image.
  2. I had to convert my audioboo MP3 to a WAV format. WMM doesn’t like the variable bit rate of the MP3 and syncing sound to pictures was impossible. I used Audacity to do this.

Once I had created the movie I uploaded to Youtube.

The other advantage of youtube here (rather than the image movie fave Vimeo) is that it offers a chance to put some of the interactivity in to the slideshow. Youtube’s video annotations (which may notice on the video above) give you the chance to add a level of interactivity to the video and the captions option also opens up some possibilities for adding more depth.


Aesthetically the slideshows are not going to please everyone. The restricted aspect ratio of both forms might offend the more cinematically minded in the multimedia journalism community for example. But small amount of faff aside, they are easy and free solutions and the exploration of the form (which is more what I’m interested in) is still there.

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Print organisations will need to open source their systems: New year convictions

Cookie cut or good business? Network template CMS's - Picture from Flickr by Toucanradio
Cookie cut or good business? Network template CMS's - Picture from Flickr by Toucanradio

The second of my new year convictions is Print organisations will need to open source some or all of their content management system if they want to stick with corporate templates.

Why? Because it hampers attempts to upskill journalists and softens the brands that are supposed to be so valuable

Let me explain (ahh, go on.)

By corporate templates I mean the practice of centrally controlling websites and rolling out the same core design across all the group publications.  The most recent example of this that I’ve seen in the UK is the recent roll out of Archants new template.

The motivation for this practice, on the surface, seems pretty logical

  • A standard template ensures the brand identity is managed effectively

Brand awareness

Thats’s an intersting one for me.

I’m constantly being told that the brand value that the local newspaper has, the identity within the community, is key, unique in fact. So why spoil that with one size fits all websites?

I started the post with an example of the latest in a line of network templates take a look at the site below by comparison.

This is the website of the the Champion newspaper group who, apparently bucking the trend, have just announced that they are about to launch a new, free weekly newspaper in Mersyside

The Champ News
The Champ News

It’s worth a visit so that you can explore the whole thing. In particular take a look below the scroll and have a look at all the widgets and free things stuck in there alongside all the free hosted video (I recommend the Visit Southport video where all the grey sky has been replaced with wonderful blue)Not going to win any awards is it. I think it has a bit of charm but is way below par. That said is it any less navigable or useable then Archants new template?

IT and ads drive CMS not content

The other reasons for ‘network templates’ often given are:

  • IT provision is easier to manage if it is all in one place
  • CMS backends essentially render geographical control of the systems redundant

and finally and most importantly for newspaper groups

  • advertising and commercial activity can be managed, packaged and sold as a national concern across a network

What this really means to the people who are using the system is a response and development time, wildly out of line the assumptions of the constant news flow and demand for innovation in the industry. Put simply, if you want a dipity timeline or a youtube video, you can’t have one until we have rolled it out across the network.

It’s limited flexibility for least risk. That’s a lowest common denominator approach and it stifles creativity.

Limiting creativity

I could speculate on the reasons for this slow development mentality. Maybe it is technical. Maybe the systems are built to interface with the print systems which would baulk at anything other than text. Maybe the IT people don’t trust the journalists. But whether its the curse of print legacy system (and the models they sustain) or the cautiousioness of IT people. That’s not really the point.

What this limitation in the capacity for flexibility does is take any activity to take journalists forward with digital skills and puts a big ball and chain on it. A really frustrating, rusty, hulking printing press of a ball and chain.

I only need to look at the increase of twitter followers, new blogs and fresh faces that have appeared since christmas to know that journalists are really fired up about online. They love twitter and blogging and RSS. Once they get excited by slideshows or video or maps they want to try them.  The avalaunche of new apps that appear on the web news of which spread through their newly followed feeds appear as a tweet are the biggest most exciting toy box imaginable. They have stories they want to tell.

Then they go in the office and it grinds to a halt.

That great stuff they tried on their blog the night before needs a form signed in triplicate, a request to central support and good dollop of patience. By then the stories dead and a little bit of the excitment has died with them.

The tenacious ones will stick with it and innovate. They will eventually get Dipity or a Google maps through the system and approved for use and really fly with it getting much earned kudos and immitation. Others will bypass the system all together and use open source blogs and website tools to get their content across getting no less praise.

Open sesame

That’s why I say print organisations will need to open source some of their systems.

What I would like to see is more print organisations integrate open source software in to their networks and keep it open source. Not take it and ‘stitch it in’ removing all the functionality. That means they can benefit from the fast moving developments in the community and support the innovation where required.  I can’t believe that proper implementation of an existing system like wordpress or moveable type is no  harder to support than a ground up creation of a similar system or the heavy handed integration of many.

Better still some or all of the elements of a companies own CMS could be made opensource. Look at the benefits the BBC get through projects like Backstage.

Many will argue, and perhaps with some justification, that the innovation does get through and IT are responsive (I’ve been scrupilous in my efforts not to attack IT people here). But even if the space is there for the innovation that newly upskilled journos are bringing to the newsroom the ubiquity of ‘network’ templates does little to protect a brand.

Essentially there is no excuse not to be a little more open.

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UK newspapers using Youtube

Inspired by Mark S. Luckie and his fantastic map of US newspapers using youtube I thought I would give it a go for the UK. The result (nowhere near as nice as Marks) is a real mix of pipes, maps and google docs. So it isn’t neat but it kinda works. If you notice that there is a paper missing then you can use the form at the end of this post to add it.

View Larger Map

The map includes regional and national press and there may be some accounts linked to more than one paper as the publisher may only have one website for that area. There may also be some accounts listed that are no longer used or vary rarely updated. They still carry content so they i’ve kept them in as a ‘presence’.

I was interesting to find a number of individuals using their accounts to host the papers video. Nice in the sense that they were having a go but also a little disappointing in the lack of support. Still, I suppose that’s innovation for ya!

I’m slowly formulating a ‘state of the medium address’ on video which I’m hoping to get headspace and time for before xmas and this has added a bit of food for thought. But, in the meantime, you can judge the quality and the effectiveness yourself by taking a look at the the latest 20 videos from these sites below (another pipe which takes a while to show up) which at some point I will try and append with view stats etc.

(nearly)Free video editing from Avid

It’s been a while since I’ve posted anything directly video related. Something that will be remedied over the next few weeks. In the meantime I wanted to point you to a PC only, free video editor called VideoSpin from Avid. Well technically it’s from Pinnacle, who are now owned by Avid.

It offers an impressive little feature set including titles, sound effects and an easy export to YouTube. But it does have some flaws. oh,and it’s only PC)

At a glance:

  • Only one video track
  • Great for hard disk cameras but no control for tape based camcorders.
  • Three audio track. One for the video and two that will take any file.
  • Rubber band editing for audio]
  • A great title tool
  • MPEG2/4 capacity limited to 15 days then you need to buy the codec pack (Less than 10 pounds)
  • A great (nearly free) editor that is a big step up from Windows movie maker.
  • Did I mention it’s only available for the PC

In more depth.

The interface

Videospin has a nice clean interface which should be an easy transition for people used to Windows Movie Maker. As nothing is really free these days the screen is dominated by the ad in the middle of the screen. You can’t get rid of it but it isnt as intrusive as you may think.


Here is one of the areas where Videospin falls down a little for some. There is no camera control so tape based capture straight in is out of the question. You could use one of the advertised Pinnacle apps or just use windows movie maker to create the files.

It’s pretty obvious that this is aimed at the hard-disk/removable media mob and it’s no worse off for that. I tried a drag and drop import of a 1080i M2ts file for the demo movie below and it worked fine.

According to the FAQ it will deal with a number of different formats through its import settings:

Video: (.avi, mpg, .mpeg, .mod, .mp2, .mp4, .wmv)

  • AVI (DV AVI)
  • MPEG-1
  • MPEG-2 (optional) MPEG-4 (optional)
  • DivX (optional)
  • WMV

Audio: (.Wav, .mp3, .mpa, .m4a, .wma, .AVI)

  • Dolby 2ch (optional)
  • MPEG-1 Layer 2
  • MP3 Audio

But notice the optional. The software has a 15 day grace period and then it will no longer handle MPEG-2/4 and DivX. That’s a clear problem for people editing off hard disk cameras as the M2TS files are MPEG 2. To get that MPEG functioanlity back you need to buy the Spinpac codec bundle. But it’s only £6.99 (11 bucks) so not a budget busting hobble.

Through the import you have all the usual scene detect options which display as a neat thumbnail. In a nice touch you can scroll automatically through the scenes using the play bar in the playback window.


It may be limited to one track but Video editing is a straighforward drag and drop effort. Drag a clip from the clip album and all the trimming is done on the timeline. This is done with the standard dragging of the in or out or you can split a clip with a Razor blade function. Clips can also be dragged around to re-order a movie with any gaps closed up behind you as you go.

Audio editing is one of the features that Videospin has over WIndows Movie Maker. Essentially you have 3 audio tracks to play with;  sound from the video clip, a music track and a second audio track although the music and audio tracks are interchangeable.   You can also take a video clip and lay it on the audio track and it will just take the video, effectively splitting the sound and picture, which gets you more than a way to getting over the lack of a B-roll video track.

Another great audio feature is the rubber band editing for all tracks. Mixing your audio is not just a one shot thing any more. A high quality feature for free software.

Bells and whistles

The FX are pretty limited even by Movie Maker standards, but useable. The more interesting part is the Title generator. Behind the ‘okay’ set of presets is actually a pretty powerful title tool that allows you add pics and has some snazzy text effects. Definitley worth a play with. The effects can also be added to the titles to.


The list of export formats in Videospin is equally impressive, nearly identical, and equally limited by the 15 day thing as the import option.As well as being able to save to a standard file on your desktop they also offer an ‘Upload to Youtube’ option which will compress, login and upload a file to an account of your choice. This is also available for Yahoo video as well but this requires the extra MPEG 2/4 codec.

But beware. It says in the Faq that it will do Flash Video but I couldn’t find the option for exporting anywhere. Maybe it’s because I was working on XP not Vista or maybe they are passing the YouTube export off as flash encoding.


Here’s a little demo of what I played around with:

A number of people have commented on Videospin’s limited feature set but praised it’s stability. And I’m still disappointed that Avid got rid of Free DV, its try avid product, and this won’t fill that gap. But I have to get over the fact that it isn’t meant to. It’s clear that the app is a marketing tool for getting people to upgrade to Pinnacle Studio – and app with a less of a reputation for stability. Its also aimed to sit between other products like Video Transfer and Instant DVD recorder. But in reality, who cares.

Being strict it’s not a free app as most of us will want the MPEG2/4 capcity. But even costing in the cost of the codec pack, Videospin is an absolute bargin at less than 10 pounds.

If Windows movie maker is looking limited but the budget just won’t stretch then this is a must have for PC based video people.

Download it from the Videospin website

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CJ and the olympic torch.

Back of my hols and my first post using WP2.5 – very nice so far.

Anyway, I have a lot of stuff to catch up on and things to post about. But to get the juices flowing I wanted to point to a great pick off by Phil Trippenbach about ‘CJ’ coverage of the Olympic torch going through London.

He compares it to the BBC coverage, which someone has also youtubed.

Interesting comparison and Phil ends by considering the fundamental problem that MSM face when it comes to this kind of thing

Everyone in the audience has a camera. And everyone in the audience can broadcast their feed live to the world. If the BBC (or anyone) can figure out an efficient way for people like niesfisch to get newsworthy video onto their own organization’s portal, instead of YouTube, in a timely and yet edited fashion, they’ll have a good thing going . .