Join the debate on online video journalism

Welcome to our new blog all about online video journalism. As a group of broadcast journalism students based at City University, London we are interested in the issues surrounding gathering and publishing online video, the impact of online video on journalism and how it has come to be recognised as a powerful medium in its own right. The blog will explore aspects of this using a variety of media tools based on our specific interests. Enjoy, and join the debate by commenting!

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Experiment in online video: protests at Libya conference in London

Today, 44 foreign ministers met at Lancaster House to discuss the future of Libya. In a cafe just up from the corner of St James Street and Pall Mall at 1.30pm, three men sat wearing official badges displaying the Libyan and flag and the word DRIVER, speaking quietly. From outside the cafe, resounding raised voices could be heard. I went out with a camera to record interviews as an exercise in online video journalism.

Two groups of protesters had formed outside the conference venue. Chanting ‘hands off Libya’, the larger group of about 150 people waved green flags in unison, a symbol synonymous to them with both peace and Colonel Gaddafi. I spoke to 20 year old Marwa Issa, a housewife who came to the UK from Libya with her husband two years ago. She was with her son, Naset, 1 year and 8 months.

The Stop the War activists had positioned themselves on the other side of the road, in demonstration of their opposition to the Gaddafi regime. Chris Nineham, national organiser for the Stop the War Coalition, arranged their protest.

After recording the interviews I came home to work out the technical process of making them into online videos. Having connected the camera memory card to my laptop I uploaded the footage as .MOV files to my youtube channel and was able to embed them via their URLs directly into this post. I’ve also learnt the importance of investing in a microphone.

Laura Heighton-Ginns


Beet TV’s Online Video Journalism Summit

Just last month renowned online video blog Beet.TV hosted a summit on exploration into online video at the Washington Post. Beet TV focuses on the emergence of online video and its impact on industry and society and is generally recognized as the first business oriented video blog.

The panel at the summit included representatives from various respected news organizations including The New York Times, The Washington Post, msnbc.com, The Associated Press, CNN.com, Yahoo, CBS.com and others. The summit focused on how these associations used their online video to best effect and how they encouraged more viewers and hits. Here are some of my picks of the best tips that these online video connoisseurs had to offer.

Chris Cillizza of the Washington Post believes it’s important to do all you can to engage new viewers. Whether it’s Twitter, video journalism or print articles, it all helps to build up your network. Cillizza also had a warning to politicians, now that online services such as Twitter and YouTube reach the same audience as traditional media, production levels must remain high.

Steve King, also of The Washington Post advises syndicating your video both on and offline in order to expand your audience. For example at the Washington Post, video content is posted on Yahoo! as well as their own site. He sees the future of the whole of the business of the Washington Post to be in delivering video content that is exclusive to the newspaper. For example during the 2010 US mid term elections, the Washington Post hosted an Election Day twittercast with Chris Cillizza delivering the latest news and views from the polls.

Ann Derry the editorial director of video and television for the New York Times says their tactic has always been to, “be organic with the journalism and have the video come out of the journalism we are doing.” She also believes that integration of video into online articles is vital for higher views.

Yahoo! Video expert, Anna Robertson, argued why not broadcasting live but showcasing shorter clips works better with the shorter attention spans of online viewers. Ann Derry agrees with this saying unless there is a compelling reason for the video to be live, it shouldn’t be.

Kevin Roach of The Associated Press has found raw video to be the most successful with younger viewers because it is new and different from their parent’s TV news. However this is does not mean abandon making your neatly edited news type packages just yet as Stokes Young of MSNBC.com says they have had higher views in more explanatory, scripted news videos.

The panel also had lots of tips on how to actually get your video watched online. Anna Robertson says social media is very important, especially including embed codes to stream inline on Facebook or Twitter and allowing for easy referrals (like “click-to-share” links and embeds). According to Kevin Roach, 40% of AP’s streams from YouTube come from embedded streams in social media networks. Also search is one of the most important factors including having as many tags as possible that are relevant in order to maximize your content’s reach.

Watching the summit certainly expanded my thought processes in regard to online video and its potentials. Why not check out the video of summit for yourself here.

And here is the second half of the summit:

From left to right, Ann Derry, The New York Times; Stokes Young, msnbc.com; Kevin Roach, The Associated Press; Mike Toppo, CNN.com; Andy Plesser, Beet.TV; Alex Werpin, TVNewser; Anna Robertson, Yahoo! Video; Jeff Whatcott, Brightcove; Mark Larkin, CBSnews.com and Mike Stephanovich, Reuters Insider.

By Yianni Meleagros


Asking the experts about online video journalism, Vol II !

First I was lucky enough to speak to Guardian Commentator Tom Rogan and now I found out all about the online video plans at Austrian’s newspaper Oesterreich.

Jennifer Fellner is an editor for online content and social media at oe24.at (Oesterreich’s online paper), one of Austria’s biggest daily newspapers and online papers. I wanted to know what oe24.at are doing to expand their online video content.

oe24.at’s video portal is extremely big compared to other news websites in Austria. The videos are, either, bought from news agencies, such as Reuters or AP, produced by their video editors, or bought from citizen journalists. Their video coverage in Japan and the Fukushima crisis originated from citizen journalists for example. According to Jennifer, all of their natural disaster coverage and major accidents and other time sensitive stories, are written with the help of videos from their readers. “We could not do what we do without our readers”.

On a regular day oe24.at will upload 20 – 25 videos to keep readers coming back. Jennifer says updating information is key for viewer hits. In the past weeks, with Japan, Libya, and Bahrain these numbers sometimes doubled. “You can’t put an exact number on our videos”.

I want to know what kind of hits their videos get by their viewers and she tells me it always depends on the story. Successful stories get as many as 25,000 hit whereas low video numbers get only around 3,000 hits.

The most important aspect to their online video success is the time that the videos are uploaded. All videos, at least concerning the biggest news stories, have to be up by noon every day. This is because their biggest traffic on the website is between 12 – 14 pm. “Our users watch the videos in their lunch break and always have to be able to find the newest versions”.

A lot is planned for the next couple of months at oe24.at. The most prominent editors at the news giant will soon get their own channels, and here they will talk about the interviews they did and analyse the main news story of the week (like a Vlog). At first these channels will only be in politics, society and life-style and sport but eventually every category will have a video editor with their own channel.

I read a lot of German news and always check oe24.at for their video content. If you understand German you should definitely check them out. It will be interesting to see what kind of videos their editors will upload once they have set up their own channels and what the traffic numbers say then.

 

 

Jil D.

 


Twitter and its role in video journalism

Happy Birthday Twitter! It’s five years to the day since the site was born into the cyber world.

Despite having over 200 million users (compared to 400 million for Facebook), many people are still sceptical about the use, relevance and importance of Twitter.

I openly admit that I was a critic until a few months ago but now I find it a very useful journalistic tool.

So, in celebration of our 160-character friend’s fifth birthday, here are five ways in which Twitter can enhance a video journalist’s work…

1. Posting your own videos

Twitvid/Tweetmojo/Twitvideo. There are plenty of sites to choose from for sharing video via Twitter. It’s a quick and easy way to integrate a video into your tweet.

2. Storyfinding

This has perhaps been the most useful one for me so far. Obviously, this is not specific to video journalism, but it certainly offers a direct route to stories that haven’t been tapped into by the print media. Here’s a report that I filmed, having found the story though a twitter feed…

3. Directing web traffic to your site or channel.

Whether it be a personal website, a Vimeo channel or a Youtube account, Twitter is the ultimate tool when it comes to signposting people to your work. I recently set up my own website, put it out on a tweet and immediately got feedback and comments on the videos that I have made.

4. Creating a community.

In a recent interview that I did with David Dunkley-Gyimah, he told me that one of the great advantages of online video journalism is that it offers the chance to build a community around the stories that you produce. Rather than covering a story and then dropping and moving on to the next topic as tends to happen in the traditional broadcasting mould, the internet offers a platform for people to carry on discussing and contributing to a story/theme, long after it has been ‘aired’. And Twitter, is just one of many tools that you can use to harness this community, through the use of hashtags, etc.

There are numerous examples of this. Channel 4 has been doing this recently with great success. Take, for instance, tonight’s Dispatches. The programme was called ‘Train Journeys from Hell’. Whilst it was on air, they flashed up the hashtag ‘TrainPain’ and that got thousands of people involved. The programme aired at 8pm and by 9pm it was the top trending hashtag in the UK.

5. Live streaming

You can use sites such as Twitcam to link to live streams.

This is particularly good if you want to broadcast from a phone, webcam or something portable. If you’re shooting some great actuality or just want to put out an interview live and you want people to see it, this is the best way to get it seen at that very moment. The immediacy of Twitter is unparalleled.

Still not convinced? Then take a look at these Twitter stats from Business Zone

  • A year ago, people sent 50 million tweets a day. The average now is 140 million and on March 11, 2011, the tally was 177 million!
  • 572,000 new accounts were created on March 12, 2011; 460,000 new accounts were created daily, on average, in the past month!
  • Mobile users increased 182% in the past year!
  • 8 people worked at Twitter in January 2008. Today it’s 400!

Will Teddy


Interview: Raul Gallego Abellan on reporting wars and how technology is changing the role of a journalist

Raul Gallego Abellan is a video journalist from Spain currently employed by Associated Press. His work has led him around the world, between war zones, natural disaster sites and international award ceremonies.

LHG: Your website states that your first role in the industry was as a freelance in 1998. In what ways have you found that the expectations of independent video journalists have changed since then?

RGA: Technology is going through a big change in our profession. Equipment is more cheap so more people have access to cameras and can potentially become journalists, producers, filmmakers etc. But because there is a bigger market and bigger group of people ready to shoot, media companies are using this fact to devalue the conditions of our work. There are so many people willing to work as journalists that media companies are taking advantage and saying: look if you don’t take this offer I have hundreds of people knocking on my door willing to work for even cheaper.

But though there are more people with a laptop and a camera it doesn’t mean that quality is improving. Actually it’s getting worse. General quality in shooting, editing and even reporting is getting lower. There are stories that I see now on TV or online that, when I was starting out, would no way have been broadcast.

I love to work with just a little camera, a laptop and a satellite phone. That makes it so much easier for me to travel around. But working with a little camera is more difficult; there is less stability and you have to make a bigger effort to shoot properly, make sequences etc. than if you work with a big camera.

However there are now people doing great work with very cheap equipment. More people are able to produce something and show their talent and new ways of storytelling. Before, production was very expensive. Now, with less money but good quality and hard work you can do what before you had to spend big quantity of money and send a big crew on.

But I do feel that what is wrong is that the conditions of our work, salary, level and quality, etc., are decreasing in recent years.

Now, a freelancer has to be someone ready to do everything. Shoot, edit, report, write, take photos, tweet! I like to be a multi skilled person but now it’s getting too much. It’s evident that if you try to take photos, shoot video, edit, report, tweet, all at the same time, the quality will be not so good. Especially in daily news or breaking news, for example a text writer cannot take good photos if s/he doesn’t have experience and is using a little snapshot camera. What you do when something is happening in front of you? Take photos? Shoot video? Also, I think that if you shoot video with cameras like HD SLR and then you do a frame grab you are killing photography.

LHG: You’ve been covering the unrest in Libya for Associated Press and have entered many conflict zones for your work in the past. How do you prepare yourself for entering a hostile territory?

RGA: I don’t have a set way to prepare myself. I always try to think positive but at the same time be aware of things that could happen; all the options, all the possibilities that I might face. I believe that motivation is also very important. People have to know why they are going to cover conflict. For me it works if you have the intention to show the reality of the conflict, the suffering, and if you see journalism as a tool that means things will at least be registered. We as journalists can not create much change in the world but at least we can try to or try to expose something that is wrong. If somebody that has a rich life in the EU or the US sees one of my stories and decides to give a donation to an NGO or just becomes more aware of how lucky s/he is to live where s/he lives it’s kind of worth it. Sometimes a camera in a conflict can give a little hope to the person that is suffering just to let them talk in front of the camera. Sometimes a strong image can mobilise a society in big or small groups or individually.

Every war reporter has different reasons for covering wars. And it’s worth noting that covering war doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to be constantly on the front line. People are bored of the bang bang images. They are so bombarded with them that they don’t care anymore or are not touched by one or two minutes of fighting, explosions or images of people injured or dying in the hospital. An example of this is that some people remember more of an interview with a Libyan rebel fighter I filmed in the few days before he started fighting, when he was living in Denver Colorado selling donuts, than any of my fighting images where I was risking my life for it.

But the last uprisings in Tunis, Egypt, Libya etc. shows how important the media still is and how important journalists are in mobilising people despite, at the same time, mass media becoming a little like a circus with correspondents just explaining how difficult and dangerous it is for them to work there than actually what is going on on the ground.

LHG: What would you say is the most memorable project you’ve worked on to date?

RGA: I have lots of stories in mind. I cannot say one was more important or more memorable than the others. Covering a historic moment is incredible. When you are recording with the camera and you are thinking, this is history and I am experiencing it in a front row seat. Also, when your story helps someone, that is the best feeling as a cameraman or journalist as it’s when you feel that your work is really worth it.

Last year the Radio Television Digital News Association (RTDNA) recognised online news for the first time, and awarded Raul the Edward R Murrow News Series prize for his three part video essay A Marine’s Diary, about the lives of US marines in Afghanistan.

Part I:

Part II:

Part III:

Laura Heighton-Ginns


Ten pioneers in online video journalism

Part two – Online channels

Last week in the first part of this mini series, I described how the internet has offered video journalists more freedom to experiment (see below).

In this second part I have picked out five of my favourite video journalism web channels. Each one has transformed the use of video in online journalism in its own right.

1. View Magazine

David Dunkley-Gyimah is one of the original pioneers in videojournalism. Since 1994, he has been bridging the gap between cinema and video journalism. He is one of the most innovative and informative video journalists around. His website contains all sorts of films, articles and images for video journalists to feast on.

Recommend:

A brief visual history of videojournalism (below)

8 Days

2. Guardian Films

Headed by the renowned print journalist Maggie O’Kane, Guardian Films has produced many excellent investigative films and won several awards. Most of the films are produced exclusively for the website, with the explicit aim of extending international and domestic investigative journalism using film and video.

Recommend:

Ghaith Abdul-Ahad’s films on Iraq

Sean Smith’s British Troops in Afghanistan

3. Vimeo Documentary Film Channel

As you’d expect from a Vimeo site (which is renowned for its professionalism and aesthetically pleasing nature), every film is beautifully shot and a joy to watch. This is online video storytelling at its best and there are nearly 600 films to choose from.

Recommend:

The Real Kite Runners (below)

Birthright (below)

4. VBS.tv

The online TV channel of Vice Magazine, is innovative in both its site’s magazine-style and the subjects that it tackles. In its own words, VBS carries “a mix of domestic and international news, pop and underground culture coverage, and the best music in the world.”

Recommend:

Heavy Metal in Baghdad

Obama’s War

5. Citizen Tube

This site is very different to the others featured on this list, but no less important. As the name suggests, this YouTube project deals mainly in citizen video journalism. The channel was set up as a platform for anyone to upload any news or politics-related videos.

Recommend:

There are so many videos uploaded to this channel that it’s better to pick some out for yourself. Also, take a look at the Citizen Tube blog, which has some interesting posts every now and then.

Will Teddy