Archive for November, 2009

Photo by Jeff Achen

Well, the frustrating reality of dismal online advertising revenue has forced my newspaper to eliminate its online editor job description. That means me.

Fortunately, it’s not a layoff, but a simple shift in job title. I’ll be integrated back into the print news operation to cover one of my community newspaper’s various beats. Most likely that means coverage of a community similar to my job description two years ago before being promoted to online editor.

The back story

I’ve always tried to push the multimedia envelope in my reporting, ever since starting as the Apple Valley editor/reporter at Thisweek Newspapers in 2005. We had no online editor at our paper in that time. But, I demonstrated a talent and interest in video and online in particular and in Jan. 2008 the then-president of my publishing company created an online editor position along with an online sales position as a sort of “experiement” to see if this new dynamic online duo could create multimedia content and related multimedia ad products to boost online revenue. It was an exciting time. We took our very lame web site and revamped it, adding more video, interactivity and improved design. Within the first year the sales person’s duties shifted, eventually to include some print advertising sales (sucked back in…) and before the year was up the sales position was eliminated. I continued to work on adding content to Thisweeklive.com, including the addition of audio podcasts in Spanish, Sports podcast, and TV show/Video podcast. I also pumped out at least one feature news video per week and worked to update the web site’s home page daily, something that was woefully lacking prior to me becoming online editor. I also lead a social media campaign to get our news out through Twitter (@Thisweekmn) and Facebook. I like to think my biggest contribution was simply being the point man for Thisweeklive.com. I think newspaper web sites need a point man (or woman) the same as any print edition has an editor. It’s someone to watch out for the paper, take ownership and make it his or her baby. Thisweeklive.com was my baby.

A teaser I created for the launch of Thisweeklive.com
in April 2008. Oh, I was so young, so full of hope…

It’s been a good run

Over the past two years, I’ve enjoyed the innovation and creative enterprise my superiors have allowed me. I’ve always been treated like a professional and nurtured in all my efforts. But, alas, the amount of money we make online remains the same as the day we started this “experiment” and the company president who appointed me has moved on. How long could I continue to goof off in my online office, creating videos and podcasts, posting daily stories and frequently asking for new cameras, software or audio recorders before they realized the online office was only producing news and not $$$? Well, they realized it and it’s a luxury this community newspaper has decided it cannot afford. Instead, we’ll beef up our coverage of business and try to spread the multimedia production out among the rest of the staff.

Though I won’t be online editor anymore, Thisweeklive.com remains committed to multimedia coverage of our communities and timely updates to our news web site. In fact, look for a redesign to debut this spring. I will also continue to host the TV show/video podcast. We’ll also maintain our Twitter and Facebook accounts. We hope our online audience will not see a difference in the online offerings with me “back in the newsroom” so to speak.

Lucky fellow

I’m lucky to still have my job and fortunate to be able to continue experimenting with multimedia. But, somehow this all feels like a hit to online journalism. My supervisors will tell me not to think of it that way. Maybe they’re right.

What do you think? Will online revenue ever support online journalism?

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YouTube gets it.

With the launch of YouTube Direct, it’s clear they now “get” online news video even better than most of us in the news industry. YouTube Direct is a new service that will help news organizations aggregate, solicit and take ownership (in a way) of citizen produced videos of newsworthy issues and events. I just hope news organizations don’t look—or overlook—this gift horse in the mouth.

This service will allow video producers, be they citizen journalists or average folks in your community, to upload their videos to YouTube THROUGH your site WITHOUT LEAVING YOUR WEB SITE! News organizations then review the videos and approve or reject them. Once approved, the video appears on your web site. Here are a few responses to questions about the use of YouTube Direct from their FAQ page:

“By submitting it through your site, the user may grant you a license to use the video according to a set of Terms of Service that you set forth, assuming it does not conflict with YouTube’s Terms of Service.”

“All of the videos submitted via YouTube Direct are stored and hosted by YouTube, and live on the user’s own YouTube channel.”

“You can choose how, when, and where to display videos on your own web domains. Inside the moderation panel, you can create playlists of video submissions, or you can embed individual videos into different story pages.”

“Because YouTube Direct is an open-source platform, you may integrate your own site registration process into this sign-in flow if you choose to.”

“To moderate the videos submitted via YouTube Direct, you will need a Google App Engine account. All of the moderation by your editors is done within the App Engine moderation panel interface. Learn more about how to get started with an App Engine account here: Getting Started Guide.”

Very cool.

Potentially, this will allow newsrooms with limited resources to tap into the vast community of video producers throughout their coverage areas. Think of it, an accident happens late on a Friday evening and a guy with his iPhone captures video of firefighters prying the driver free from his crumpled car with the jaws of life. No need to send a reporter. The guy can upload this footage to your news site.

Imagine, you write a story about a popular new sport at the local high school. Two days later you’ve got three or four video posts from parents or teens of last Friday’s game posted up alongside your story!

The possibilities are endless and very exciting.

Of course, YouTube Direct is a tool and must be applied properly, used effectively and not neglected in order for us to benefit fully from it. Don’t just install it on your site and wait for the videos to roll in. You’ll need to engage with the community to get them to fork over the videos. Through social networks encourage them to send in their videos. Seek out video producers already active on YouTube and ask them to contribute. Invite video submissions on your web site, in your print edition and through op/eds.

Check out http://www.youtube.com/direct and get on it!

That’s funny… but not.

Posted: November 18, 2009 in Multimedia Journalism

Dilbert.com

CORRECTION: Texastribune.org is not a newspaper. It is a non-profit, nonpartisan public media organization. But, my point remains, we’re seeing some great innovation in the way non-broadcast media is using the concept of the newscast. – J.A.

The idea of a newspaper web cast is continuing to evolve, even amidst criticism, depleted or dried up cash flows, and the already over saturated web video/Youtube universe.

As I’ve watched newspapers across the country experiment with online video on their sites (and done some experimenting of my own) I’ve discerned several patterns or trends:

  1. The newscast
    Newsbreak

    Minneapolis Star Tribune's "Newsbreak"

    TexasTrib

    Texastribune.org's video brief

    This is the attempt, however feible or fun, low or high tech, to replicate TV newscasts. The Minneapolis Star Tribune’s Newsbreak is one example that has evolved over the past year or so. Most recently, they’ve decoupled their headlines segment from the interview part of the show. Their headlines are short and to the point and highlighthe biggest stories of the day. Some newspapers have opted for a less polished, Youtube-esque look to their newscasts that don’t presume to mimic TV. Take for example the newly redesigned Texastribune.org. They’ve got “video briefs” that look professional, reputable and are short and to the point. (My only complaint is lower third graphics with tiny fonts. They need to be bigger for the web).

  2. The interview format
    TheShow

    Thisweeklive.com's "The Show"

    This is the direction we’ve gone at Thisweeklive.com, a page out of the cable access playbook with sit down style, long form interviews with local civic & political newsmakers. The Strib’s Newsbreak is also moving to this style with the notable exception that their interviews are conducted with staff reporters who talk in depth about a story or issue they’ve been covering.

  3. The “news celebrity” newscast
    Gersh

    The Brooklyn Paper's Gersh Kuntzman

    LedgerLive

    The Star Ledger's Brian Donohue on "Ledgerlive"

    Another direction newspapers have gone is to place a newspaper staffer with personality, style or a flair for humor at the center of their web cast. The Brooklyn Paper is of the smaller newspapers to do this with “celebrity” editor Gersh Kuntzman. The Star Tribune has Jimmy Lileks. New Jersey’s Star Ledger has Brian Donohue who hosts LedgerLive.

  4. Let TV do the heavy lifting

    MorningShow

    SouthFlorida.com's "The Morning Show"

    And, of course, some newspapers just won’t settle for anything but the “real deal”. Take the Florida Sun-Sentinal, which draws in it’s parent company resources (The Tribune Company) to bring TV news and programming to their web site. Southflorida.com is apparently an edition of the Newspaper’s web site and contains content aired on WSFL-TV. Many other newspaper sites are partnering with TV stations to post weather casts and news directly from their TV affiliates.

It’s still hard to say which model is the best, most lucrative or successful at gaining viewership. There are clear advantages to each path. The newscast highlights top news and provides another medium through which to consume the newspaper’s content. The interview show offers a depth and transparency to reporting, but may only find niche audiences. The “news celebrity” approach draws of the charisma of news folks to present the news and information and drive the show forward. And, of course, having a TV affiliate means little to no work for the newspaper staff, and you get polished, familiar and high production value online video.

So, the question for many newspapers is still between developing a “show” they can package (weekly, daily, etc.) or simply using spot news or feature video as needed with stories. With the show format, viewers will come to demand portability (linkable, embeddable video) and subscription (RSS & iTunes feeds, reliable video hosting platforms such as Youtube and Blip.tv).

It’s clear however, that online video viewership is on the rise. Newspapers hoping to stay relevant will have to consider the direction they want to go with video or risk losing out on a burgeoning young video-savvy audience.

Uh-oh it's Magic!

Uh-oh it's Magic!

I picked up Apple’s new wireless “Magic Mouse“. I was sold on the same “finger swipe” technology of the iPod Touch/iPhone variety. It’s turned out to be a great purchase, especially when it comes to interfacing with Final Cut Pro and Photoshop.

The ability to swipe backward/forward and side to side helps me navigate through timelines, the media browser and scrub video in the viewer with even greater ease than the Mighty Mouse. Best of all, the smooth surface will always work whereas I’ve manage to gum up the track ball in my Mighty Mouse on more than one occasion due to moisture on my finger (and occasionally pizza sauce while *gasp* eating and working!)

FCPscreenshot

It works pretty much the same as the Mighty Mouse by swiping left or right, up or down, except that much more effortlessly, responsively and accurately. I also like setting the Magic Mouse to “scroll with momentum” in the system preferences. This allows me to swipe fast across or along the mouse (or flick it) and the screen will move quickly and slowly drift to a stop. This makes navigating along a lengthy timeline extremely easy.

The Magic Mouse runs $69.99, but is well worth the investment for any video editor.