New intel on Web video

As multimedia journalists try to figure out how the Web changes video storytelling, it’s important to stay on top of research on the topic.  Frank N. Magid Associates recently released results of a study that seems to indicate that TV stations need to develop a Web video strategy and fast.

Overall, the most-watched online videos are not professionally produced. According to the survey, video shot by consumers pulls in 43% of regular online video users. The second-most-viewed online video comes from news stories: 32%. Then comes music videos, 31%; movie previews, 29%; and comedy/bloopers, 26%.

Now, the good news in this is that just under a third of videos viewed are, in fact, news stories.  But, what are TV stations doing to encourage appropriate audience contributions?  And why aren’t all TV stations posting their own stories online?  These are the questions TV stations need to be asking before they lose the video edge they still have.

Other important points from the study:

  • 20% of all online video viewers watch less TV as a direct result of using online video.
  • Young males watch the most — 70% of men 18-24 watch online videos each week, including 25% who watch daily.
  • The biggest female group was girls 12-17. Fifty-six percent watch weekly, including the 13% who watch daily.

Inside a hyper-local blog

What motivates a person to devote almost as much time to a neighborhood blog as they do to a full time job? For Jacqueline Dupree, it’s a desire to document history. Dupree works for the Washington Post, maintaining the company’s Intranet. But she’s also the force behind JDLand, a blog that covers a 100-block area just south of Capitol Hill where the new Washington Nationals ballpark opened last year.

Dupree’s degree is in history, not technology or journalism. “It was the historian in me who wanted to document what it looked like before [the ballpark was built].”

Dupree spends about 30 hours a week on her blog, which she produces entirely alone. “I’m a control freak,” she admits.

JDLand aggregates stories from news organizations, links to original documents and databases, and provides an interactive map and extensive photo archive. Dupree also does a lot of independent reporting, covering government meetings almost no one else attends. “Traditional media can’t cover a neighborhood down to the level of detail I would like to see.”

Whenever possible, Dupree links to original documents on government Web sites, something many mainstream news organizations won’t do. “Reporters think, ‘I found it, it’s mine and I’ll tell you about it.'” But Dupree says linking has helped her earn the trust and respect of readers.

“I think people should know everything,” Dupree says, so she tells her users everything she knows. “People have never said this is too much information; [they] ask for more.”

Dupree doesn’t call herself a journalist and compares her blog to a Charles Dickens serial. “At heart, I’m telling a story about a neighborhood a chapter at a time.”  But she says JDLand is journalism. “It’s ‘news over the fence,’ what people are talking about. The paper can’t cover all of that. Just because they can’t doesn’t mean it’s not news.”

How to use Twitter with your blog

Poynter recently hosted an online chat with NYU professor Jay Rosen and PressThink blogger on the subject of teaching people to blog.

Advice: Break news, say something that hasn’t been said, collate what no one has collated, and then link to the biggies when you publish.

So, why link to the “biggies,” as in popular blogs?  Rosen says it’s not only the number of hits on your blog that help you measure success; he says it may be more important for your blog to be “getting links to sites that are ‘in’ the main conversation.”  These are the blogs that are recognized as thought leaders on a particular topic.

What’s the best way to get people to link to you? Talk about them at your blog! Or link to some post they did, and then click a bunch of times on the link to their blog that you put in your post.

For a lot of journalists, this is an uncomfortable place to be – building off of other people’s work and taking on the task of self-promotion, but that’s what it seems we’re talking about here – alerting people to the work you’re doing in order to get them to view it.  It’s just that in the past, for many mainstream journalists, there were folks in the promotion department doing the job for them.

Another way to get blog exposure?  Use Twitter – something that can be particularly useful for a blog that updates less than daily.

Daily posting leads to people subscribing and checking back, but that’s not going to work unless you have new stuff to tell them; if your pace is more 2-3 times a week for longer posts that’s a different rhythm and will lead to a different user base with diferent expectations. My blog is on a “slow” rhythm and I use Twitter to activate it when I need it. But I long ago lost any users looking for a daily read.

Others in the conversation suggested putting alerts about new posts on Facebook or any other site that might draw additional viewers to your blog.

Rosen also admits that getting a blog off the ground is more difficult now that there’s so much competition, but if you’re reading this post, you may have one advantage.

Remember: most amateur bloggers are lazy. If you want to stand out, add more richness, do more work. Put in the time and save the user time.

Broadband growth important to journalists

Forget my MTV, I want my high-speed Internet access.  The Pew Internet & American Life Project just released its latest survey on broadband penetration in the U.S., and even in these tough economic times, broadband adoption is growing.  According to the survey, 63% of American adults now have high-speed access.  That’s up about 15% from just a year ago and up 57% from just nine years ago.

Other interesting data from the study include statements on how people are using these high-speed connections.  For example, 68% of people say broadband is either very or somewhat important to them in finding out what is going on in their communities.  And 58% say high-speed access is very/somewhat important to them in sharing views with others about key issues.  Newsrooms should be well positioned to serve those needs, but how many local news sites are truly centers for community conversation?

The study also indicates that the increase in broadband penetration has given journalists an opportunity to reach more diverse audiences online than ever before.

The majority group of home high-speed users who say broadband is very important for at least one topic listed are younger than other broadband users (the median age is 39 for the “very important” majority versus 43 for the rest) and more ethnically diverse. Some 25% of those who see broadband as “’very important” in at least one way are English-speaking Hispanics (15%) or African Americans (10%)….

For years news organizations have been researching local audiences to find out what they wanted; now it’s just as important to know what drives local Web audiences.  These types of national surveys may offer a place to start in understanding how to improve the online news product.

Experimenting with digital storytelling

Improv actors, a soundtrack and very little text. Is this the future of online journalism?

Consider what staid old Fortune magazine has been doing lately, in collaboration with the online magazine Flyp Media. Flyp has turned some of Fortune’s editorial content into imaginative multimedia features, like this piece on the Bernie Madoff investment scam. Fortune executive editor Steve Koepp told the AP, “It’s just an exciting new way to present the information to the reader. It’s a little taste of the future.”

Using Flash animation, video and other multimedia tools, Flyp has been telling stories online for about a year. The company is financed by Mexican billionaire Alfonso Romo Garza, a member of Forbes’ board of directors, who also funds the Spanish-language Web magazine Reporte Indigo.

Senior editor Matthew Schaeffer describes Flyp’s stories as “experiences.”

The idea isn’t just to write a story and then add a video or an audio piece. It’s to really figure out the best way to conceptualize these stories as multimedia pieces.

Flyp may have an advantage over traditional media companies because its material is published only online. No one there has to worry about how the story will look in the newspaper or on TV. But the magazine’s approach underlines the importance of thinking differently from the start when you’re planning to produce multimedia journalism.

Press freedom and the Web

Here’s an Internet irony: the Web has made it possible for almost anyone to be a journalist but it’s also made the world more dangerous for anyone practising journalism. For the first time, according to the Committee to Project Journalists, online journalists are the largest group behind bars around the world. And all journalists are threatened, says CPJ’s Joel Simon, because militant groups no longer need journalists to get their message out and they’ve learned they can spread fear by attacking and murdering journalists.

Simon told a conference on Capitol Hill last week that in the past ten years the number of journalists killed in the line of duty has skyrocketed, primarily due to the Iraq war, which he called “the deadliest conflict for journalists in history. War reporting is  obviously dangerous, but CPJ says most journalists killed in Iraq did not die in combat; two thirds of them were targeted and murdered. 

CPJ and other journalism groups are calling for the passage of the Daniel Pearl Freedom of the Press Act that would require the State Department to report annually on the state of press freedom worldwide and provide grants to strengthen media independence.

In connection with World Press Freedom Day (May 3), it’s important to note that a democratic system of government doesn’t ensure a free press. To the contrary, some of the countries ranked highest on CPJ’s “impunity index,” countries where journalists’ murders go unsolved, are nominally democracies: Russia, Colombia, the Philippines and Pakistan. Just another reminder that a free press should never be taken for granted.

Getting started with online video

Most newsrooms understand that they need to include video in their online offerings. If they haven’t started doing it yet, they’re behind the curve. But what’s the best service to use for posting video if you’re not going to host it yourself?

YouTube is certainly the most popular option, with more than 5 billion online videos. According to Nielsen Online, 89 million people use the service in the U.S. alone.  It’s free and easy to use, but it’s not the only way to go.

Where to begin? Start by reading Jackie Hai’s brief review of YouTube and two alternatives–Vimeo and Blip–at Save the Media.  She also covers options for streaming live Webcasts–Mogulus and UStream. As Hai puts it, the decision on which one to use “depends on what style of video journalism you’re going for.”

Online jounalism jobs increase

The American Society of News Editors annual survey of employment at the country’s newspapers is rich in information for journalism job seekers.

First, the news is troubling for anyone who has dreamed of spending a career working at a daily newspaper.

American daily newspapers shed 5,900 newsroom jobs last year, reducing their employment of journalists by 11.3 percent to the levels of the early 1980s.

It’s also disheartening to see that minoritiy repesentation in these newsrooms has stagnated at a little more than 13 percent.  For African Americans in particular, the news is even more bleak.

In this decade, there has been a net increase of Latino, Asian and Native American journalists and a net decline of Black journalists.

However, it’s also worth noting that the survey reports a 21% rise year-to-year in online-only journalists.  According to ASNE,  there are now 2,300 working for daily newspaper Web sites; 19.6% of those employees are minorities.

The message for someone looking for work?  If you have strong multimedia skills, showcase them – if you don’t – start working to get them now!

Planning for breaking news

It may sound counterintuitive, but you really do need a plan if you’re going to do the best possible job of covering breaking news. The more prepared you are, the less you have to worry about when the big story hits. That’s especially true online.

Consider the elements you’ll want to add to your Web covereage of breaking news and make sure you’re ready to build them in a hurry. The list would most likely include maps, timelines, resource links and slide shows ( because they’re more flexible and generally more popular with users than video).

If you don’t yet have a game plan for reporting a crisis online, consult the tip sheet Mark Luckie has put together at 10,000 Words. He links to tools that can help you produce interactive elements fast. For a quick Google map mashup, for example, he suggests FM Atlas.  (Is it just me, or does it seem like there’s a new mapping tool added every week?)

Breaking news coverage on the Web requires more than a few interactive elements, however:

Most importantly, all the print stories, multimedia, interactive graphics and blog posts should be aggregated on one page to serve as a single destination for those looking for information related to the crisis. Not only does a landing page make content easily accessible but it makes the hunt for the latest news less of a struggle when time may be a factor.

Figuring out how to do all of this before a big story breaks will pay off big time when it does.

Online journalist survey highlights

A new survey from the Project for Excellence in Journalism and the Online News Association may be a bit of a good news/bad news situation.

The good news is that 82% of online journalists are at least somewhat confident that the industry will find a way to make news on the Web profitable.  However, a large majority felt that online advertising would be the path to success and in the weeks since the survey was conducted, the growth in online ads has been slowing considerably.

The survey also indicated where online journalists believe their sites have been successful, as well as  opportunities for growth and improvement.

When asked what online journalism is “doing especially well these days,” more named aspects of technology like using advancements well (31%) or speed (30%) than named reporting skills like improving storytelling (16%) or exploiting the potential for greater depth (12%).

And there was real concern about the impact the Web is having on the core values of journalism, though those working in legacy media were more worried about the direction journalism is headed than the online journalists as a whole.

Where is journalism headed?

The biggest changes, the respondents said, were a loosening of standards (45%), more outside voices (31%) and an increased emphasis on speed (25%).

More outside voices was seen as both a negative and a positive — negative because it dilluted the power of traditional journalism and positive because it offers the news audience more perspectives on an issue.  And speed was considered both a good and a bad thing since spped can sometimes translate into inaccuracy.

And online journalists don’t yet seem to be capitalizing fully on the opportunities the Web provides.

Among the ONA respondents, though, website home pages still dominate. Three-quarters of them said their site’s home page is “essential to getting their content to users.” This is nearly three times the number that named e-mail alerts (26%) and RSS (26%), both of which are also considered passé forms by many inside the technology industry. Just 9% considered posting to social media sites essential. Postings on the increasingly popular YouTube were named essential by a mere 4%. And four times as many (18%) said YouTube postings were not at all important. 

All this seems to suggest that those getting into online journalism today have a chance to make a real difference by promoting in-depth and innovative reporting and by pushing their employers to go beyond the Web site walls to reach audience.