Taking Media by Storm

A new form of journalism is also surfacing – a much longer and more intensive form, very different from the two minute news packages you see on nightly newscasts.

Brian Storm is the president of MediaStorm, an award winning production studio located in Brooklyn, New York, which publishes multimedia social documentary projects at http://www.mediastorm.org and produces them for other news organizations. He envisions the future of long-form, multimedia journalism from the perspective of its creation, distribution and economic viability.

Working with top visual storytellers, interactive designers and global organizations, MediaStorm creates cinematic narratives that speak to the heart of the human condition. MediaStorm collaborates with a diverse range of clients and is leading the way in the training of the next generation of journalists, teaching them how to harness the power of this storytelling to engage and inspire viewers.

MediaStorm is different than traditional journalism in many aspects. The company uses breathtaking photography and exquisite multimedia storytelling on the extremely important issues, such as the legacy of  Rwandan genocide, that mainstream news outlets can’t produce (due to short budgets).

MediaStorm

Their storytelling philosophy, Storm said, is to let the subjects speak in their own words. They use on-screen text to connect the dots and drive the narrative, but the audio is in their sources’ own words.  They combine stills and video to great effect and always incorporate some kind of surprise for the audience.

The most interesting fact about MediaStorm is their viewership. Studies have shown that the average person will not watch an entire video if it exceeds two minutes. However, MediaStorm has a 65 PERCENT completion rate for one of their 21 minute videos. Meaning that 65 percent of those that start watching stick with it to the end – a truly amazing feat.

Does Storm have an answer for their high viewership?

1. Quality, quality, quality.  They are selective about the work they do, and they invest time and money in doing it right. No denying that’s a part of their success.

2. Audience expectations. If you plunk a big time-consuming multimedia project on a Web site where people expect relatively short news and feature stories they will feel too overwhelmed to take the time to really explore what you have to offer.  Instead, think about creating a separate site for your very best work, where you can cultivate a different set of expections. That is exactly what MediaStorm did.

3. Put content on as many platforms as possible. Make it easy for users to share it – via email, Facebook, Twitter, etc.  Work hard on making sure the user experience is as seamless and non-frustrating as possible.

 

 

Do What You Do Best, Link to the Rest

‘Do what you do best, link to the rest,’ is a phrase coined by Jeff Jarvis. He encourages journalists, especially bloggers, to try on this new rule.

Right now, newspapers try to cover everything. This is because they used to be the all-knowing source for everyone in their market. Often, they had their own reporters replicate the work of other reporters elsewhere and ran the stories under their own bylines as a matter of pride and propriety. It’s the way things were done. They also took wire-service copies and reedited it. But in the age of the link, this practice is inefficient and unnecessary. You can link to the stories that someone else did..

According to Jarvis, “This changes the dynamic of editorial decisions. Instead of saying, “we should have that” (and replicating what is already out there) you say, “what do we do best?” That is, “what is our unique value?” It means that when you sit down to see a story that others have worked on, you should ask, “can we do it better?” If not, then link. And devote your time to what you can do better.”

Jarvis believes that people need to strive to provide value, and not the one-hundredth version of the same story. This will work for publications and news organizations. It will also work for individuals; this is how a lone reporter’s work (and reputation) can surface ‘

Jarvis mentions that news is not one-size-fits-all. News just doesn’t come from one source anymore. People are bombarded with news constantly – it is all around us. For instance, everyone knew that Anna Nicole Smith was dead. So that means that not every newspaper needs to cover that story in depth. The New York Times should not devote their time and effort to reporting on the story when they added nothing more to it. It’s not what they do best. If they wanted to cover it, they should have covered it online, and linked to the many, many other sources that are covering that specific story. Then the Times could have used its resources for news that matters and news that they can do uniquely well. They need to take advantage of the link.

Some newspapers are getting more comfortable with linking are and even linking to competitors.

Jarvis noted, “Once you really open yourself up to this, then it also means that you can link to more people gathering more coverage of news: ‘We didn’t cover that school board meeting today, but here’s a link to somebody who recorded it.’”

So you do what you do best. And you link to the rest. It’s a rule to live by..or at least report by.

Blog, Blog, Blog

The rise of blogs in recent times has sparked a series of debates about its place in the news industry. Here are a few important topics, questions, and issues surrounding rise of the blogosphere:

Are bloggers a threat to news organizations?

The latest, and perhaps gravest, challenge to the journalistic establishment is the blog. Journalists accuse bloggers of having lowered standards. But their real concern is less high-minded – it is the threat that bloggers, who are mostly amateurs, pose to professional journalists and their principal employers, the conventional news media..

Are blogs accurate?

Having no staff, the blogger is not expected to be accurate. [I’d certainly argue with that -jeff] Having no advertisers (though this is changing), he has no reason to pull his punches. And not needing a large circulation to cover costs, he can target a segment of the reading public much narrower than a newspaper or a television news channel could aim for. He may even be able to pry that segment away from the conventional media. Blogs pick off the mainstream media’s customers one by one, as it were.

What opportunities do blogs provide to journalists?

Bloggers can specialize in particular topics to an extent that few journalists employed by media companies can, since the more that journalists specialized, the more of them the company would have to hire in order to be able to cover all bases. A newspaper will not hire a journalist for his knowledge of old typewriters, but plenty of people in the blogosphere have that esoteric knowledge, and it was they who brought down Dan Rather. Similarly, not being commercially constrained, a blogger can stick with and dig into a story longer and deeper than the conventional media dare to, lest their readers become bored….

Do blogs benefit from each other?

What really sticks in the craw of conventional journalists is that although individual blogs have no warrant of accuracy, the blogosphere as a whole has a better error-correction machinery than the conventional media do. The rapidity with which vast masses of information are pooled and sifted leaves the conventional media in the dust….In effect, the blogosphere is a collective enterprise – not 12 million separate enterprises, but one enterprise with 12 million reporters, feature writers and editorialists, yet with almost no costs. It’s as if The Associated Press or Reuters had millions of reporters, many of them experts, all working with no salary for free newspapers that carried no advertising.

Are blogs unfair?

How can the conventional news media hope to compete with blogs? Especially when the competition is not entirely fair. Bloggers can simply copy the hard work of the conventional journalists without paying a cent for it. There is also the fear of some critics worry that ”unfiltered” media like blogs exacerbate social tensions by handing a powerful electronic platform to extremists at no charge, where they can post biased opinions at will.

Can blogs be trusted?

Blogs enable unorthodox views to get a hearing. They get 12 million people to write rather than just stare passively at a screen. In an age of specialization and professionalism, they give amateurs a platform, and most people are sensible enough to distrust communications in an unfiltered medium. They know that anyone can create a blog at essentially zero cost, that most bloggers are uncredentialed amateurs, that bloggers don’t employ fact checkers and don’t have editors and that a blogger can hide behind a pseudonym. They know, in short, that until a blogger’s assertions are validated (as when the mainstream media acknowledge an error discovered by a blogger), there is no reason to repose confidence in what he says. The mainstream media, by contrast, assure their public that they make strenuous efforts to prevent errors from creeping into their articles and broadcasts. They ask the public to trust them, and that is why their serious errors are scandals.

So whether you follow blogs or have your own blog, these are all important issues to keep in mind.

Right in Your Neighborhood

Mike Fancher, former executive editor of the Seattle Times, makes a very interesting point about the future of local journalism:

“Have the community at the center of everything you do…Bring people into your thought process. Get the benefit of finding out more precisely what their news information needs are, and be in a real partnership with them. And for Heaven’s sakes, take advantage of their intelligence, their knowledge of the community and their ability to help you create better journalism. I think that would be a very important starting point.”

This is what hyperlocal journalism prides itself on.

Hyperlocal journalism, sometimes called microlocal journalism, refers to coverage of events and topics on an extremely small, local scale. An example might be a website that covers a specific neighborhood or even a particular section or block of a neighborhood. It focuses on news that would usually not be covered by larger mainstream media outlets, which tend to follow stories of interest to a citywide, statewide or regional audience. For instance, a hyperlocal journalism site might include an article about the local Little League baseball team, an interview with a World War II vet who lives in the neighborhood, or the sale of a home down the street.

Philadelphia Neighborhood

Early on, hyperlocal journalism was hailed as an innovative way of bringing information to communities often ignored by local newspapers, especially at a time when many news outlets were laying off journalists and reducing coverage. Even some large media companies decided to catch the hyperlocal wave. In 2009 MSNBC.com acquired the hyperlocal startup EveryBlock, and AOL bought two sites, Patch and Going.

Patch.com has been growing ever since it’s start up, and is now present in 16 states. I wouldn’t be surprised if more sites like Patch.com started sprouting up. People like knowing what it going on in their town..their neighborhood…even their block, which is why there is a need for more hyperlocal journalism.

Is Skype the Future of Live TV?

Almost everyone has used Skype these days, whether it is for a business conference or to stay in touch with loved ones and friends face-to-face. However, Skype is also being used in the newsroom.

According to Poynter Online, a WTSP-TV anchor/reporter Janie Porter was on TV, reporting live from Ft. Lauderdale, Fla. on the run-up the week’s national college football championship game. Interestingly, she didn’t have a big live truck accompanying her, an engineer tuning in a shot or a photojournalist standing behind the camera and setting up lights. All she had, was her computer.

Porter set up her own camera, opened her laptop, connected the camera to her computer, slipped a wireless connection card into her laptop, called up Skype and used her Blackberry to establish IFB (the device TV folks wear in their ears to hear the off-air signal). Put this all together, and you have a pretty decent live shot without all the hassle of a crew and a huge camera.

This type of reporting marks a new day. It is more than backpack journalism or one-man-band reporting. It is a potential cost-saving way to use fewer people and to send in live reports without using expensive trucks.

According to Poynter, WTSP News Director Darren Richards said, “The process was surprisingly simple. We used a camera with firewire video out to a reporter laptop computer. We then used Skype to send the picture via a wireless AirCard. Back here at 10 Connects, we called up the video via Skype in a computer in our control room that we have on the router. We then punched it up like a regular live video source on our switcher. We ran some tests in advance and they all worked great — very smooth with only a slight delay, probably a little shorter than a SNG (satellite truck) shot.”

The key to a smooth shot seems to be having solid high-speed connection. The slower the connection, the worse the signal becomes. It also helps to have a fast laptop.

Well, If this doesn’t sum up the future of reporting, I don’t know what does. I’m very proud to say that I did my own live shot recently for QNN – The Quinnipiac News Network via Skype. I’m so glad that our professor is using Skype as a journalism tool and is helping us get some live shot experience while still in college.

Here are some examples of live shots using skype.

The Journalism Social Network

In light of the new hit movie, The Social Network, it seems appropriate to write a post on the infamous social network – Facebook. How does journalism relate to Facebook? Well, there are plenty of ways a journalist can use Facebook as a tool.

To start, Facebook is a great way to find contacts. For example, say a journalist is covering the health industry and adds 20 of his contacts to Facebook. By looking at his friends, the journalist may be able to find other contacts that he wouldn’t otherwise have met. Now, obviously a journalist has to be careful about adding “whistle blowers” or anonymous sources. These people can give false leads and information that will risk a journalist’s credibility. But, most of the time Facebook is a very useful tool.

Secondly, Facebook is a great source of special interest groups. Previously, journalists looked to large ‘official’ organizations to comment on a story.  Now, a journalist can get a further perspective from groups that are using social networking platforms. This is particularly important as stories are increasingly pushed by people from these niche groups.

A third way to use Facebook is as a news source itself via the feed of friends’ status updates. This can be more miss than hit, but there’s always the chance someone will mention something newsworthy, or even post newsworthy images. Either way, having friends on Facebook will improve a journalist’s relationship with contacts by showing an interest in others’ lives.

Finally, a journalist can set up his own group on Facebook. This can provide a useful organizational and distribution tool for stories. A journalist can seek help on a story, and get others to give their perspective on an issue. The group is like a community that can feed into the news agenda of the site, suggest ideas, leads and treatments. As journalists become increasingly stretched, being able to tap into support networks like these is becoming increasingly important.

Adapting to Facebook will be easy for young journalists, since so many of them have practically grown up with social networks. College students are perhaps one of the most connected groups of people, which is important for those entering the field of journalism.

    Steps for Journalism Entrepeneurs

    So, you’re fed up with the news industry and thinking about starting a news website. Sure, many people get lucky and stumble into into entrepreneurship, but there is a greater chance of success if you start with a plan.

    Starting a news website requires its own step-by-step process, combining the aspects of business and journalism.

    Robert Niles from MediaShift shares his checklist for starting an online news website:

    The name:

    ☐ Select a name for your publication
    Pick a name for which you can obtain the “.com” domain of the publication name, without spaces or special characters such as hyphens. It should be easy to spell, and easy to remember.

    ☐ Register your domain name
    Once you’ve selected a name, don’t hesitate to register it with a domain registrar, such as GoDaddy or Network Solutions.

    ☐ Open a business checking account
    Open a bank account as soon as you have a business name. Separating your business account from your personal account will help with accounting, taxes and projecting a professional image to customers.

    ☐ Register a fictitious business name.
    Banks often can help you do this when you set up your business checking account, which is another reason to take that step immediately.

    ☐ Trademark your name
    No lawyer is needed to trademark a website name. Simply follow the steps on the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office website. All of the paperwork can be filed online. The process takes months, but it’s worth it.

    Getting operational

    ☐ Select a calendar app or system to record deadlines, meetings and assigned tasks. This helps keep track of key dates and tasks as you move forward.

    ☐ Secure office space
    You need a place to work. Even if you work at home, you need to set aside space that’s just for your work. That has a tax advantage, as well, as you might be able to deduct dedicated work space within your home, especially if you rent. Out-of-home office space can be a better bet for many entrepreneurs, though (especially “hyperlocal” publishers), as a “real office” demonstrates that you are serious participant in the local business community.

    ☐ Obtain equipment
    At minimum:

    • Laptop computer
    • Mobile phone (with e-mail and Web access)
    • Digital camera
    • Video camera (with tripod and mic for better production values)
    • Digital audio recorder (be sure it can sync with your computer to upload audio files)

    ☐ Get insurance
    You’ll need libel insurance, as well as insurance for your workspace and equipment. Visit the Online Media Legal Network before you proceed, too, so you’ll know where to go should you get into legal entanglements in the course of your reporting.

    ☐ Review publishing systems and select one
    Here’s one review of content management systems popular with start-up news websites. If you’re simply looking to blog, and want to start ASAP, there’s always Blogger, too. E-mail small publishers you admire or your LinkedIn network for advice. This decision’s too important to leave to a single website article or Google search.

    ☐ Select a hosting provider
    You’ll want a hosting provider with extensive experience supporting the CMS you’ve selected, which is why I listed that step first. Again, rely on recommendations from colleagues and friends to guide you.

    ☐ Install publishing system, if necessary
    Depending upon the hosting package you select, you might need to install the CMS software yourself. Delve into your hosting provider’s support forums, or throw yourself upon the mercy of its support staff. If your hosting provider doesn’t have either online support forums or a helpful support staff, you’ve picked the wrong host.

    Starting up

    ☐ Design web templates
    Once you have a CMS, you’ll need to customize it to reflect your website. Select an available theme, or design your own.

    ☐ Select a Web traffic analytic system and install tracking code in web template
    Google Analytics is one example. It’s free and provides more than enough data for a small start-up’s needs.

    ☐ Create a Facebook page for your publication
    Go to http://www.facebook.com/pages and click the “Create a Page” button. Be sure to add a prominent link to your Facebook page within your site template.

    ☐ Register a Twitter account
    You probably have a personal Twitter account, but you should also register one for your publication, using its name. Always remember which account you’re logged into when you tweet!

    ☐ Create an e-mail list and online subscription form
    Constant Contact is one example, but other options are available, as well. Using a third-party provider for e-mail will help you avoid bandwidth overload issue on your host’s e-mail servers, and keeps you from having to deal with the hassle of blacklist management.

    ☐ Design and print business cards
    Sure, you’re a paperless online business. But leaving behind plenty of these “old school” artifacts is essential in building a network of clients, sources, customers and readers.

    ☐ Create a rate card
    Potential advertisers will want to know how much you charge for their ads to appear on your site. So you’ll need to establish (and publish) a rate card listing your available packages and prices. That means that you’ll have to select ad sizes for placement within your site templates. (I recommend the Wide Skyscraper, Leaderboard and Medium Rectangle. Check out Google’s eyetracking heatmap for more detail on where to place your ads.) Determine a CPM (cost per thousands impressions) for those ads and do the math to create impression packages. You might choose to run persistent ads, rather than rotate. But you’ll still need fixed ad sizes and to do the math based on a site CPM to figure an appropriate price to charge.

    ☐ Create a media kit
    You’ll need to describe your site, on a single page, to convince readers to read it, advertisers to support it and other journalists to report about it. Here’s the who, what, where, when and why about your new website. That’s your initial media kit. Plan to update your kit, as you gather more readership data, laudatory quotes and refine your site’s focus.

    ☐ Create a customer lead list
    Who will you solicit to become advertisers or funders of your website? That’s your customer lead list. Gather contact information, then use your calendar to assign times to contact everyone on your list. And then, to contact them again.

    ☐ Create a promotional lead list
    Who can you talk into writing about your site? At what events can you meet and recruit new readers? Where online can you promote the site, without looking like a spammer or scammer? List these promotional opportunities, then use your calendar to assign times to follow up on each opportunity.

     

    Wow. It looks like starting a real online news site is not as easy as it seems. It’s a good thing places like CUNY Graduate School of Journalism and other universities are beginning to offer entrepreneurial journalism classes! I guess that goes to show you that starting a business is hard work, which is probably why so few entrepreneurial ideas are successful. Although it seems difficult, I’m sure it can be done. Perhaps one day I’ll put this check list to the test.