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June 11 2013

14:02

Brands Move Money to Online Video from TV and Display, Cite Better Engagement

Nearly three-quarters of ad dollars flowing into online video is coming from TV money, according to a new study from AOL’s global branded content platform Be On. In addition, the brand, media and creative agencies surveyed said that while TV is a strong awareness driver, they can achieve more scale and engagement with online video. We recently caught up with Rene Rechtman, SVP AOL Networks International about the the company’s work in online video. The study revealed that TV and display are the main budgets where agencies in Europe, the United Kingdom and North America are drawing resources from and diverting to online video. In addition, about 84 percent of agencies said they believe the Internet is fundamentally becoming a “rich brand medium with engaging interactive opportunities.”

More than 80 percent say they are turning to branded video because of its reach and audience and content targeting capabilities. About 67 percent cite measurement as a key reason for upping online video spend going forward. AOL is aiming to compete in the targeted audience market via its Be On branded content platform that helps marketers reach audiences at scale, Rechtman says. For more insight into Be On, check out this video interview. Be On includes insights, social data and traditional data, he adds.

 

 

 

 

May 31 2013

01:49

Romanian Developers, with AOL Teams in New York and Tel Aviv, Re-Engineer Beet.TV

Cluj-Napoca, Romania –  From an office in this academic town, equidistant to Bucharest, Budapest and Belgrade, a team of developers has completely re-engineered Beet.TV, using the AOL video platform and a highly customized WordPress CMS.

The project, supervised by AOL executives in New York,  involved the migration and proper contextualization of some 4,000 videos and blog posts.

Since its launch in 2006, Beet.TV has been published on TypePad — and has used Blip.tv as its primary video platform for the past six years.  The transition to the new publishing platform took three months.  It went live in April.

The transition of our hundreds of Beet videos to the new player on the Huffington Post and TechCrunch,  is underway and should be concluded in 30 days.

With the new CMS, we are implementing a sophisticated advertising traffic/management system.

Greppy Systems, the Romanian company that implements a number of project for AOL, handled the Beet.TV project.

For an overview of  the project, we produced this video in Cluj-Napoca with interviews with Greppy’s Valentin Maior and Marious Jamolea.  Also in the segment, the two explain the work of Greppy — and the emergence of their Romanian town as technology center.

Many thanks to AOL in New York and Tel Aviv

Also helping on this project was the AOL/5Min developer and editorial teams based in Tel Aviv.   Beet.TV has syndicated its video on 5Min for nearly five years.   The indexing and tagging of Beet video by the Tel Aviv-based content team was essential in the transition.

Special thanks to our New York-based project manager at AOL Karolis Balciunas, technical mastermind Shay Brog and especially my friend and a  great supporter of Beet.TV, AOL video chief Ran Harnevo.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

May 23 2013

02:37

Ustream Makes Big Move into Video Services Sector

Ustream, the widely popular live Web streaming site, has been quietly moving into a full-services, video solution provider for small customers and  big enterprises and media companies  says David Gibbons, VP for Product Marketing, in this interview with Beet.TV

Some customers for the Ustream video platform include Cisco, Dell and Sony, says Gibbons.

We spoke to him about the evolution at Ustream at the Streaming Media East conference in Manhattan.

 

 

April 04 2013

20:31

Draper Fishers VC Joy Marcus Charts Disruption in Online Video

“The consumer experience in online video right now is not perfect, and I think that there is a lot of potential for disruption,” says Joy Marcus, Partner at DJF Gotham Ventures.  At the Beet.TV executive retreat in February, we had the opportunity to sit down with Marcus and learn more about which areas of the online video arena she thinks are most ripe for disruption.

Marcus says that there is a lot of potential for “disruptive companies that can come in and make the user experience a lot better, particularly in the area of discovery of video.”  Currently YouTube is the leader in video disruption, but Marcus explains that YouTube “does not really lead the user to what they want if they don’t know what they want already.”  Therefore, she says, there’s big potential for recommendations.

In the video interview, Marcus also talks about issues around access to online video, as well as issues around usability—both areas where she says online video still needs help.

Megan O’Neill

April 01 2013

18:15

Shaping technology to the story: The Brown Institute for Media Innovation is finding its niche

The Brown Institute for Media Innovation just began accepting applications from students or alumni of Columbia and Stanford for its second round of Magic Grants. Helen Gurley Brown made headlines last year when she donated $30 million jointly to Columbia and Stanford to found the Brown Institute for Media Innovation, a bicoastal effort toward helping students build “usable tools” for the proliferation of “great content.”

The idea was that combining the engineering prowess of Stanford students with the journalistic know-how of Columbia students would propel innovation in the news industry. To that end, Columbia would construct a $6 million state-of-the-art newsroom within its j-school building (now under construction), and the institute would offer serious grant money — up to $150,000 per team, or $300,000 if it features members from both schools — for projects. Its next batch of Magic Grantees — due to be announced at the end of May — will go a long way toward further defining what a direct collaboration between computer science and journalism can produce.

The quest for personalized TV

The first three Magic Grants were awarded last June. Connecting the Dots is a project by two Stanford students dedicated to drawing out large, complex, data-heavy news stories through logic mapping, similar to the way that metropolitan transit maps simplify networks of trains and busses. Dispatch, a joint startup that already has an app for sale through Apple, helps journalists in crisis scenarios conceal their identities while publishing via mobile device.

The largest team belongs to the third winner, EigenNews — 10 members from both campuses combined. The idea: personalized television, built around a playlist of of national news clips based on the user’s selected preferences (by both category and by show) and by viewing behavior and user voting. (You can sign up and get a daily email update from EigenNews — it works pretty well.)

eigennews-screenshot

The design is meant to provide the user up-to-the-minute broadcast news while filtering out certain types of stories, but to maintain a sense of immediacy, some current very popular current stories make the playlist no matter what. “The playlist strikes a balance between presenting the most important stories currently and those stories that might be of particular interest to you,” wrote Stanford-based team member David Chen in an email. “For the second factor to be more evident, the user’s view history has to contain a sufficient number of samples.” As the project’s description puts it:

We forecast that next-generation video news consumption will be more personalized, device agnostic, and pooled from many different information sources. The technology for our project represents a major step in this direction, providing each viewer with a personalized newscast with stories that matter most to them…

Our personalized news platform will analyze readily available user data, such as recent viewing history and social media profiles. Suppose the viewer has recently watched the Republican presidential candidates debate held in Arizona, an interview with a candidate’s campaign manager, and another interview with the candidate himself. The debate and the candidate’s interview are “liked” by the viewer and several friends on Facebook. This evidence points to a high likelihood that a future video story about the Republican presidential race will interest the viewer. The user’s personalized news stream will feature high-quality, highly-relevant stories from multiple channels that cover the latest developments in the presidential race.

Chen said the EigenNews team wants to incorporate more sharability in the future — currently, you can generate a link by click a button on the player, but they hope to add comments soon. He also said they’re looking toward a future model that would incorporate more local coverage and user-generated video content.

“Seeing situations where the journalism is leading”

Mark Hansen, who was appointed director of the Columbia side of the Brown Institute last fall, says he imagines some form of the EigenNews project will probably live on. “That work is work that Bernd [Girod, his Stanford counterpart] does as part of his research program, so my guess would be that some part of that work will be funded consistently.” Hansen will be overseeing the administration of the second round of funding. Coming from the Center for Embedded Networked Sensing at UCLA, where he gradually began to realize the implications of data journalism, he is a blend of journalist and statistician.

“Over the course of my ten years at UCLA, the Center shifted…to more participatory systems, where we were encouraging the public to get involved with data collection. As we started working with community groups, as we started reaching out to high schools, the character of the enterprise changed,” he says. While sensor networks are opening up the power of public data, coordinating the gathering, calibration, analysis, and dissemination of that information is no small order. Hansen says that realization has honed his understanding of the important role that journalists play. His students learn to code — not just how to work with engineers who code — but what he’s most interested in are projects whose genesis is a journalistic question, not a technological advancement.

“I’m interested in seeing situations where the journalism is leading. Where there’s some story that needs to be told, or some aspect of a story that can’t be told with existing technology, but then drives the creation of a new technology,” he said. “As opposed to, ‘Look, we made tablets — okay, now you guys tell stories around tablets.’”

Since moving to Columbia, Hansen has had ample opportunity to observe the interplay of hard science and journalistic practice. He teaches a course on computational journalism, and he says the transition from teaching statisticians to journalism students has been enlightening. “When you teach a statistician about means, for example, their comment on the data will end with ‘The mean is 5.’ The journalist will say: ‘The mean is 5, which means, compared to this other country, or five countries, or other neighborhood…’ The journalists will go from the output of the method to the world. They contextualize, they tell stories — Emily Bell calls this narrative imagination — and they are hungrier than any other students I have ever worked with.”

Hansen plans to use the resources of the Brown Institute to recreate the open dialogue and experimentation of the classroom, in hopes of uncovering ideas for projects and prototypes to receive Magic Grant funding. “I’m usually the one writing the grants, not the one giving them away,” he joked. To that end, he’s been in conversation with industry professionals from the likes of ProPublica, The New York Times and Thomson Reuters, trying to figure out “what the interesting questions are,” he says. Defining what Brown can do that is distinct from the other institutes, labs, and other entities in the space is a top priority.

Organizing hackathons and other collaborative events is another route Hansen wants to explore. He is interested in a hackathon model with more concrete pedagogical objectives than the typical open-ended approach. The Brown Institute has already hosted a data hackathon, as well as a conference Hansen calls a “research threeway,” after the three sectors he aims to bring together — journalism, technology, and “opportunity” (that is, funding). Mixing speakers with journalism, media, and engineering backgrounds resulted in a “beautiful collision of language,” he said, and some intriguing ideas.

“There was a nice conversation around serendipity, especially as it connects to large data sets. I think often times we fall back on a kind of search metaphor where we are constantly googling something. If we don’t know what it is we’re looking for, how do we activate an archive, how do we activate a data set? How do you engineer serendipity?”

Building a space

Meanwhile, Hansen has also been overseeing some engineering in a more concrete sense. He hopes to unveil the Brown Institute’s newsroom by summer 2014, a two-story facility which he says draws inspiration from both traditional newsrooms and the “large, open, reconfigurable workspace” that we associate with startups and tech incubators. The space will feature a mezzanine, transparent conference rooms, and shared workspaces called “garages.” It’ll be a wireless office space with flat panel displays and a number of projectors, shared by Brown grantees, fellows, and faculty. “Emily Bell will be teaching a class on the sensor newsroom, a kind of pop-up newsroom,” Hansen says, “and that space will be the perfect space to try out the ideas that are coming out of that class.”

Hansen says one of the most rewarding parts of his directorship so far was having the chance to share the plans for the newsroom with donor Helen Gurley Brown just before she passed away last August. Both the architects and the web designers for the Institute’s new website were told to use the creative output of Brown and her husband, film producer David Brown, as a design compass. As a result, the website will feature a rotating color palette, updated on a monthly basis to reflect covers from Cosmopolitan magazine throughout Brown’s career.

Running a bicoastal institute is not without its challenges, and the hope is that the new space in New York and a newly unified website should help to deal with those. Stanford grantees and fellows don’t have a centralized office space like their New York counterparts, but travel costs are covered by Magic Grants for bicoastal projects and regular project reviews.

Still, Hansen says figuring out how to operate as one entity has been challenging. “Not only is [Stanford] 3,000 miles away, and not only is it two different disciplines,” he says, “but it’s also the quarter system and the semester system, and three hours’ [time] difference — every little thing you could imagine is different is different.” In addition, engineering grad students study for four to five years, while Columbia’s main graduate journalism program is only one year long. To allow the journalism students equal opportunity to participate, they’ll be eligible to apply for Magic Grants as part of an additional, second year. Says Hansen: “We’re doing what we can to make it feel like a cohesive whole.”

The Brown Institute is also invested in ensuring that, when it funds successful projects, they have the opportunity to live on. While grant winners can apply for a second year of funding, Hansen is also focused on communicating with private investors, companies, and other foundations. He’s particularly excited about the potential addition of computational journalism to the National Science Foundation‘s official subfields, which would open up significant additional funding for Brown Institute alums.

“It does really feel like a great moment to be thinking about technology and storytelling, technology and journalism,” Hansen says. But in addition to using technology to propel the journalism industry into the future, he takes cues from the memory of the Browns, and hopes to shape the Institute into something that reflects them both.

“Helen and David were showmen, if you will,” Hansen says. “They really understood audiences and how to tell a good story.”

August 24 2012

14:00

Mediatwits #53: We're Back! Video Special: HuffPost Live; YouTube Elections Hub

Roy_Hi-Res_Headshot.jpg

Welcome to the 53nd episode of the Mediatwits podcast, with Mark Glaser and Rafat Ali as co-hosts. We were off on hiatus the past few months while Mark was getting a kidney transplant and Rafat was launching his new travel startup, Skift.

This week we are looking at a couple big online video intiatives: the new HuffPost Live video channel that will stream 12 hours per day 5 days per week; and the new YouTube Elections Hub that includes video content from eight editorial partners and will live-stream the upcoming political conventions and debates. We were joined by HuffPost's Roy Sekoff, YouTube's Olivia Ma and GigaOm columnist Liz Shannon Miller.

Guest Bios

Roy Sekoff is the founding editor of the Huffington Post, and is president and co-creator of HuffPost Live. Before helping launch the Huffington Post, he was a writer, producer, and on-air correspondent for Michael Moore's "TV Nation" show, and served as Communications Director for Arianna Huffington's 2003 gubernatorial campaign.

Liz Shannon Miller currently works as a staff writer on G4's "Attack of the Show" and writes a regular column for the tech site GigaOM about online video.

Olivia Ma is YouTube's News and Politics Manager. She oversees YouTube's news programming strategy, working closely with both news organizations and citizen reporters using the site to share news video around the world. Olivia has produced three YouTube Interviews with President Obama and last fall's Fox News/Google GOP Primary Debate.

mediatwits53.mp3

Subscribe to the podcast here

Subscribe to Mediatwits via iTunes

Follow @TheMediatwits on Twitter here

Our show is now on Stitcher! Listen to us on your iPhone, Android Phone, Kindle Fire and other devices with Stitcher. Find Stitcher in your app store or at stitcher.com.

Intro and outro music by 3 Feet Up; mid-podcast music by Autumn Eyes via Mevio's Music Alley.

Here are some highlighted topics from the show:

Intro

0:30: Mark recovers from his kidney transplant

1:30: Rafat launches Skift.com

4:45: Rundown of topics on our show

HuffPost Live

6:00: Special guests Roy Sekoff and Liz Shannon Miller

lizmiller_smile(1).jpg

8:45: Sekoff: We wanted to bring comments front and center on HuffPost Live

12:00: Sekoff: The focus is on great conversations and not commercial breaks

14:20: HuffPost Live will change with feedback as they go

16:41: Miller: I could enjoy HuffPost Live passively or actively

19:45: Sekoff: We're not about breaking news but we want tohave conversations about the news

YouTube Elections Hub

22:10: Special guest Olivia Ma

olivia ma headshot.jpg

25:00: Ma: Storyful will help curate the best political videos on YouTube

26:45: Ma: Popular political videos are coming from users, candidates and news orgs

28:30: Sekoff: HuffPost was launched around the same time as YouTube in 2005

More Reading (and Watching)

HuffPost Live

Arianna Huffington launches HuffPost Live with combination of new and old at Guardian

HuffPost Live: a terrible debut, but don't rule out online video at Guardian

Overdosing on HuffPost Live at Adweek

HuffPost Live launches at CJR

YouTube Elections Hub

Political junkies take note: YouTube launches new Elections Hub at L.A. Times

YouTube Launches 2012 Elections Hub at FoxNews.com

PEJ Study on Master Narratives in Campaign at Project for Excellence in Journalism

Weekly Poll

Don't forget to vote in our weekly poll, this time about how you'll be following the political conventions:


How will you follow the U.S. political conventions?

Mark Glaser is executive editor of MediaShift and Idea Lab. He also writes the bi-weekly OPA Intelligence Report email newsletter for the Online Publishers Association. He lives in San Francisco with his son Julian and fiancee Renee. You can follow him on Twitter @mediatwit. and Circle him on Google+

This is a summary. Visit our site for the full post ».

August 14 2012

22:14

OpenCourt wins another legal challenge to online streaming in the courtroom

The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court has again ruled in favor of allowing OpenCourt to continue broadcasting online.

Since May 2011, OpenCourt — a judicial transparency project (and Knight News Challenge winner) that provides videostreams of court cases — has been broadcasting from Quincy District Court, offering online viewers a look at things like arraignments, traffic infractions, and drug cases. Last month, a local district attorney sued the court hosting OpenCourt to halt plans to begin streaming jury trials from the Quincy courthouse. In today’s ruling, the judge in that lawsuit said OpenCourt should be allowed to go forward and must be subject to the same rules that govern other news media, writing: “There is no reason to single OpenCourt out and impose on it a variety of restrictions that do not apply to other media organizations.”

This is not the first time the project faced a legal threat aimed at stopping the streaming. In March, the Supreme Judicial Court reinforced OpenCourt’s right to broadcast after the state sued to stop the project from recording and archiving court cases.

“There is a presumption that Massachusetts courts are open to media access and this ruling today clarified OpenCourt’s contention all along it should not be singled out as anything different from any other broadcast media,” said John Davidow, executive producer of OpenCourt and executive editor of new media at WBUR, the Boston public radio station where OpenCourt is a project. Davidow said he’s pleased with the ruling because it not only strengthens OpenCourt’s position but also furthers the project’s goals of transparency. “This isn’t about OpenCourt,” Davidow said. “This is really about the public’s access to what goes on in their courtrooms.”

In July, OpenCourt was scheduled to begin broadcasting jury trials in Quincy. Norfolk County DA Michael Morrissey sued the Quincy District Court justices, arguing that OpenCourt needed concrete guidelines from a special judiciary committee for broadcasting within the court that would protect victims, witnesses, and minors.

Davidow said Tuesday’s ruling would allow OpenCourt to move forward with plans to stream those cases from courtroom A at Quincy District Court. Davidow said the cameras and other preparations were set for recording in the jury room prior to the lawsuit — meaning OpenCourt will be ready to livestream once jury cases are scheduled. Davidow said streaming jury trials is important because those are the cases most of the public is familiar with. “The public, outside perspective of the court is trials,” Davidow said. “It’s the essence of what the public thinks takes place in courthouses across the commonwealth.”

In denying Morissey’s request, Justice Margot Botsford said the project can operate under preliminary guidelines that were put in place as a result of the decision in the earlier OpenCourt case. In that case, Commonwealth v. Barnes, the court said a special committee must create guidelines for OpenCourt to broadcast and archive court cases. In June, a preliminary set of guidelines for OpenCourt was released by the Quincy District Court. The final rules from the judiciary media committee are expected to be drafted by October.

In a statement, Morrissey said his office may seek to stop OpenCourt from recording on a case-by-case basis in order to protect victims and witnesses. From the statement:

The judiciary media committee is currently meeting and presumably working on the guidelines that this injunction asked the court to wait for before adding a second session to the live streaming. We hope that committee will expedite that process, and that the rules will provide appropriate protections so that violations of victim privacy, as occurred so many times in the Barnes case, do not occur.

August 13 2012

21:01

Live broadcast: Why The Huffington Post and Boston.com are getting into streaming media

Can a news site become a TV network? Or a radio station? Or if it can’t become one, can it at least grow to include one?

These aren’t theoretical questions, as Monday saw the launch of HuffPost Live, the new streaming TV-style video network from The Huffington Post, and RadioBDC, an alternative streaming radio station from Boston.com, the webbier side of The Boston Globe.

The launch of two media-jumping online ventures is likely a coincidence — though getting clear of the Olympics was probably a motivator for each — but they share many commonalities and the same goals. On their first day, both gave early indications of what they see as their strategy for success. Both Boston.com and The Huffington Post want to use digital distribution to offer something like a traditional broadcast product, but at a much lower cost than what starting a TV network or radio station ran pre-Internet. They both also want a shot at a new channel of advertising dollars to complement the display-heavy advertising they rely on with their main products. In order for both to work they’ll need to find, maintain, and grow an audience and advertisers. On launch day, HuffPost Live counted Cadillac and Verizon as their “founding partners” for the network. On RadioBDC, launch advertisers include Miller/Coors, Anheuser Busch, and Comcast, a spokeswoman told me.

HuffPost Live, the latest spinoff of Arianna Huffington’s media empire, is an attempt at merging live TV with the expediency and interconnectedness of the web — to get the engagement promised by second-screen visions of television watching by building for the web from the start. HuffPost Live promises 12 hours of live weekday programming that combines hosted segments and audience contributions. “With HuffPost Live, you’re invited to be part of a different kind of conversation, whoever you are, wherever you are,” Arianna herself said in the network’s opening minutes.

But while the medium may be shifting, a lot of the content looked familiar. On day one, HuffPost Live had many of the familiar trappings of cable news: a well appointed studio, handsome hosts, and various treatments on the day’s news. But instead of Wolf Blitzer barking at reporters and pundits in the Situation Room, HuffPost Live relied on Google Hangouts. Monday’s first segment, a roundtable on Mitt Romney’s pick of Paul Ryan as his running mate, featured a diverse cast of contributors live from their bedrooms/guest rooms/home offices. As novel as that was, the guests still fit into familiar archetypes: a conservative, a liberal, a knowledgeable reporter, and an everyman. That seems to be the model for HuffPost Live, as a segment later in the day on home foreclosures featured Huffington, the head of a mortgage-resolution organization, actor John Cusack (!), and a California man struggling to keep his home.

Of course, HuffPost isn’t the only one investing in live video. The advertising dollars are typically better than in traditional web display advertising; as Raju Nasrietti of The Wall Street Journal told us in June: “We are sold out. There is no shortage of demand to generate more video views.”

HuffPost Live wants to differentiate itself from other online video in terms of its content and its “live-ness.” The segments are like taking a dive into different HuffPost verticals — politics one minute, entertainment the next, technology later. (No sideboob yet.) But what sets it apart is the audience experience: The interface features a video player on the left, a comment stream on the right, and a big red “Join This Segment” button. A module above the video player lets the audience keep tabs on what stories and segments are coming down the pike, like the left rail on ESPN’s SportsCenter.

Boston.com’s move into radio

The strategy at Boston.com’s RadioBDC also seems to borrow a lot from its terrestrial peers. The streaming station is an ambitious project for Boston.com, which scooped up the on-air talent from Boston’s WFNX shortly after the station’s frequency was purchased by Clear Channel. As far as new ventures go, RadioBDC will stick closely to the traditional radio format, broadcasting 24 hours a day, with DJs on air from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. At noon Monday, on-air host Julie Kramer kicked-off the launch with an appropriately titled show, “Lunch at Your Desk,” and it sounded a lot like you’d expect an alternative radio station to sound.

With no terrestrial signal, that desktop crowd, along with the mobile crowd, will be RadioBDC’s main audience. They’ve already launched apps for iPhone and Android, but the power of Boston.com promotion will likely be key. The site is always among the most visited regional news sites with over 6 million uniques a month. RadioBDC has its own page under the Boston.com umbrella, but it also receives prime billing on Boston.com’s homepage, with a banner ad and button to launch the radio player as well as a widget near the top of the page.

By default, RadioBDC pops out into a separate window, making it meant for hanging out in the background during the work day. If you’re the type of person that wants to hear Elvis Costello, Weezer, or R.E.M while you work, you can now hear the music you love while clicking through Red Sox news or updates on the Massachusetts senate race. For Boston.com, that potentially means exposing the audience to double the ads, on the site as well as on the radio stream. Lisa DeSisto, general manager of Boston.com, said over email that “streaming spots are just one component of the marketing packages which include digital assets, event sponsorships, social media tie-ins, and promotions.”

HuffPost Live also seems designed for the specific purpose of keeping the audience around, either to keep tabs on what’s being talked about in comments or to contribute to an upcoming story. HuffPost also wouldn’t mind if you kept it open in a tab all day and popped in from time to time.

While they share a launch date, RadioBDC and HuffPost Live operate at different scales: RadioBDC has a handful of people on staff, HuffPost Live hired around 100 people for the launch. Success will look different for the two entities. But they’re both counting on a similar audience: the bored-at-work crowd, desk jockeys looking for something other than an Excel spreadsheet to pay attention to. Considering how much time we spend tethered to our computers this strategy makes a lot of sense. Individually our stray, off-task web surfing may not amount to much, but HuffPost and Boston.com are hoping that, collectively, it adds up to many millions of hours. TV and radio originally brought the news and music live into people’s living rooms. Now HuffPost and Boston.com want to bring news and music live to your computer, tablet, or phone during the day, probably at work. Think of it as the earbud audience.

April 24 2012

14:00

Photojournalists Scramble to Video. Is it Worth It?

Few can say they didn't see it coming. but many felt the final nail in the coffin was firmly in place when at the end of 2011 CNN fired 50 photojournalists.

The international news network explained its decision in a letter:

We looked at the impact of user-generated content and social media, CNN iReporters and of course our affiliate contributions in breaking news. Consumer and pro-sumer technologies are simpler and more accessible. Small cameras are now high broadcast quality. More of this technology is in the hands of more people. After completing this analysis, CNN determined that some photojournalists will be departing the company.

What exactly led up to this is point is hard to pinpoint; it's a chicken-or-egg situation. Some might say it began with the lowered cost of DSLR cameras or the fact that every cell phone began to come with a camera.

Another camp will point fingers at the steady decline of the newspaper industry and its inability to maintain exclusivity as the daily go-to for information, leading to a shift of quantity over quality.

Add to that the crash of world economies, and the result is that photojournalists have been losing their jobs to mass layoffs for the last few years.

But many are rallying and turning on the video function on their DSLR cameras and becoming video journalists.

Photographers learning video

One successful photojournalist who early on made the transition to video is the Pulitzer Prize-winning Vincent Laforet. He told me that when he was growing up, he wanted to study both journalism and film. "I picked journalism in the end and am happy I did so. When the Canon 5D MKII came out -- it seemed to be the perfect timing to make the transition for me," he said.

Laforet dove into video early on when the technology presented itself and has made a name in the video world. He is now a member of the Directors Guild of America.

I also spoke with two photojournalists currently incorporating video into their reporting, Ana Elisa Fuentes and Julie Dermansky.

Ana Elisa Fuentes' photography has appeared in The New York Times, Rolling Stone, Life, Vanity Fair, People Magazines and the Los Angeles Times, and Julie Dermansky has been working with The Atlantic, US News, The Guardian, The New York Times and The Washington Post.

I asked them why they first started shooting video, what difference they find between photojournalism and video, and what they think of the current market for photojournalists.

Ana Elisa Fuentes: Clearly the market for photojournalism, at least in the United States, is shrinking -- specifically, the day-in-and-day-out photojournalism as seen in daily newspapers and magazines. This is very sad, and I see this as perilous and injurious to democracy. Journalists are the fourth estate, part of the check and balance of our democratic process. Images are essential to an open society.

The most profound difference for me between video and photography is in "still" -- in photography, you can wait for hours for the right moment. The waiting requires patience, for what Henri Cartier Bresson coined as "the decisive moment." When you have captured this moment, everything comes together.

I believe having more tools available in the tool box is essential for photographers or anyone in visual media. I also believe photographers have to become more creative in how still images can be used or sold. I often recommend up-and-coming journalists to think "packaging." What languages do you speak? How many? Polish your writing skills. Acquire multimedia skills. Your office is your laptop -- update, update, update."

Julie Dermansky: I started out as an artist showing my work in galleries and selling it on the streets of NYC in 1988. In 2004, I switched my focus from painting and sculpture to photography. I branched out from my in-depth personal projects into the realm of photojournalism in 2008. Labeling myself an artist or a photojournalist is of no consequence to me. I leave that for others. I started to learn video when I went to Iraq in 2008 and started to make a habit of shooting video along with my stills using a Canon 5D MKII in 2010.

Technically, photography and video require some of the same skills. The hardest thing sometimes is to decide whether to shoot video or stills -- often by doing both you can end up with work that is not as good as it should be. It is very hard to go back and forth, and inevitably you will miss the still you wish you would have taken -- or missed the moment of action you wanted to film. So generally, I shoot stills first and video once I'm done, though I don't always stick with that standard. Emotionally, that has more to do with the situation than the media. Both are fantastic tools to work with.

I have worked with a cameraman and produced video news packages from Iraq, so I picked up tips from him. Working with a pro in the editing phase taught me a lot of what is needed to make a news package.

This is a terrible market for photojournalists since so many photographers are willing to give their work away for free. Media outlets have started to rely on the free stuff. There is a small number of photojournalists who are able to continue to make a living, but the whole marketplace seems to deliver lower and lower paychecks -- and there are fewer jobs. Crowdsourcing and free photos are lowering the bar of quality as well. Some talented members of the photography community have had to drop out to make a living in a different way.

Shooting video helps keep a photographer marketable as news media wants both stills and film these days, and they want it for one price. If you can't do it, they take someone who can. Also, in the commercial world, video commands higher fees than stills, so for practical purposes video shooting is a skill one needs to have to survive. Not to learn it is to limit yourself. You should take advantage of all available tools at your disposal. That is how I see it."



Julie Dermansky is interviewed by Fox News about her photojournalism work on the Occupy movement.


Do photojournalists make good video journalists?

Adam Westbrook, a multimedia producer who writes and lectures on the subject of video journalism, believes there are many pitfalls to be avoided when photographers move into video.

He even wrote a guide to common mistakes.

Some include: forgetting the importance of audio or not using a tripod when needed and, most importantly, understanding "show, don't tell" as a principle of visual storytelling. As he aptly says, "Five years after YouTube's birth there's probably not a newsroom in the land that isn't trying to do video journalism in some way or another."

Some of the mistakes Westbrook points out can be avoided with proper training, but that appears to be something many employers are not willing to pay for. As early as 2009, the question of whether or not newspapers would be willing to train their photographers to become video journalists was being investigated by Blake Kimzey for Black Star Rising: "Training for photojournalists in video varies from newspaper to newspaper -- but at many papers, it's been spotty at best. Most photographers say sufficient training and the time to learn are seldom provided. While some newspapers send their staffers to attend industry conferences, and others offer in-house courses, many staffers say they mostly learn through trial-and-error on the job."

This appears to still be a problem -- as Sean D. Elliot, president of the National Press Photographers Association (NPPA), recently told me: "Unfortunately for our members, the publications have been wanting the video, but they have not generally been willing to pay for the training. Many visual journalists have paid their own ticket to attend NPPA's many video and multimedia workshops."

Elliot said that the advent of web video and multimedia led the NPPA to reconfigure many of their educational programs some years back.

"This was in the era when newspapers everywhere were looking at web video as the salvation of their operations. Time has shown that nobody has been able to monetize web video well enough for it to be any sort of saving grace," he said. "Many papers have either eliminated or curtailed their web video efforts. Some chose to focus on doing less video but doing it better, and some have simply dropped any semblance of quality, opting instead for short snippets of video shot by reporters with smartphones or Flip-type cameras. The jury is still out on where this will fit into the long-term journalism paradigm."

Laforet has some wise advice for photographers interested in learning video: "It's a very different field -- and not for everyone. I recommend they try it out first before making the commitment. I recommend they study the competition and the economics of the field they are going into. Just as there are many different sub-fields and specialties and budgets in photography -- the same is true of video. It's a bold move, but one that many should at the very least try, in my opinion."



"Reverie" -- Vincent Laforet was the director and cinematographer on this video considered to be the first 1080p widely released shot on the Canon 5D MKII. It was viewed more than 2 million times in the first week of its release.


Does learning video provide any kind of job safety?

I tried to track down an official study of how many photojournalists had lost their jobs in the last few years in the U.S. NPPA didn't know exact figures, and Kenny Irby, a senior faculty member at Poynter, said he didn't know of any study offering numeric data. He explained that collecting such data took a great deal of resources and money, something scarce these days. "We know that staff sizes and the number of 'feet on the street' reporters are way down," he added.

In an article on Poynter in 2009, photographer Ami Vitale, whose work has appeared in National Geographic, Newsweek, Time and Smithsonian, was optimistic about her experience with video: "This is the best time to be a photojournalist. We have more tools available than ever before, and we also have an audience bigger than any time in the history of mankind ... I see this as a wonderful time to exploit all these tools for the power of good!"

Yet in an interview earlier this year, Dan Chung, a photo and video journalist and founder of the popular website DSLRNewsShooter, said, "I don't really see a future in photojournalism, if I'm completely honest, as a way to earn a living. But also there are a lot of creative opportunities with moving images that you couldn't possibly dream of doing with stills. I'm surprised, though, that relatively few other photographers have made that conversion."



A video of a military parade in North Korea shot by Dan Chung for The Guardian.


But with the cell phones in everyone's pocket being equipped with HD video capability, will free crowdsourced material just take over video journalism as well? Laforet gave a nuanced answer: "I'm afraid so. But not to the same degree. The production hurdles and the amount of work involved in getting a good video piece out (pre-production, script, storyboarding, editing, music, mixing, grading, etc.) makes it more complex than making a single photograph. It's very hard for most to do all of these specialties alone -- it almost demands working with others and therefore becomes more complex and, more often than not, more expensive."

It looks like the term "visual journalist" will become a common phrase. "The move to online has been, arguably, a boon to visual journalism as far as the potential audience is concerned, but obviously the challenges that the web has posed to the business model of newspapers has led to a lot of lost jobs," Elliot said.

As for the problem of many photographers losing their jobs to "citizen journalists" as in the CNN case, Elliot said, "The reality that citizen journalists will have a better chance of 'being there' for the big moment is only more real today. The democratization of photography, where one no longer needs to have esoteric darkroom skills and tens of thousands of dollars of equipment to produce images of relative high quality has certainly affected certain markets.

"But the need for visual journalists who have a command of both the technical aspects of still and video as well as the mind-set for quality visual storytelling remains. Video storytelling is different in execution than still photography, without a doubt. But it has been well-established that very talented still photographers can make the transition back and forth between the media and enhance their visual reporting."

It will be interesting to see how this plays out in the next few years. Certainly the public's demand for visual content shows no sign of declining. Just this month, the Associated Press announced its own online video delivery platform. Clearly, demand is high, and rising.

Amanda Lin Costa is a writer and producer in the film and television industry. She writes a series called "Truth in Documentary Filmmaking" and is currently producing the documentary, "The Art of Memories."

ejc-logo small.jpg

This piece was originally published by the European Journalism Centre, an independent non-profit institute dedicated to the highest standards in journalism, primarily through the further training of journalists and media professionals. Follow @ejcnet for Twitter updates, here on Facebook and on the EJC Online Journalism Community.

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March 29 2012

14:00

The Difference Between 'Invention' and 'Innovation'

Two and a half years ago, I co-founded Stroome, a collaborative online video editing and publishing platform and 2010 Knight News Challenge winner.

From its inception, the site received a tremendous amount of attention. The New School, USC Annenberg, the Online News Association and, ultimately, the Knight Foundation all saw something interesting in what we were doing. We won awards; we were invited to present at conferences; we were written about in the trades and featured in over 150 blogs. Yet despite all the accolades, not once did the word "invention" creep in. "Innovation," it turns out, was the word on everyone's lips.

Like so many up-and-coming entrepreneurs, I was under the impression that invention and innovation were one and the same. They aren't. And, as I have discovered, the distinction is an important one.

Recently, I was asked by Jason Nazar, founder of Docstoc and a big supporter of the L.A. entrepreneurial community, if I would help define the difference between the two. A short, 3-minute video response can be found at the bottom of this post, but I thought I'd share some key takeaways with you here:

INVENTION VS. INNOVATION: THE DIFFERENCE

In its purest sense, "invention" can be defined as the creation of a product or introduction of a process for the first time. "Innovation," on the other hand, occurs if someone improves on or makes a significant contribution to an existing product, process or service.

Consider the microprocessor. Someone invented the microprocessor. But by itself, the microprocessor was nothing more than another piece on the circuit board. It's what was done with that piece -- the hundreds of thousands of products, processes and services that evolved from the invention of the microprocessor -- that required innovation.

STEVE JOBS: THE POSTER BOY OF INNOVATION

If ever there were a poster child for innovation it would be former Apple CEO Steve Jobs. And when people talk about innovation, Jobs' iPod is cited as an example of innovation at its best.

steve jobs iphone4.jpg

But let's take a step back for a minute. The iPod wasn't the first portable music device (Sony popularized the "music anywhere, anytime" concept 22 years earlier with the Walkman); the iPod wasn't the first device that put hundreds of songs in your pocket (dozens of manufacturers had MP3 devices on the market when the iPod was released in 2001); and Apple was actually late to the party when it came to providing an online music-sharing platform. (Napster, Grokster and Kazaa all preceded iTunes.)

So, given those sobering facts, is the iPod's distinction as a defining example of innovation warranted? Absolutely.

What made the iPod and the music ecosystem it engendered innovative wasn't that it was the first portable music device. It wasn't that it was the first MP3 player. And it wasn't that it was the first company to make thousands of songs immediately available to millions of users. What made Apple innovative was that it combined all of these elements -- design, ergonomics and ease of use -- in a single device, and then tied it directly into a platform that effortlessly kept that device updated with music.

Apple invented nothing. Its innovation was creating an easy-to-use ecosystem that unified music discovery, delivery and device. And, in the process, they revolutionized the music industry.

IBM: INNOVATION'S UGLY STEPCHILD

Admittedly, when it comes to corporate culture, Apple and IBM are worlds apart. But Apple and IBM aren't really as different as innovation's poster boy would have had us believe.

Truth is if it hadn't been for one of IBM's greatest innovations -- the personal computer -- there would have been no Apple. Jobs owes a lot to the introduction of the PC. And IBM was the company behind it.

Ironically, the IBM PC didn't contain any new inventions per se (see iPod example above). Under pressure to complete the project in less than 18 months, the team actually was under explicit instructions not to invent anything new. The goal of the first PC, code-named "Project Chess," was to take off-the-shelf components and bring them together in a way that was user friendly, inexpensive, and powerful.

And while the world's first PC was an innovative product in the aggregate, the device they created -- a portable device that put powerful computing in the hands of the people -- was no less impactful than Henry Ford's Model T, which reinvented the automobile industry by putting affordable transportation in the hands of the masses.

INNOVATION ALONE IS NOT ENOUGH

Given the choice to invent or innovate, most entrepreneurs would take the latter. Let's face it, innovation is just sexier. Perhaps there are a few engineers at M.I.T. who can name the members of "Project Chess." Virtually everyone on the planet knows who Steve Jobs is.

But innovation alone isn't enough. Too often, companies focus on a technology instead of the customer's problem. But in order to truly turn a great idea into a world-changing innovation, other factors must be taken into account.

According to Venkatakrishnan Balasubramanian, a research analyst with Infosys Labs, the key to ensuring that innovation is successful is aligning your idea with the strategic objectives and business models of your organization.

In a recent article that appeared in Innovation Management, he offered five considerations:

1. Competitive advantage: Your innovation should provide a unique competitive position for the enterprise in the marketplace;
2. Business alignment: The differentiating factors of your innovation should be conceptualized around the key strategic focus of the enterprise and its goals;
3. Customers: Knowing the customers who will benefit from your innovation is paramount;
4. Execution: Identifying resources, processes, risks, partners and suppliers and the ecosystem in the market for succeeding in the innovation is equally important;
5. Business value: Assessing the value (monetary, market size, etc.) of the innovation and how the idea will bring that value into the organization is a critical underlying factor in selecting which idea to pursue.

Said another way, smart innovators frame their ideas to stress the ways in which a new concept is compatible with the existing market landscape, and their company's place in that marketplace.

This adherence to the "status quo" may sound completely antithetical to the concept of innovation. But an idea that requires too much change in an organization, or too much disruption to the marketplace, may never see the light of day.

A FINAL THOUGHT

While they tend to be lumped together, "invention" and "innovation" are not the same thing. There are distinctions between them, and those distinctions are important.

So how do you know if you are inventing or innovating? Consider this analogy:

If invention is a pebble tossed in the pond, innovation is the rippling effect that pebble causes. Someone has to toss the pebble. That's the inventor. Someone has to recognize the ripple will eventually become a wave. That's the entrepreneur.

Entrepreneurs don't stop at the water's edge. They watch the ripples and spot the next big wave before it happens. And it's the act of anticipating and riding that "next big wave" that drives the innovative nature in every entrepreneur.

This article is the seventh of 10 video segments in which digital entrepreneur Tom Grasty talks about his experience building an Internet startup, and is part of a larger initiative sponsored by docstoc.videos, which features advice from small business owners who offer their views on how to launch a new business or grow your existing one altogether.

February 03 2012

15:12

#newsrw: ‘Content is King’ for online video

Most news organisations shy away from the “talking head” video, afraid it won’t engage viewers. Not at the Financial Times.

“If I’m honest, our bread and butter is the ‘talking head’”,  said Josh de la Mare, editor of video at the Financial Times, a panelist on the online video panel at news:rewired – media in motion. “The FT audience is quite strange in that sense. I’m quite surprised myself.”

de la Mare was one of four panelists who shared their expertise on online video, including David Dunkley Gyimah, a video journalist, academic and consultant;  John Domokos, video producer for the Guardian; and Christian Heilmann of Mozilla.

Each shared a different view on video, from the Guardian using reader-submitted videos to the Financial Times talking head videos to Gyimah referring to all news video as cinema. One thing the panel all agreed on is that video will only work if your audience is interested in the content.

“Something needs to be happening for it to be good video,” said Domokos.

“If it’s compelling, they will watch,” Gyimah concurred.

Heilmann suggested video professionals should work on making content interactive by using tools such as HTML5 or Mozilla Popcorn. Different open source technologies like these can allow the audience to add live tweets to a politician’s speech or change an iconic scene from a beloved film. He advocated that “video on the web should use the web”.

“We have a great opportunity to make this engaging, read-write media really work and right now we don’t,” Heilmann said. “We should, as professionals, take that over.”

11:37

LIVE: Session 1A – Online video

Most publishers will have at least dipped their toe into the pool of online video, but what does it take to really make a splash in this area, and reap the traffic rewards? This session will feature innovative case studies of cutting-edge online video which can enhance the way content is presented and shared, as well as top tips from experienced online video journalists, publishers and those leading key developments in web-native video about the opportunities to be exploited through the online medium.

With: Christian Heilmann, Mozilla Popcorn; Josh de la Mare, editor of video, Financial Times; John Domokos, video producer, the Guardian; David Dunkley Gyimah, video journalist, academic and consultant.

11.44

 

With HTML5 the video becomes just another page element which can be edited and overlayed. “The timestamp is the glue.”

11.42

 

“video is a black hole on the web” – Google cannot find the content. To make it more ‘findable’ we must use a great headline and separate our content out from the presentation. If the text can be separated it out from the video (eg using Universal Subtitles) you can edit text after publishing video. Google can find the text and it helps readers to skip to the bit of the video they want.

HTML5 video allows for all of that.

11.39

 

He says when it comes to video online, shorter is better – otherwise people get fidgety and start checking Twitter or FarmVille!

Now it’s Chris Heilmann of Mozilla Popcorn – he says he has a background in radio.

11.34

 

David Dunkley Gyimah is up next – a video journalist, academic and artist in residence at the Southbank, apparently!
Reportage in 1991/2 was “the YouTube of the BBC back then” – young and disruptive.
It all comes back to cinema. You need to get people to feel something, and to do that you need to experiment with image and movement and how best to capture that.

11.34

 

“we’re prone to following trends when we should also focus on exemplars” – Gyimah studies legendary cinematic directors. He also recommends Media Storm as an exemplar for online video.

11.32

 

Question: “isn’t the FT just putting TV news online?”


A: we have a mixture of polished content and more raw, on the ground news. That seems to be what the FT audience want, but again, it’s an evolving medium. We definitely aim for much short videos online – almost always under 5 minutes.

11.18

“The human face is absolutely crucial” – the individual details that help you to understand the wider story.

Josh de la Mare closes by reminding us that “nothing is sacred” – the medium is still evolving and there’s no stable formula for producing online video.

11.16

The FT has had a studio for about 3 years. FT video produces short comment and interview clips that go deeper into niche angles of the broader story.

FT also use on-site camera crews and provide theirjournalists with flip cams, encouraging them to shoot footage all over the world.

11.13

 

Josh de la Mare: FT mostly uses talking heads because that’s most appropriate for our audience.
Video can get to the emotional heart of a story. The FT used video to represent the human side to the impact of 9/11.

11.10

 

User generated content (UGC) is not a free and easy way to get great video clips!


The Guardian is exploring ways to engage with readers using multimedia. Domokos shows us an example which worked – people speaking out against disability living allowance cuts. These videos worked because the subjects had a real personal reason to produce them. The raw result is also not something a traditional camera crew could ever have got by treating them as “case studies”. 

Every time we use video, we must be using it because it’s the RIGHT way to tell the story, not the easy way

10.52

The Online Video session has kicked off with moderator David Hayward from BBC College of Journalism.

Follow the twitter hash tag #newsrw

January 09 2012

15:20

3 Keys to Naming Your Product

Two and a half years ago, I co-founded Stroome, a collaborative online video editing and publishing platform and 2010 Knight News Challenge winner. Considering the fact that "video" is one of the most searchable words on the web, our first startup challenge -- actually coming up with a name for our site -- proved to be extremely daunting.

Recently, I was asked by Jason Nazar, founder of Docstoc and a big supporter of the L.A. entrepreneurial community, if I had any tips for startups regarding choosing a name for their product.

A short, 3-minute video response can be found at the bottom of this post, but I thought I'd share some key takeaways with you here:

MAKE SURE THE DOMAIN NAME IS AVAILABLE

Let's face it: We live in a digital age. The fact that a record $35.3 billion was spent online this past holiday season is evidence of that. And in this digital age, the proverbial "open for business" sign that used to dangle in the front shop-window has been replaced with the search bar.

So the first thing to think about when naming your product is this: If the domain isn't available, you don't have squat (more on the concept of "domain squatting" in minute).

But finding an available '.com' is just the beginning. As the web becomes increasingly crowded, a myriad of domain extensions have emerged. A few of the more popular ones include: .tv, .me, .biz. And this doesn't even take into consideration domains for foreign territories.

With all these new extensions emerging, a natural question many entrepreneurs ask is: "Does a place exist that will check all the available domain extensions at the same time?" Actually, there are several.

If you just want to search the "big three" -- .com, .net, .org -- I suggest a site called Instant Domain Search. Just type in the name you want, and the website does the rest.

If you want to search all the extensions, give Check Domains a shot. Not only will it instantly tell you all the domains that are available, when you're done it even takes you to GoDaddy.com, a popular registry site that lets you purchase those extensions you've selected.

Because you never know which domain extension is going to be the next one to take off, my advice is to purchase as many domain extensions as possible. I know .cc (the domain for the Coco Islands) may seem completely unnecessary today, but the last thing you want to do is be held hostage by some domain squatter who had the foresight to buy your domain before you did.

YOU DON'T BE EXACT; YOU CAN ALLUDE TO YOUR PRODUCT

As your business grows, chances are your product line will expand as well. You want to make sure your name grows with it, too. It's okay to leave something to the imagination of your customers. In the "name game," being allusive can be a powerful attribute.

Take the word, "Amazon," for example. For Jeff Bezos, books always were just the beginning. From the very outset, the forward-thinking entrepreneur saw his company expanding well beyond the written word.

Don't kid yourself. The selection of the name "Amazon" was hardly happenstance. Bezos deliberately chose a word that alluded to the business he saw downstream, rather than the actual entrepreneurial waters he set out to navigate in 1995.

Inspired by the seemingly endless South American river with its countless tributaries, the notion of a continuous flow of consumer goods feeding into a massive marketplace perfectly aligned with Bezos' vision to create the world's largest e-commerce site.

Today, when we think of Amazon the first thought that pops into our mind is retail, not a river in South America. Apparently, the Googleplex agrees. Just search the word "Amazon" (preferably after you're done reading this blog).

The first mention of a river or rain forest doesn't appear until page three.

CREATE A NEW WORD THAT CAN DEFINE YOUR COMPANY

Google ... Yahoo ... Facebook ... Twitter ... These words may have existed before they found their way into the pantheon of contemporary popular culture. ("Googol" is the digit 1 followed by 100 zeros; a "yahoo" is a rude, noisy or violent person; "Facebook" is the nickname for the student directory at Phillips Exeter Academy, where Mark Zuckerberg went to high school; "twitter" is a short burst of inconsequential information.)

But the brilliance of the entrepreneurs behind the companies that bear those names is that those words are now so far removed from the original meaning associated with them that they are effectively new words altogether.

Yet just coming up with a catchy name isn't really the trick. The real magic is coming up with a word that's connected with your product in such a way that it becomes both a noun and a verb -- at the same time.

Let me give you an example from my own experience--

When we were coming up with the name for Stroome, we wanted a name that would work as both a noun and a verb. Much in the same way people now say, "Google it," we wanted people to say, "Stroome me," when they had some great content they wanted to share. Of course, we didn't have the word "Stroome" yet. But the Dutch did -- "Strømme."

It means "to move freely," which is exactly what we want our site to facilitate -- the movement of ideas, points of view and content freely between people. We played with the spelling a bit, but the name was perfect.

A FINAL THOUGHT

Without question, naming your product is important. But it's also a great opportunity. The right name can distinguish you from the competition, as well as differentiate your product from seemingly similar offerings.

So when naming your product here are three things to remember. First, make sure the name you chose is available across as many domains extensions as possible. And if the domains aren't available, don't get discouraged. Instead, get creative. Second, come up with a name that alludes to who you are, but doesn't specifically say what you do. And finally, if you do have to come up with a entirely new word, don't be afraid to really think outside the box.

Who knows, you might not just be naming your product. You may just end up defining an entire new product category.

This article is the fourth of 10 video segments in which digital entrepreneur Tom Grasty talks about his experience building an Internet startup, and is part of a larger initiative sponsored by docstoc.videos, which features advice from small business owners who offer their views on how to launch a new business or grow your existing one altogether.

January 05 2012

11:06

Top tips and resources for creating powerful online video journalism


Reuters social media editor Anthony De Rosa’s presentation being filmed at the last news:rewired conference

Ahead of news:rewired – media in motion next month, where one of the sessions will focus on online video journalism, this post offers some background reading on the subject, as well as a handful of expert tips/resources for producing top-notch footage.

The news:rewired panel will feature Christian Heilmann of Mozilla Popcorn; Adam Westbrook, multimedia journalist, blogger and lecturer and Josh de la Mare, editor of video, Financial Times.

There are plenty of resources online offering useful tips on producing different styles of video – in fact many of those are to be found on speaker Adam Westbrook’s blog. Here are just some of his useful posts:

Adam also produced a how-to for Journalism.co.uk, outlining how to make online video storytelling work, using an example of his own work.

Another speaker on the panel will be Christian Heilmann who will discuss Mozilla’s Popcorn Maker. As this Journalism.co.uk post explains, Popcorn Maker, which was launched last year at the Mozilla Festival, enables users to add external content, such as tweets, Flickr images, maps, videos from YouTube or Vimeo – without the need for coding.

More online video journalism resources/topical posts:

One of the main questions for publishers is what sort of video will be appealing to readers. In the video below by Beet.tv (itself a great example of online video publishing), Ann Derry, editorial director for video and television for the New York Times and Shawn Bender, editorial director for video for the Wall Street Journal online, answer the question: “Why do visitors hit the play button?”.

September 02 2011

20:04

Poll: What's Your Favorite Video Streaming Service?

This has been a busy week in the world of video streaming services. The new higher rate for Netflix streaming and DVDs just went into effect, just as Starz broke off negotiations with Netflix (meaning, perhaps, less selection of movies on the service). Hulu also made noise by launching a streaming service in Japan that costs more but has no ads. And Amazon has its own streaming service and could be in the running to buy Hulu. And let's not forget about competing services from Vudu and even YouTube.

So which streaming video service is your current favorite? Are you a Netflix fan or Hulu lover? Vote in our poll and explain why in the comments below.

(And listen to this week's Mediatwits podcast for a discussion on the video streaming wars.)


What's your favorite streaming video service?

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August 02 2011

17:00

How to Control (Or At Least Influence) Children's Media Access

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This week, MediaShift will be running a special series on navigating the relationships between kids and media. Stay tuned all week as we explore topics like this one.

Once you have a child old enough to use a remote, the angst begins over how to control access to media. And absent the will to live a technology-free existence, media access is virtually impossible to control.

Still, I have been able to assemble some tips on ways to at least try to influence how children navigate the media landscape. These are some of the conclusions I've reached after talks with friends and family, and a lot of personal experience as a father.

TIP: RESTRICT TV IN THE HOME

Often, the first screen a child will access on his or her own is the TV. In earliest years, it's not too hard to put the remote control out of reach and monitor use closely.

Once they get a bit older, you can turn on whatever parental controls your TV provider or set allows, sometimes even block access to certain channels.

A few friends and family members don't subscribe to cable TV. You can also go without TV, which one friend told me she has done since before the era of video on the web.

HINDRANCE 1: TV? What is this, the 1990s? Most media shown on TV is soon available on some other screen the child has access to. As I said to a friend whose children were issued notebook computers in middle school: "Once they get laptops it's game over."

HINDRANCE 2: Media is pervasive out of the home. Family members in Minneapolis don't have cable. So, their daughter for years has just gone over to the house of a friend who seems to have every channel known to man, as well as a giant plasma screen.

Even at school, your children might watch movies and shows without your explicit permission. I was unhappy, for example, to learn that my child during elementary school recess on rainy days was put in an auditorium to watch entertainment that was anything but educational.

HINDRANCE 3: Parental controls are often based on rating systems that may not match your values. My friends and I, for example, find sometimes startling levels of violence in programming that's considered "safe" for children, while a fleeting bare breast in an innocuous setting will cause a show to be blocked.

TIP: CONTROL NETWORK AND COMPUTER PERMISSIONS

router block sites.jpg

You can restrict access and set permissions on your wireless router for different computers (via, for example, identifying the computer's "MAC address" -- a unique identifier code for every computer's WiFi antenna). Some routers allow different permission levels for different computers, so you can restrict them from accessing certain web addresses. On some routers, you can also monitor activity on the network.

You can also set yourself up as an administrator on a computer, and make your children simple users, then use browser tools to restrict access to certain web addresses and kinds of content.

HINDRANCE 1: Do you really want to be the admin on your children's computers and have to be called on every time they need to download some little plug-in to access something they may need for homework or to play a legitimate game?

HINDRANCE 2: Your progeny (they are smart, aren't they?) may find a workaround and get the content from some avenue you haven't blocked. If you restrict them at the browser level, for example, they may figure out a way to download through a different browser.

Another friend was able a few years ago to block his daughter's access to AOL Instant Messenger chats by, he said, denying access on his home router. But the means of accessing AIM and other real-time social engines have ballooned to where he knows it would be a losing battle now to even try.

My movie-obsessed 15-year-old nephew knows how to fake proxy servers and make a website think he's coming from a different IP address or country to get around restrictions where he lives.

TIP: CUT OFF WIRELESS ACCESS

Instead of trying to restrict access over a home network, how about doing away with it altogether? One friend told me he and his wife decided to go retro. "We cut off our wireless Internet at home, and instead ran cables through our house" so everyone had to physically plug in to access the web there, he said.

He and his spouse also require their children under the age of 16 use computers in open areas of the house rather than their bedrooms.

HINDRANCE 1: Neighbors. My friend and his wife noticed their children doing homework in a cramped area near the front porch. It turned out they were accessing an unprotected wireless network named "Stevo" emanating from next door.

HINDRANCE 2: Going without wireless can tie your own hands. My friend, who is a busy hospital doctor, found it to be a hassle when he had to get online at home and find a free port while the kids were doing homework.

In a house like mine, where I'm constantly accessing media in all corners for work and pleasure, I have trouble imagining going without wireless.

HINDRANCE 3: Children often have access to smartphones and tablets, on which they can consume media over a cellular network, and sometimes tether to a computer to give it wireless access.

HINDRANCE 4: Laptops can be carried to places with WiFi over which you have no control.

TIP: CONTROL ACCESS TO PAID SERVICES

You can set up a separate log-in or account for your children's access to services like Netflix, and monitor what they're watching.

HINDRANCE: My 14-year-old daughter and nephew are masters at finding whatever they want to watch. They're fans, for example, of the British version of "Skins," which is considerably more frank about sex and drugs than the American knockoff.

If they can't get what they want through Netflix, Hulu, iTunes and other legitimate services, they seem to find it some other way. When they can't get a whole show, someone inevitably posts choice bits to shared sites like Tumblr or YouTube.

I have told my daughter of the agreement reached between content providers and cable companies to limit access to unapproved content, so she can better understand the dangers of downloading material that our ISP finds illicit.


TIP: WATCH TOGETHER

tv watch family.jpg

In our house we encourage media consumption together, as a family. That way, at least, we can ask and answer questions, discuss what we're seeing and hearing, and I can gauge reactions and levels of sophistication. I'd rather have an idea of what's being consumed than believe I can place blanket restrictions.

HINDRANCE: Many children, once they're old enough, will resist watching shows with the family. Friends and I have experienced various excuses and explanations.

Our children will say they've already seen a show we want to watch and don't want to watch that episode again, or that something they want to watch isn't appropriate for younger siblings.

CONCLUSION: TEACH YOUR CHILDREN

Let's be frank: Part of growing up is doing things your parents don't approve of and testing limits.


Rather than resign myself to losing battles, I try to influence media consumption -- and production -- habits by instilling values and judgment. My daughter at this point would have to be pretty dull, for example, to not understand the risks of a) putting embarrassing personal material online or b) interacting with someone she doesn't know.

I try to encourage her to tell me what she's watching and listening to, even if it makes us both squirm a little at times.

An upside for a media professional like me is that children often act as a window into other media worlds. My daughter told me of YouTube sensation "Fred,"":http://www.youtube.com/user/Fred whom I've since researched and now use in lectures to demonstrate the power of the new social ecosystem.

I also believe we can't lord it over children if we're going to let them have rich, interactive lives, while hoping they have gained values and judgment that buffer them from the worst possibilities.

I know my daughter won't share everything with me. Yes, I can see her Tumblog and am her "friend" on Facebook. But I also am well aware that there may be other Tumblogs, social networks and websites where she does things she hides.

I do hope I've helped arm her with values so that in creating and consuming content she shows the good sense I've seen on so many other occasions.

Read more stories in the Kids & Media series on MediaShift.

Photo of family watching TV together by Paul Emerson via Flickr.

An award-winning former managing editor at ABCNews.com and an MBA (with honors), Dorian Benkoil handles marketing and sales strategies for MediaShift. He is SVP at Teeming Media, a strategic media consultancy focused on attracting, engaging, and activating communities through digital media. He tweets at @dbenk.

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July 05 2011

16:11

The New News Paradigm: 'Pivot or Perish'

At the recent MIT-Knight Civic Media Conference, I had the pleasure of speaking to 16 of the most promising thinkers in the area of digital news. Culled together from myriad of disciplines and backgrounds, some had already established themselves as pioneers in the digital space.Others had come from legacy newsrooms. A few had found their voices in the field.

But regardless of their backgrounds, they all were united by a drive to innovate, inform and empower. In short, these 16 new news entrepreneurs had come to Cambridge, Mass., with a plan: Reinvent the news business.

But if I had just one takeaway I wanted to impart in my talk to the newly knighted 2011 News Challenge winners, it was this: Those carefully crafted plans are about to change.

uturn.jpg

Being Open to Change

There's an old axiom in entrepreneurship, and it goes something like this: Pivot or perish.

"Pivoting" -- the ability (and perhaps more importantly, the willingness) to change your course of action when you realize the ground beneath you is shifting -- isn't just the essence of entrepreneurship, it's the only way you'll survive.

Trust me, we've been at it for just a little over a year now with Stroome, and in that time we've had to pivot plenty.

Now let me be clear -- having a plan for the future is just as important as a good, solid pivot. Looking two, three, even five years down the road is critical, not just because it places your idea in a larger context, but because it forces you to realize that no one really knows what the future has in store. In the end, the best we can do is play the hand that's dealt us. And this is precisely where the concept of pivoting comes in.

When we set out last June to build the next iteration of Stroome, a collaborative online video editing platform to simplify the production of news and video, we sat down and diligently drew up a list of goals. The exact number was just short of a dozen or so, but the three key ones included: increase adoption in journalism schools, forge strategic allegiances, remain open to unforeseen uses.

It didn't take long before those goals started to come to fruition. Within four months of receiving our grant, Stroome was being used by a class of aspiring digital journalists at Columbia College Chicago to comment on the importance of voter registration during the highly anticipated mayoral election. In April, we partnered with USC Stevens Institution, relaunching the site at the third annual TEDxUSC conference.

And who could have possibly foreseen that we'd have found ourselves smack dab in the middle of the Egyptian revolution? But that's exactly what happened this past January when protesters began using Stroome to get their video out of the country when the government shut down Twitter and Facebook.

More than a 'to-do' list

Remarkably, in less than a year we had accomplished nearly every goal we had set for ourselves. But our goals had became more than just a list of "to-dos'' to be ticked off one-by-one. Instead, they became "listening posts." And by listening to our users, we were able to gain valuable insight into what is truly important to them.

In most instances, their revelations were consistent with our expectations. Yet at times, what we heard was completely incongruous with what we thought we should be building. And when that happened, we had to evaluate which comments to implement, which to set aside for the time being, and which to dismiss altogether. Said another way, we had to pivot.

Because while we may have had many goals, at the end of the day we only had one objective: Create the most intuitive user experience possible. But without those pivots, that objective would never have been achieved.

And as I looked out across the room and into the faces of this year's Knight News Challenge winners, I could see an unmistakable determination, an undaunted doggedness, an unrelenting sense of resolve. There was no mistaking it: Reinvention of an industry many have written off as outdated, archaic and obsolete is a goal well within their grasp.

They're just going to have to pivot to get there.

If you're interested, Los Angeles angel investor Mark Suster has written a great post on the importance of pivoting. Read it here.

Photo courtesy of flickr user Stacy Lynn Baum.

July 01 2011

15:36

Mediatwits #11: Can Google+ Overtake Facebook, Avoid MySpace's Fate?

danny_sullivan headshot.jpg

Welcome to the eleventh episode of "The Mediatwits," the weekly audio podcast from MediaShift. The co-hosts are MediaShift's Mark Glaser and Rafat Ali, the founder of PaidContent. This week's show looks at the recent launch of Google+, a more fully formed social network that is taking on Facebook. Google+ is in an invite-only mode but both Mark and Rafat had a chance to try it out. Special guest Danny Sullivan of Search Engine Land joins the show to spell out just how difficult Google+ will have it trying to overtake entrenched social networking king Facebook.

Plus, MySpace, the former social networking leader, has fallen on hard times, with News Corp. recently selling it in a fire sale for just $35 million, a far cry from its sale price in 2005 for $580 million. What went wrong? Could the same thing happen to Facebook? And how can Google+ be the next Facebook and not the next MySpace?

Check it out!

mediatwits11.mp3

Subscribe to the podcast here

Subscribe to Mediatwits via iTunes

Follow @TheMediatwits on Twitter here

Intro and outro music by 3 Feet Up; mid-podcast music by Autumn Eyes via Mevio's Music Alley.

Here are some highlighted topics from the show:

Rafat back from Uzbekistan

1:50: Rafat says it's easy to unlock an iPhone

3:25: No one uses Facebook in Uzbekistan

5:44: Rundown of topics for the podcast

First impressions of Google+

08:20: Rafat annoyed by people talking about Google+ on Google+

10:10: Mark says there's nothing groundbreaking to make people switch

Search Engine Land's Danny Sullivan joins in

11:35: Background on Danny Sullivan

13:40: Google +1 buttons don't go into stream

16:40: Google+ lets you start fresh with friends in circles

17:45: Danny is exhausted thinking about having to categorize all his friends

19:40: Danny likes the Hangout video chats

MySpace sold on the cheap

myspace-logo-200.jpg

23:20: Justin Timberlake now has stake in MySpace

26:15: Rafat says MySpace founders weren't strong leaders

27:10: Danny never liked MySpace because it seemed "messy"

28:30: Google search deal actually hurt MySpace

More Reading

Google+

Google's Facebook Competitor, The Google+ Social Network, Finally Arrives at Search Engine Land

First Look: Hands On With Google+ at Search Engine Land

Google+ Project: It's Social, It's Bold, It's Fun, And It Looks Good -- Now For The Hard Part at TechCrunch

9 Reasons to Switch from Facebook to Google+ at PC World

How to invite your pals to Google+ at CNET

Exclusive: Myspace to Be Sold to Specific Media for $35 Million at AllThingsD

The Rise and Inglorious Fall of Myspace at BusinessWeek

Stealing MySpace book at Amazon

Weekly Poll

Don't forget to vote in our weekly poll, this time about Google+:




What do you think about Google+?customer surveys

Mark Glaser is executive editor of MediaShift and Idea Lab. He also writes the bi-weekly OPA Intelligence Report email newsletter for the Online Publishers Association. He lives in San Francisco with his son Julian. You can follow him on Twitter @mediatwit.

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June 30 2011

16:00

With News Challenge funding, The Tiziano Project will expand training and tools for community journalism

We’ve reached a point where debates over citizen journalism have been washed over by a torrent of online video, blogs, and other media created by people who, while they may not identify themselves as journalists, are nevertheless documenting what’s happening in their communities. Sometimes that’s a political uprising, other times it’s a devastating tornado. Often, the documentations get picked up by mainstream sources — or, based on the power of the stories they tell, go viral all on their own.

What that’s done is give equal weight to the impact of video and multimedia produced by individuals to that of the content created by professional journalists. The key difference now is quality, not in the sense of refined storytelling, but in the sense of the equipment and tools used to produce multimedia narratives.

In its pilot effort documenting the lives of residents in Kurdistan, The Tiziano Project — named for an Italian journalist “who liked to go where he shouldn’t” — attempted to close that gap through offering better tools and training to regular folks. Now, with the help of a $200,000 Knight News Challenge grant, the project will try to refine its technology and expand its scope.

Jon Vidar, executive director of The Tiziano Project, said the project will develop a suite of tools that will help community journalists produce and showcase their work — effectively a content management system designed specifically for multimedia storytelling. Vidar and his team will be building that system off the template of their 360 Kurdistan project, which featured personal accounts of Iraqis coupled with work from professional photojournalists. Vidar expects they’ll move quickly, using the one-year grant to build a beta in 6 months, then test and tweak the project for the rest of the year.

“The grant itself is a technology-only development grant for us to take the 360 platform we built in Iraq and use the funding to make it scalable and usable by other organizations,” Vidar told me. Part of that also includes designing a new interface that will include an interactive map to display an array of 360 projects from various communities. (To get an idea of what those projects look like, check out the interface The Tiziano Project created for the Kurdistan project, which combines still photography with audio as well as video segments.)

In many ways, Vidar said, the original 360 project was a proof-of-concept, showing that with sufficient tools and support, people can tell compelling, visually arresting stories about their community, the kind that may otherwise go unnoticed. Taken together, those stories have a great impact and can change perceptions about a group of people and where they live, Vidar said.

But those stories don’t happen automatically. “Back in 2006, 2007, when we were starting up, “community journalism” was a buzzword, like hyperlocal is today,” Vidar said. “A lot of those programs failed. They went into communities and handed out Flip video cameras and thought they were going to get amazing, high-quality video content.”

One of the big hurdles in the Kurdistan project was funding, which was provided through a $25,000 grant from the JP Morgan Chase Community Giving program. That helped to provide the basics, Vidar said: a team of photographers to offer guidance and a Flash developer to build out the site.

Part of their focus now will be developing a front end for the project, something that works across multiple platforms, from desktop to mobile and tablets. The original project was built in Flash, but Vidar said they’re now looking at using HTML5 to build a flexible site. That too can provide complications, though, and Vidar and his team want to make sure they’re using the right technology for the job. If you’re dealing with photography and video, the design and usability experience is key to getting people to engage with your work, Vidar said. “We don’t want to take the quality of the experience down just to make it cross compatible.”

What the 360s could provide is a new avenue for local journalism, something that is a hybrid between pure amateur cellphone video and packages developed by professionals.

“There’s three types of content producers now,” Vidar said. “The professional journalist; the citizen producer — the everyday guy uploading to YouTube; and then there’s the intermediate. They’re not professional journalists, but active commentators, people who use [video] in an in-depth way. We want to elevate the people who are taking cellphone video and posting it to YouTube — elevate them to the next level.”

May 10 2011

16:58

Burmese Media Launch Campaign to Free Jailed Reporters

Hla Hla Win, Sithu Zeya, Maung Maung Zeyu, Ngwe Soe Lin and Win Maw are all undercover reporters in Burma, and all are serving jail sentences ranging from eight to 27 years after being caught in one of the world's most draconian media dragnets.

Hla-Hla-Win.jpg

To coincide with World Press Freedom Day last week on May 3, Democratic Voice of Burma (DVB) launched a campaign to have its jailed journalists freed.

According to the Burmese government and its supporters, a slow transition from authoritarian rule has begun. But DVB argues that if this is the case, journalists should not be jailed for merely doing their job, and is calling on Burmese authorities to release the detainees, as well as asking foreign governments to try to influence or pressure the regime. Visitors to the campaign website can add their name to a petition calling for the reporters' release.

Officially, the Burmese government does not recognize the existence of political prisoners, saying that all those incarcerated in Burmese prisons are criminals. The United Nations says there are about 2,100 political prisoners in Burma, 17 of which are DVB journalists. DVB is naming only five of them for security reasons, but is campaigning to have all of the reporters freed.

Second Most Jailed Journalists

Burma holds the second-highest number of jailed journalists of any country in the world per capita, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists.

"We are seen as enemies of the state," said Moe Zaw Latt, a DVB editor based in Chiang Mai in northern Thailand, who opened the Free VJ (video journalists) campaign in Bangkok.

Sithu_Zeya.jpg

DVB was set up in 1992 by exiled dissidents and opposition politicians to make up for the news and information gap inside Burma, where media is either state-operated or has to first clear stories with the army's censors. Foreign journalists are usually not allowed to work in Burma.

Besides DVB, other external Burmese news agencies include Mizzima and The Irrawaddy. (Note: I am a regular contributor to Irrawady.) Unable to sell in their natural marketplace inside Burma, these agencies are partially supported by donor governments and private philanthropies as a means to ensure there is some uncensored Burmese news.

Undercover reporters are crucial to this effort and, in DVB's case, supplied much of the internationally viewed footage from the 2007 "Saffron Revolution," when monks and civilians took to the streets all over Burma in protest, first against rising prices, and later against military rule, before a savage army crackdown and widespread arrests of protestors.

The Perils of Undercover Journalism

I attended DVB's campaign event and press conference in Bangkok, where I met Aung Htun, a DVB undercover journalist. "Aung Htun" is actually his pseudonym, as he is fearful of retribution against his family back in Burma. He had a narrow escape from the Burmese police while filming the 2007 protests.

"I heard that some of the 88 students were gathering in Rangoon (Burma), that there would be a demonstration," he told me. "I arrived late, though, and the demonstration was over."

With military intelligence and informers likely still keeping an eye on the location, Aung Htun quickly realized that his presence there would draw attention, even though his camera was hidden and there was no overt indication of his hidden profession.

"I was soon stopped by plainclothes guys, who asked me why I was walking around this street," he said. He was promptly taken to a nearby government office, and questioning began.

"Who are you? What are you doing here today? Where do you live?"

Moved to City Hall

As a crowd gathered outside, apparently in reaction to word getting out that someone had been taken for questioning to the building, the officials decided to move Aung Htun to Rangoon's City Hall.

"They did not want provoke another gathering or demonstration," he said. By that stage, they found his videocamera, hidden in a backpack, and at City Hall they asked him if he was a journalist. He replied no, and when they asked him to show them what he had recorded, he said he had nothing, even as he realized that they did not know how to operate the camera.

"I ran the camera on shooting mode," he said. It was a simple ruse, but enough to convince them that he had not recorded any demonstrations.

Most likely, Aung Htun was let go as a ploy by authorities hoping that he would lead them to other DVB reporters and expose a wider network of clandestine Burmese journalists.

"I was one of the lucky ones," he said.

An Imprisoned 'Fourth Estate'

In his inaugural address, Burma's new president, Thein Sein, referred to the media as the "fourth estate." However, the speech came just after Maung Muang Zeyu -- one of the five DVB reporters highlighted in the campaign, was sentenced to 13 years in jail.

David Mathieson, Burma expert at Human Rights Watch, is skeptical that the fourth estate reference means any relaxation of Burma's notorious media restrictions.

"Mendacity is the main aspect of the message in Burma these days," he said at the DVB campaign launch. "The Burmese authorities have come up with 'a military-parliamentary complex' to fashion an image that some reform is taking place, when in reality they are just making small, token concessions here and there."

Burma held elections for the first time in two decades last November, which resulted in the military and its allied civilian party holding 83 percent of all seats in the new parliament. All but four of the new government ministers are from the army. Nonetheless, the "new" government, headed by a president who was a general and prime minister under the "old" junta, is trying to sell itself as a reformed and reformist entity.

After decades of economic decline at home, ordinary Burmese are among the poorest people in Asia. Between 3 million to 5 million Burmese now live in Thailand, working menial jobs, and hundreds of thousands more have migrated elsewhere in the region. Tens of thousands of others have been resettled in the United States and other Western countries, part of a program for refugees fleeing political oppression in Burma.


Showing that official restrictions are likely to continue behind a reformist facade, the new government has already banned Skype and other forms of Internet telephony, which have been growing in popularity due to the high cost of mobile telephone use and overseas calls in Burma.

Low Net Penetration

freedom house logo.jpg

Internet use is low in Burma, and the government controls the country's Internet service providers (ISPs), meaning that a new media-driven protest movement, along the lines of Tunisia or Egypt, is unlikely to emerge in Burma right now. Freedom House ranks Burma the second-worst country in the world for oppression of Internet freedom, and estimates that only 1 percent of the country's population has access to the web.

Undercover reporting will therefore remain crucial to getting news about Burma to the outside world.

If Burma's rulers are really moving toward reform and a freer media environment, undercover reporting will not be necessary, and journalists will not face decades in jail for reporting the news. With that in mind, DVB is appealing to the new government to live up to the lip service it is making to democratization, by freeing the journalists.

"A democracy does not keep reporters in jail," Toe Zaw Linn said at the campaign launch.

However, the Burmese government has a poor track record of responding positively to international lobbying on political or human rights issues.

Launching a high-profile campaign can help, at least based on precedent elsewhere.

Marwaan Macaan Markar, a Sri Lankan correspondent for Inter-Press News, said the assistance of groups such as CPJ and Reporters Without Borders was crucial in helping threatened journalists in his own country flee abroad, and to raise awareness about cases when reporters were jailed or tortured.

"It is always a difficult decision on whether or not to go public or international in these cases," he said. "It can really antagonize the government concerned."

Simon Roughneen is an Irish journalist usually based in southeast Asia. He writes for Los Angeles Times, Asia Times, The Irrawaddy, ISN, South China Morning Post and others. He is a radio correspondent affiliated to Global Radio News and has reported for RTÉ, BBC, CBS, CBC Canada, Fox News, and Voice of America. He has worked in and reported from over 30 countries.

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