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Suw Charman-Anderson

Suw Charman-Anderson

Suw Charman-Anderson is a social software consultant and writer who specialises in the use of blogs and wikis behind the firewall. With a background in journalism, publishing and web design, Suw is now one of the UK’s best known bloggers, frequently speaking at conferences and seminars.

Her personal blog is Chocolate and Vodka, and yes, she’s married to Kevin.

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Kevin Anderson

Kevin Anderson

Kevin Anderson is a freelance journalist and digital strategist with more than a decade of experience with the BBC and the Guardian. He has been a digital journalist since 1996 with experience in radio, television, print and the web. As a journalist, he uses blogs, social networks, Web 2.0 tools and mobile technology to break news, to engage with audiences and tell the story behind the headlines in multiple media and on multiple platforms.

From 2009-2010, he was the digital research editor at The Guardian where he focused on evaluating and adapting digital innovations to support The Guardian’s world-class journalism. He joined The Guardian in September 2006 as their first blogs editor after 8 years with the BBC working across the web, television and radio. He joined the BBC in 1998 to become their first online journalist outside of the UK, working as the Washington correspondent for BBCNews.com.

And, yes, he’s married to Suw.

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Monday, February 26th, 2007

Rethinking video, rethinking journalism, rethinking priorites

Posted by Kevin Anderson

I love blogs for the distributed conversation that they engender, and one of the discussions over the last few weeks has been about online video and how it is fundamentally different from television. There has long been a post in the back of my head that newspapers should focus on creating video and not recreating television.

Paul Bradshaw beat me to this post in calling for newspapers to stop trying to make television - it’s video. He makes some excellent points on how the grammar of TV does not translate directly to the web. For instance, on the web, why have an anchor pass to a video reporter?

My view is that TV shovelware not only translates poorly online, but adopting television production methods cedes the competitive economic advantage that newspapers now have over television. The argument for a 24-hour live broadcast television news operation is economically and journalistically dubious. Rocketboom’s daily downloads equal or outstrip the viewership for many cable news channel programmes. But I wonder how much more is spent per cable news programme versus Rocketboom’s production costs? OK, that analogy isn’t completely fair, but on-demand video divorced from television’s high overhead will begin to pressure rolling news channels. That is where the opportunity exists for newspapers and other non-traditional sources of video, not in jumping from one threatened business model to another.

Paul Mason, business reporter for the BBC’s Newsnight, actually read out an obituary for rolling news. Paul wrote:

In addition, the limitations of rolling news as a news medium are beginning to block its ability to set the pace in terms of design. When it first started, the bosses consoled themselves for the low viewing figures with the promise that, once viewers saw what they were missing - all those dramatic sound stings, breaking news straps, crawling text, blinking arrows and massive sets - they would be drawn to this visual feast. Today the feast is to be found online - and it is not just visual. It is the immersive experience of interaction in real time with real people that compels users to stay online for hours - whether on eBay or World of Warcraft.

Note, both Paul and I make a distinction between 24-hour live broadcast television and 24-hour newsgathering. I found Paul’s arguments really compelling, not least because he knows the business, but also because he was saying that the workflow and grammar developed for 24-hour rolling news operations didn’t necessarily provide compelling material for 24-hour on-demand news operations.

Adrian Monck has a great post based on a piece he wrote for the BBC College of Journalism. Check out the bullet points, Monck’s Maxims. I really took note of this line:

So, a quick review of video online tells you newspaper guys are still in charge of newspapers, and TV and radio people at the BBC control the commissioning strings for the content that ends up online.

Ah, the commissioning budget and old lines of editorial control. The bottom line is that as economic priorities shift to online, commissioning priorities for original journalism also have to shift in that direction. That’s a long term process. In the near term, media companies have to radically revamp their development process, but that is another blog post. Suffice to say, new media development cycles have to become incremental, iterative and measured in months, not in years.

But in this video discussion, it was great to see my former colleague Alf Hermida’s (new, at least new to me) blog post push this discussion a little further and call for some thinking outside the TV news box.

What I find surprising is that the industry is still having this discussion. It reflects how people in broadcasting and print have failed to realise that the internet is a new medium. It shows the deep lack of understanding of digital journalism and its potential.

Rethinking how we do video online is a start. But we need to rethink journalism for an interactive and participatory age.

Andy Dickinson thought that Alf was calling for a focus on journalism and not the medium. Andy, I might be respectfully disagreeing, but I took away from Alf’s post that the industry needed to rethink journalism in light of interactivity and participation. I might just be misreading Andy’s post because it looks like something I’ve heard over the years that journalism is journalism no matter the medium, which I have always disagreed with.

Regardless, I think Alf is spot on in calling for a rethink of journalism that considers the opportunities of digital journalism and multimedia storytelling. These days, I focus on the interactive and participatory possibilities. That still escapes most broadcasters and publishers. They don’t really understand the social dynamics and psychology of social media because in most part they don’t understand how media can be social.

I think at the end, the opportunity for video exists, not in replicating television, but in:

  • Taking advantage of the disruptive economic potential in pro-sumer video production, not in trying to replicate TV production methods.

  • Developing a workflow that supports on-demand video not rolling television news.
  • Developing an editorial voice and grammar that works in an online, on-demand world, not one that apes CNN and other rolling news channels.

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4 Responses to “Rethinking video, rethinking journalism, rethinking priorites”

  1. Andy Says:

    Kevin,

    My picking up of Alf’s comment was more because it chimed with my view that if you consider the journalistic possibilities first without getting bogged down in the practicalities of the medium - or in this case the medium of TV - digital is an exciting place to be. As a journalist you want to tell exciting and engaging stories - digital can help do that. As a TV journalist you only have one medium to do that in.

    It’s Journalism as the defining factor and not the medium.

    I’ve always disagreed with the journalism is journalism, regardless view as well. In my experience it often hides a very medium-specific bias.

    So, it was great to see Alfs post and I would always go with the “rethink of journalism that considers the opportunities of digital journalism and multimedia storytelling”.

    I respectfully disagree with your respectful disagreeing… is that right… :)

  2. Jason Paul Kazarian Says:

    “He makes some excellent points on how the grammar of TV does not translate directly to the web.”

    Part of this grammar is the expectation of a television viewer versus that of an Internet maven.

    When I watch television, I’m flipping channels, settling down, maybe eating or drinking. A few seconds of content lapses consumed by segues (correct spelling for seg-ways?) doesn’t bother me.

    When I use the Internet, I’m working. Time is of the essence. Content lapses are irritating. I’m not as likely to view anything longer then two or three minutes–unless it hits my needs/wants spot on!


    Jason Paul Kazarian
    http://leftbrainedgeeks.com/vidgroup.htm

  3. R Hawk: Diary of a Newspaper Hawk Says:

    There is nothing in communications and media left that is not digital. Once digital, the hardware and delivery becomes irrelevent. The merger of mediums will flow such that, short of showing a video in a print copy of the Chicago Sun-Times, we might forget there was every singular mediums for news and information delivery.

    Of course, delivery matters as far as production is concerned, but, ultimately, it CAN be delivered one way or another. Holograms in air might not be far off for the next big idea. The rest is resolve via technique, expertise and budget.

    How longstanding mediums will continue, as paper newspapers suffer, as print books fall out of fashion, and as they days of everyone crowding around the TV in the college dorm to watch Must-See TV are dead — how it will continue will be driven by the market. The indie aspect of online video won’t continue much longer.

    As far as video is concerned, with YouTube and emerging competitors, sorting out bad programming will be key. Video overload already exists. While TV and cable might offer to the lowest common denominator they do screen out the worst. Issues of quality and relevance are obvious with much of YouTube. No one screens and democracy prevails, but big business will try to take over. We saw this in the Super Bowl ads.

    Big business is big businesss. Here, the strong will survive. The only difference is that the weak will also survive, clouding our choices.

  4. Bryan Murley Says:

    journalism is journalism no matter the medium, which I have always disagreed with.

    I want to hear more about this from both you and Andy. While there are definitely medium-specific limitations, why would the journalism NOT be journalism regardless of the medium?

    Of course, that would probably require everyone agreeing on a definition of journalism, which opens an even bigger can of worms. :-)