Monday, January 29, 2007

Making good content pay

Interesting inteview with Brian Storm on OJR: Building a perfect storm of journalism and multimedia

MediaStorm publishes and brokers multimedia projects at a high level. They auctioned off Ed Kashi's work from Iraqi Kurdistan as a flipbook project, with debuting the novel piece.

They also produced Gail Fisher's piece on the Navajo's uranium contamination for the Los Angeles Times. The four-part Blighted Homeland on is beautifully photographed. (You have to dig a little to get to the multimedia pieces.)

MediaStorm is a popular site, featuring serious, quality photojournalism. Brian Storm from the OJR story: "There are a lot of interesting things about the way the audience is different. About 70 different countries hit our website. How do they find us? It's all word of mouth. We don't do any marketing. It is all viral conversation and its exact opposite of broadcast. When we launched on November 16, 2005, maybe 500 people watched our project that day. Today there are thousands of people watching those same projects who have never seen it before right so the whole time-shifting capability is really critical to this medium."

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Making content pay

Another Reuters (via story about video sharing notes how martial arts expert Joe Eigo made $25,000 from the five million views of a video he posted on

Video sharing sites are starting to share the wealth, with YouTube anouncing revenue-sharing recently. is one. They're aiming for high quality.

Gates predicts

A Reuters news story out of the Davos, Switzerland World Economic Forum covers Microsoft chairman Bill Gates' speech:

"The Internet is set to revolutionize television within five years, due to an explosion of online video content and the merging of PCs and TV sets, Microsoft chairman Bill Gates said on Saturday."

Searching video

A Washington Post article by Sara Kehaulani Goo talks about the efforts to index online video and the problems of doing so.

From her story:
"The key point to understand is that Internet video is going to go to the television," said Phil Leigh, founder and principal analyst of Inside Digital Media, a digital media market research firm. "All of us are going to use the [Internet] search tool to find what we want to watch" on TV.

Are papers in their death throes?

There's a raging discussion on my NewspaperVideo email list. The news of accelerated media job cuts (Pace of Downsizing Accelerates) has put everyone in panic.

I don't know if we're all fawked. I suspect the New York Times and the Washington Post will continue in some form. The LA Times, they're f*d, though. The super-local super-small papers have a chance of surviving.

But us mid-size metros are in a world of trouble, I think. We depend on a mass audience but our audience is imploding, scattering like a supernova to the far corners of the media universe. Savvy marketers -- from the white house to your local auto dealer -- are bypassing mass media to sell directly to the consumer. At some point the balance will tilt and advertisers will leave our print product like field mice fleeing a grass fire.

As much as I'd like journalism to be free, it ain't. We spend gazillions covering the news. We spent megabucks covering hurricanes for the last few years. We spent megabucks covering Haiti, and Cuba, and the rest of Florida -- our back yard. Real journalism costs real money. Lawyers for FOI requests and record requests aren't cheap. Helicopters cost $750 an hour when the school bus gets hijacked. Heck, it costs $25 just to park to cover an assignment. The sat phone is $2 a minute when the storm hits. Journalism is definitely not free.

What are we going to do? Maybe we'll continue as an advertising company at a hyper-local level. And just maybe, a few of us can make a living as content producers. The Associated Press is a content company. Even the local dinner theater is a content company. They make a living. Maybe we can, too.

We multimedia producers have a highly saleable product. The gazillion outlets for TV are hungry for content. We can sell 'em what we produce after we've posted it on our web site. We can produce high-quality stuff that gets hundreds of thousands of hits, instead of hundreds. We can be the authors of all the content that the aggregators will eventually have to pay for when the AP wire service model wastes away. (We're already talking about dropping AP.) But the transition isn't going to be pleasant.

We had the belt-tightening meeting yesterday. No layoffs, though, they promise. Me, I'm still pushing to get a broadcast camera in the hopes of having marketable footage. Ain't gonna happen, but we can dream, can't we?

At least us new media folks will be the last ones out.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007


According to the NPD Group , six million households downloaded online video in the third quarter of 2006.

I would have thought about five million of those would be mentos-and-diet-coke videos. But no, sixty percent was porn. Another 20% was from TV shows. Five percent were movies. Which leaves 15% for lonelygirl15, amanda, eepy, and us newspaper people.

Just so you know where we stand.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

How's your CMS handle video?

Adrian Holovaty writes about newspaper content management systems in A fundamental way newspaper sites need to change . He explains that rigid content management systems that identify every entry as a "story" get in the way of useful database publishing.

But his arguments also apply to video on newspaper websites. We really need to get video, photo, story, graphic, raw data and archives all together. Arguments for lo-fi video to go with stories are specious until we can post the video with the story, instead of some player on another page.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Showtime for Smithsonian

IFC News says Showtime locked up rights to the Smithsonian Museum's archives. But we're here to look at the newscast, not the news. For you Timescast-style news show fans, check out IFC News' intro and their chromakey background. They manage to combine professional production values with an anti-tv feel.


NY Times invests in Brightcove

The internet video distributor Brightcove just got an additional $59.5 million in funding from a group which includes the New York Times. They've got some heavy hitters behind them, including AOL, Hearst, and I think the Washington Post. See the story at Red Herring.

I hope the practice of putting a TV set (a separate video player) on a web page dies off quickly. I'm still waiting to see an automated content management system that will put video embeds on pages the way newspaper pictures sit on the printed page. The idea of captive pre-roll advertising is really strong, though, so expect to see lots of Brightcove players soon.

On the other hand, anything that increases revenue, I suppose, is a good thing....

One really cool thing about Brightcove is the reporting that tells how many people watched your video all the way through. Check out some of Brightcove's site and you'll see that almost nobody finishes one.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Internet TV from a newspaper company

If you haven't checked out lately, they've gotten over their growing pains and their servers feed video smoothly now. It finally works the way it should and it's an interesting place to visit. is a huge internet-only TV station created by Landmark Communications / Pilot Media Companies, whose Virginian-Pilot newspaper is the largest metro in Virginia. (They also own the Weather Channel and multimedia powerhouse Visual Journalists at the Virginian-Pilot contribute pieces to, but the majority of local content comes from dedicated shooters.

They have channels on their player and you can get world, national, and local content, as well as viewer-contributed.

Their ".com is so yesterday" intro is worth the price of admission.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Ethernet Inventor Says Transformation to Internet Video is Here

This is a six minute interview from with the guy who invented ethernet. While the perspective he brings to internet video is interesting, what's really cool is how this video got here on this blog. If you haven't experienced Google Video's "post to blog" button, it's really cool. One click and any Google Video is automagically here. If you haven't checked lately, it has become a repository for lots of footage. Getty archival footage is available, as well as almost anything else you can imagine. -- Chuck

The implications are profound says Internet Pioneer Robert Metcalfe.

We are on the campus of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology for the annual Emerging Technology Conference organized by Technology Review. At the kick-off dinner at the MIT Museum, I had the good fortune to interview Robert Metcalfe, the pioneering computer scientist who invented Ethernet back in 1973 -- before that he was a principal researcher at MIT on ARAPNET - the early Internet.

Bob tells Beet.TV he's long had a vision of the Internet as a delivery platform for video. Sure video takes more bandwidth, but it's still all about the Ethernet packets which carry the data, he notes.

Among the most important implications is the prospect of energy savings by facilitating communications through video interaction.

Thanks Bob for all you've done.

Vlogging The World's Top New Innovators

Gathered at the MIT conference are the the world's top 35 young innovators who are being recognized for their achievements. Technology Review has launched a cool vlog comprised of interviews with many of the winners, as well as speakers gathered here at the conference.

Please stay tuned to Beet.TV this week for ongoing coverage of the Technology Review conference up here at MIT.

-- Andy Plesser

View this post on Beet.TV,

- Contact us at

Coming Clean: MIT's Technology Review, the organizer of the conference, is a client of Plesser Holland, publisher of Beet.TV

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Adobe Digital Editions: free ebook on Flash

Speaking of Flash, there's a free e-copy of a chapter in the Visual Quickpro Guide: Macromedia Flash 8 Advanced for Windows and MacIntosh on Adobe Labs' site:

This is interesting because the page uses Adobe Digital Editions - a new way of publishing using a pdf-style drm program. It is still in beta, but now runs on Mac OS X. It somehow hooks into Safari when it installs.

Check it out.

Update: this is one funky program. It only works when connected.... you can't download the content, apparently. It puts a 4kb ebx.etd file on your computer that manages the digital rights. If you click that file, it tells you you've already accessed it and you're out of luck. But if you go back to Adobe Labs page, you can still read the content.

When you right-click on an ebook, you get a settings dialog that can allow Adobe access to your web cam and mic....!!!

And as noted in the comments below, it's not the whole visual qp guide book, just 24 pages.

FLASH VIDEO HOW-TO by Chuck Fadely

FLASH VIDEO HOW-TO by Chuck Fadely

Adobe (Macromedia) Flash is the best way to put video on a web page. Nearly every computer hooked to the internet has a Flash player installed. A Flash .flv-encoded video streams itself, so you don't need a streaming server.

There are a number of different versions of Flash. Flash 8 is the current and highest quality. But many office computers have the FlashMX players, an older version, and are locked down so the user can't upgrade. If most of your traffic comes from the 9-5 weekday crowd, you should encode using FlashMX (which uses Sorenson Spark encoding). If your audience is hooked up, use Flash 8 (which uses the On2 VP6 codec)- it's better quality.

You can encode video into Flash in a number of ways. There is, of course, Flash 8 , if you've got it. You can also use Sorenson Squeeze , a great compression software that has many uses beyond flash. VP6 encoding software from the company that wrote the encoder for Flash is On2 Flix. makes stand-alone encoders and a Quicktime plug-in so you can export Flash from a Quicktime app. And if you're on Windows, there's a free encoder from Riva.

Compression settings are a whole 'nother encyclopedia. In general, though, you should compress your video using two-pass settings, at a 400kbps max data rate, at half the frame rate of the original video (15fps for normal ntsc 29.97 fps video), at 320x240 for sd video and at 400x224 for 16:9 widescreen video. Sound can be 56k at 22khz sample. This will give you a video with rather mediocre quality but will be able to play on the $24-a-month slow dsl lines. Compression settings are an art, though, and vary with content, size, and motion in your video.

Once you've encoded your video into flash, you'll need a player for it. A .flv video won't play by itself. It has to be played in a flash player. To run it in a flash player, it has to be put on a page with a chunk of html that calls the player. has a bunch of (commercial) info about flash players.

There is a player at as well as a tutorial on how to embed it on a page.

The html code to put Flash in a page looks something like this:

HTML embed code:

<object width="400" height="224" classid="clsid:D27CDB6E-AE6D-11cf-96B8-444553540000" codebase=",0,19,0">
<param name="salign" value="lt">
<param name="quality" value="high">
<param name="scale" value="noscale">
<param name="wmode" value="transparent">
<param name="movie" value="">
<param name="FlashVars" value="&streamName=FLV_Video_URL&skinName=">
<embed width="400" height="224" flashvars=&streamName=FLV_Video_URL&autoPlay=false&autoRewind=true&quality="high" scale="noscale" salign="LT" type="application/x-shockwave-flash" pluginspage="" src="" wmode="transparent">

This coding will play a widescreen flv video from my site named "video.flv" It uses a player named "flvplayer.swf" to play it. Cut, paste, and figure it out. (Watch out for dropped brackets and quotes. Getting html code to display on an html page is a bitch.)

And here's what that code produces:

Here's the sermon on the mount, straight from the source: Adobe - Developer Center : Flash Video Learning Guide

Here's WebMonkey on embedding the video.

Here's University of Florida instructor Mindy McAdams' instructions: Flash and Video . (pdf)

Here's how to do it with Windows Movie Maker and Riva:'s "WWW FAQs: How do I add video to my web site?"

Another good one is at's forums.

Here's a WordPress page with links to a lot of plugins to get the video on your WordPress blog -- but many work with other types of pages.

The Wimpy Player is a nice one. This has ways to play in both html and javascript.

For an overview of Flash video, including streaming vs progressive, see the Flash Video 101 articles on this page from Peachpit.

Good luck.

Video killed the TV Star

Newspapers and TV Stations are circling around each other like dogs looking for a fight. In this Washington Post story, Newspaper-TV Marriage Shows Signs of Strain , Frank Ahrens explains the trend.
"At the Washington bureau of the Belo newspaper chain, two veteran television reporters whose stories appeared on Belo's 19 broadcast stations were laid off and are to be replaced by videographers who will shoot digital video for the Web sites of Belo's 11 newspapers, including the Dallas Morning News."

Friday, January 12, 2007

Handycams: tape is dying

A bunch of new camcorders were introduced at the Consumer Electronics Show. New hard drive and digital camcorders with proprietary codecs that you won't be able to edit in your NLE. See

The Panasonic GS300 is apparently discontinued and replaced by a model that doesn't have external microphone input.

Treat your Optura 50's and GS 400's with care -- they were apparently the last of their breed: cheap 'corders with manual controls and inputs.

TV Jersey

Jersey's got their own TV now:

YouTube is their friend.

Pangea Ultima

Convergence is coming -- but not soon: New York Times

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Quality Counts

It is entirely possible to produce good content with cheap cameras. See this music video, produced with a cell phone: 'Oceans' by Rob Dickinson

But much of what we do as journalists involves making a story rather than just covering it. Plane crashes and shootings aren't going to happen in front of your staff very often, no matter how many point-and-shoot cameras you put on the street. Much of what we do for a living is to explain boring stuff in interesting ways.

To make compelling video of those stories takes talent and decent gear. And any business that depends on gear should have equipment that stands up to daily use.

Beyond that, though, we need to produce stories that have more than novelty. We don't want our video to become the pet rocks or cb radio of this generation. If all you want is traffic, run porn or mentos videos ... or maybe porn AND mentos videos....

The buzz these days is all about community. But newspapers have ALWAYS been about community. Newspapers exist to land on the doorstep of people who have put down roots, who are raising their kids, and who are fully vested in their neighborhoods.

We need to invest in serving our communities online -- in ways that our viewers will remember favorably. Quality counts. Viewers -- our subjects -- have very long memories and will never forget that we made them look bad or made their voices sound awful.

As a journalist of long experience, I can tell you that nothing is as final as the door slammed in your face by a news-making person who once had a story done on them they didn't like. And no one is as helpful as the subject who respects what your institution has done to them previously.

Your community deserves steady, clear video with good sound.

(This was written in response to Mindy McAdams blog entry "Cheap cameras fine for video?" )

Tuesday, January 9, 2007


Here's what you need to know if your boss hands you a camera and tells you to do a video story:

IF YOU ARE SHOOTING TAPE, ALWAYS PRE-ROLL AND POST-ROLL: this is a REALLY IMPORTANT technical thing related to editing that will bite you in the ass if you don't follow the rules. This means:
1) ALWAYS record a minute of tape before starting. Video editing programs need extra space before and after the bit you want. (Pre-roll and post-roll!) Write down the story, date and your name on a piece of paper and tape that for 60 seconds. Or tape your cat for 60 seconds. This avoids tape dropouts that always happen at the beginning. It also reassures you that the camera works.
2) ALWAYS record at least 4 seconds before someone starts talking and at least another 4 seconds after they stop. (you can't capture the soundbite in the editing program otherwise. Pre-roll and post-roll!)
3) ALWAYS record a minute of tape after you've finished everything. Your cat is still fair game. (pre-roll and post-roll!)
4) REALLY REALLY REALLY IMPORTANT: Never break timecode! If you try to watch what you've recorded and then start recording again with even a half-second of blank tape in between, the piece cannot be edited. DON'T REWIND UNTIL YOU'RE DONE! NEVER! EVER!


HOLD THE SHOT: Line up your shot in the viewfinder, press record, and then HOLD IT FOR TEN SECONDS. Don't pan. Don't zoom. HOLD THE SHOT. Count to ten! Even if we only need a second of it, hold the shot so it can be edited later.

SOUND is the most important thing in video. Record the interview sound separately from the images. Get the microphone within 12" of the person speaking and hold it still during the interview. Don't talk while the person is speaking -- nod but don't say "un hunh". The interview is called "A-roll" and will be the main sound track for the piece. Keep the subject's sentences short and sweet. Record the sound in a quiet place. Turn off the tv and radio. Air conditioners, traffic, and ringing phones are your enemy. Listen to the sound through headphones while you're recording.

IMAGES: Now that you've gotten the sound, take video of everything the person talked about. Shoot close, medium and wide of each thing. Hold each shot for 10 seconds. Let the subject move, not you. Don't pan or zoom. Get close. Brace against something so the camera doesn't shake. The images you shoot of whatever the subject talked about is called "B-roll" For a minute-long interview, you'll need dozens -- DOZENS -- of different B-roll shots related to what he's talking about. Shoot details, establishing shots, and activity. Shoot lots of shots of the subject doing things. Make sure you've got at least five different shots for each good sound bite. For example, if the subject says "Oh my god -- I can't believe we're alive! The car crashed right into the bedroom!", you'll need a wide shot of the house, a medium shot of the car in the wall, several shots from different angles of the car from both inside and out, close-ups of the bed, close-ups of the broken wall, details of family photos on the dresser with debris around, etc.

BE FOCUSED: Web videos need to be short -- one or two minutes. Pick one aspect of your story -- something with emotion -- and make the video about that. Keep it short.

FIND A CHARACTER: A successful video needs a 'character' to be the star -- find someone who is articulate and engaging, someone who makes quips and jokes -- and does them in short, sweet sound bites. Run-on sentences are death in video.

GET THE SUBJECT TO TELL THE TALE: Don't ask yes or no questions. Ask the subject to "describe" or "give me the background" or "tell me in short sentences" what happened. If they ramble, say "I'm not sure I understand. Tell me again about...." until they say it in a direct way. You need the 25-words-or-less version! See "BE FOCUSED" above.

DON'T STEP ON THE AUDIO: Don't start talking until they've stopped. Don't jump in immediately with another question after they've stopped speaking -- first, you need a break in between for editing, and second, people hate a vacuum and will sometimes volunteer really great stuff after they've directly answered the question.

Remember to pre-roll and post-roll! Don't hit the record/off switch until at least four seconds after they've stopped speaking.

Have fun!

FOR MORE TIPS, check out these links: -- Shooting Web video: How to put your readers at the scene --- producer training -- online journalism wiki on video -- Envronmental Justice Foundation video training -- Rules for Taking Good Video -- BBC's Good Shooting guide -- basic principles -- Ezine "How to shoot good digital video with your camcorder".

Sunday, January 7, 2007

What is your preferred language?

Michael Browning, one of the most amazing writers ever to toil for newspapers, died recently. He worked for much of his career at the Herald, covering China for a while, and anything else his expansive mind fancied. I remember covering a hurricane in Key West with him once. While I literally waded into the storm to take pictures, he retired to his hotel room with a stack of books. In the morning, his story wove history, literature, and the cosmos together to explain man's struggle against nature. I hated being assigned to his stories -- he could never really tell you what they were going to be about.

His language was on a different plane from most journalism. His writing was advanced calculus compared to simple inverted pyramids. It was brilliant. But it didn't lend itself to succint story budget lines. Toward the end of his career at the Herald, budget cuts and a changing emphasis on story lengths marginalized Browning, sending him off to other employers. I think editors weren't able to deal with someone who couldn't sum up his story a day in advance in a single paragraph. His language was not that of newspapers. But if there were more writers like him, we'd have a different language in our papers, and probably more readers.

Editors didn't know what to do with Browning's writing; they didn't speak the language.

Right now, we've got another problem with language. Newspaper editors in general don't speak the language of multimedia and images. They can't wrap their minds around the possibility of telling a story in some other way than words. They don't know how to take a great story and make an interactive graphic out of it. They don't know how to visualize a video that will tell all the emotion and character of a story without words. They don't know how to look at a photo and find a thousand words in it. They don't know how to make a web page that sings. They don't have the visual language skill.

If you've never watched a teen play video games, you should. You will receive an education in another -- visual -- language. Any kid who's ever touched a game controller can process visual images at mind-blowing speed. Their brains are wired for this language. A flood of images come at them at 30 frames per second; they process and discriminate intricate details from this blur without a problem. It is a language -- a way to process and deliver information using context, cuing and inflection. And newspaper editors, in general, don't speak a visual language. Nor do managers -- the people who are desperately trying to hire employees who do speak it... so we end up with illiterates running things.

The problem is finding journalists who speak a visual language. Do you find a journalist and teach them visuals? Or do you find artists and teach them journalism? It's pretty clear that hiring computer geeks for your web site doesn't produce good journalism, visual or otherwise.