Flickr reportedly nearly ready to offer video

If true, here’s a good move by Yahoo! They’re going to add video to Flickr.

Nobody should expect, I don’t think, for Yahoo!’s Flickr video to overtake Google’s YouTube any time soon, but sometimes being #2 isn’t a bad place to be.

Flickr has a huge user base. Certainly, many of them must be interested in video. Those users can jump-start Flickr video and help Yahoo! start ramping up some market share.

In an era when speed-to-market is paramount, taking a little time to get it right may not be such a bad thing.  If this is true:

Part of the delay may have been a long internal debate about how to make Flickr Video special and distinct from what YouTube already offers.

Innovation is never about big smash break-throughs.  It’s about iterating and re-imagining what has gone before you. And it can simply be sustaining innovation. There is a place for that, too.

Video strategy session webcast live at 6 p.m.

I always figured some day I would get a chance to make history. It looks like it’s happening tonight.  For the first time ever, the NPPA Northern Short Course is going to webcast a session live.

It starts at 6 p.m. EDT.  It’s me and Chuck Fadely talking about video strategy.  Notice I didn’t say argue or debate. I’m going to try real hard to be nice.

Come watch live streaming video and count how many rotten tomatoes get tossed my way.

Cyndy’s rebuttal to Andy

I didn’t bite when Andy Dickinson posted his rather cheeky “video strategy” videos. They’re well produced (Andy has a great narration voice) and funny in their way, but also (especially on the point-and-shoot side) spoiled by a few red herrings.

I just found that Cyndy Green (who we hired a while back to do video training in Canton, Ohio) produced a red-herring-free rebuttal.

I applaud Andy for his creativity in tackling the “make it great” vs. “just do it” debate, but Cyndy’s rebuttal is spot on. Be sure to listen for the tag line.

With video, show me something interesting and check your storytelling at the door

Angela Grant:

While I do agree that photographers are uniquely qualified to enter the video world, I know for a fact that reporters can do it too. I did it myself! Reporters must learn how to tell visual stories, but they already know how to craft a narration to tell a story. Photographers already know how to tell visual stories, but they must learn to play a more active role in using narration to tell a story. Everyone has something to learn. We can all do it. (Bold added)

Of course, Angela is right — up to a point.

Every time I read Angela or any other video blogger talk about “telling visual stories” or being “narrative,” I recoil.

Screw the story.

Show me something interesting.

It takes a damn lot of talent to tell a good story, and to really make a story sing, you’ve got to get into that whole production value thing, which as we know, has damn little ROI on the web.

If you’ve got the talent, great, but even getting to the point where you can unlock that talent takes years of practice.  We’re not there yet.  What we need right now is lots of video that people actually want to watch.

As YouTube and other video sites have proven, they’ll watch something interesting, whether it has a story or not, whether it has high production quality or not.

Compare web video to music. In the music business, tens of thousands of songs are cut every year. A large percentage of them are very, very good songs. Unfortunately, only a very small fraction of those great songs ever become hits.

Fortunately for the music industry, even in these more constricted economic times, a few hit singles can make a few people very rich (and not just from the song sales).

So all of the effort on songs that never will become hits is still worthwhile. The ROI on one hit is so tremendous, that it makes the gamble worthwhile.

Your newspaper-produced web video has a very slender chance of becoming a hit (even less than a song in this analogy). And even if it does, it’s not going to lead to riches for you or your publisher. We haven’t built, at least so far, the economics around video to make that possible.

Storytelling video takes a lot of time and talent to produce.

“Show me something interesting” video — well, anybody can do that. All you need is a cheap camera and enough smarts to go, “wow, that could be really interesting on video.”

Think relevance, immediacy and fascinating.  Things like beginning, middle and end are not intrinsically interesting or valuable to a web audience.

Keep it short and sweet, and do it often enough, you might actually get people to start visiting your newspaper.com regularly for video.

And FWIW, before anybody starts in with the old red herring about promoting crappy video, don’t bother. If you think that’s what this strategy is about, you’re approaching this idea with more ego than business sense. I don’t buy into the false dichotomy.

Just show me something interesting with your video.

If you’re in the Rochester, NY area on Thursday, stop by the Hyatt to hear me and Chuck Fadely discuss video strategy. It might be entertaining.

Previously: Video can’t win on production quality alone

Video can’t win on production quality alone

Here’s another shot over the bow of all those web videographer bloggers who make a religion of quality.

Chris Anderson, editor of Wired Magazine and author of The Long Tail, on the role of quality in media:

It turns out there are two dimensions of what we think of as quality. So quality wins.  But we think of quality as production quality, you know, lighting and sound film and script and acting – those kinds of things. But there’s another dimension to quality that is as important, and that’s relevance.

YouTube. Nobody thought YouTube would succeed, because it was such low quality. But because YouTube is so full of contant that is narrowly targeted on people’s specific interest, they don’t care about the production quality. … You can’t win on production value alone. How do you remain relevant in a world that is fragmenting?

The full interview on Charlie Rose.

NewsClipper provides good example of smart innovation

It is a reasonable question: Why isn’t there a Google News for news video?

And the answer is: An entrepreneur in Norway has launched NewsClipper (via TechCrunch).

In light of my previous post on innovation, it’s fair to ask, why didn’t a newspaper company come up with this idea.

It’s a simple idea — take the example of an existing product (in this case, Google News), and imagine a new use for the same concept using available tools and build a product that is just good enough to launch.

So nobody is confused: I’m not saying this is the kind of idea that should necessarily come out of a newsroom (again, in light of some comments on the previous post), but that if newspaper executives freed up their programming talent to work on innovative ideas, then maybe they would come up with sites like these. The talent and staff is out there, and some of newspaper programmers are doing innovative work. But there’s an aspect to this NewsClipper idea that is, “duh!”

The good news is, NewsClipper isn’t fully developed. It’s only scraping a few top news sites. It’s a nice proof of concept, but it needs work. It needs more content. It needs more meta data. It needs a better UI. And it’s going to run afoul of major media legal teams because it strips ads from the content.

A product that can get to market first that over comes those limitations could stand a chance at success. Building it won’t be easy, but NewsClipper provides an example of where and how to start.

Webcasts are hard to produce well, harder still to make a hit

Long ago, I disavowed my former praise of TimesCast.

As I dove deeper into web casts, I found a number that were stunningly good, and realized the bar was much higher for episodic video than daily news video. If you want people to watch the same show every day or every week, it better be good. An audience will forgive less technical and product quality for something they’ll watch only once for a minute or two, but to keep them coming back for an episodic show of three-to-six minutes, it needs to be good.

Webcasts are something where good enough isn’t good enough. They need to be good. Period.

Examples of good:

What do the good have in common:

  • Great production values
  • A well defined, and consistently followed theme (focus)
  • Interesting content
  • Great on-screen talent that delivers the content in a personal, engaging manner (not like TV’s robotic anchors)

So far, I don’t know of any newspaper webcast production that hits on all four attributes — many hit on none of them. The best of the lot, Miami Herald’s What the Five and Naples News Studio55 suffer from less-than-personal on-screen talent. The hosts on What the Five come across as a morning radio team dropped unexpectedly in a video studio, and Studio55 tries too hard to be TV.

And if I wanted to take the time — and be that insulting — I could surf around and find links to many truly horrid newspaper webcasts.

The most common fault is either trying to be like TV, or trying to shoehorn the newspaper (“Let’s read the headlines and ledes on camera!”) onto video. There is also the problem of putting people on camera who have no business on camera, or at least need a lot more training and coaching before they should be doing this professionally.

(I should mention, there is another class of webcasts — the lone reporter who has camera and access to YouTube and one day goes, “I’m going to make a news cast!”  These productions rarely make it past the third episode before the reporter loses interest, but I applaud the entrepreneurial, willing-to-experiment-and-learn attitude. We need more of that in our industry.)

It’s not just newspapers that get it wrong, either. There are supposedly professional video companies trying to enter the webcast/video podcast space, and their results can be just as bad.

Consider Fountain Head Studios — supposedly a serious effort to produce great webcasts, and every one of their efforts so far fail miserably (hat tip to NewTeeVee). Compare Stock Rockets, for example, to WallStrip … clearly a ripoff attempt, but it suffers painfully from bad writing and bad talent and lacks WallStrip’s defined theme, except in a broad, unfocused way (it’s about stocks, not about stocks with an interesting story to tell in an interesting way). All of Fountain Head’s shows demonstrate the same lack of clear focus, plus poor writing and less than stellar hosts.

Let that be a lesson to you.

If you’re going to do a webcast, you should spend the money and take the time to get it right. You may get only one shot at getting right — and as music and television producers will tell you, it may take hundreds of shots to find one hit — this is tough stuff.

Podcast audience growing after years of stagnation

Interesting bit of news related to podcasting this morning.

eMarketer announced that the 2007 podcast audience reached 18.5 million active users. It’s good to take any projection with an ounce of skepticism, but the same study estimates the 2112 podcast audience at 25 million.

When you start segmenting that audience, however, it’s hard to see how the average newspaper podcast garners enough regular listeners to drive sufficient revenue.

That’s no reason not to try, however, but more on that below.

One question not answered by eMarketer is how they define podcast. To many people, podcasts are more than audio shows, but include episodic video as well.

Could video be driving podcast growth?

I know I prefer video “podcasts” to audio, but that could be just me.

Video, however, seems to represent great revenue opportunity because of the larger overall audience for online video and the visual nature of video advertising.

Either way, newspapers should tread lightly here. It’s one thing to take the lo-fi approach with illustrative video, or even periodic story video. It’s an entirely different matter with episodic audio or video.

Any time you expect an audience to develop a habit for a regularly scheduled shows, quality is paramount — and it’s not just production quality. The content must be engaging and the talent behind it must be finely honed. The demand for top-notch on-air audio and video talent will only grow as podcasting grows.

That talent isn’t likely to come from traditional broadcast, because of the more informal nature of online media, which is a mystery to highly trained professionals from traditional media.

In other words, these growth numbers, if true and they hold, represent opportunity for newspaper companies and journalists willing to try new things.

CantonRep does good job with battle of the bands videos

Local music: It’s a logical avenue into reaching a younger audience. It helps reflect what’s really going on in the community you’re sworn to cover. It ads depth of coverage to your newspaper.com.

And who doesn’t love a good music video? I’ve long suspected that the reason many reporters get excited about shooting video is they’ve watched a lot of MTV.

But you don’t see many music videos on newspaper sites.

The reason is simple, really. To do music video well takes time, and lots of it, good equipment, and costs can add up quickly, as well as real talent.

What you’re really looking at is significant expense and time away from doing the core business of covering news.

Yeah, but wouldn’t it be fun to make a music video?

The Canton Repository (a GateHouse Media paper) found a great lo-fi approach. During the photo shoot for its upcoming Battle of the Bands (a competition open only to bands comprised of high school students), the Rep filmed band members milling about the newspaper building, and in the photo studio.

The results are simple, elegant and engaging. The keys to success are good editing and well-composed shots of kids aspiring to the spotlight. All the videos are a reminiscent of Hard Day’s Night.

Some of the music ain’t bad, either.

Here’s my favorite:

Ya Dig? by PJ & The Whistlers

The modern journalist just gets the job done

If you don’t know Dan Kennedy, you should.  He’s a former media critic and current journalism professor in the Boston area.

He runs a great blog called Media Nation.  Mostly, he blogs about New England politics and civic affairs, but he also covers local media.

Today, he did a post about a GateHouse Media reporter, Cathryn Keefe O’Hare.

He tagged along with this modern journalist as she covered an MLK-day event. She took notes, shot video and stills with her Casio, and posted story and video to her site.

Dan writes about the process.

Is it a great video? No. Does it help get names and faces online? Yes.  Does it help provide some context to the story? Of course. In other words, it does its job.

Dan’s concludes:

“The thing that remains true, whether it’s in print journalism or the Internet or video, you have to tell a story,” says O’Hare. “And you have to tell it as true as you can make it. And you have to try to speak for those people who can’t tell their story.”

The modern journalist just gets the job done.

And, most importantly, learns along the way.

Users-drive sites growing faster than MSM sites — much faster

TechCrunch has posted an interesting chart showing the fast growing web sites.

Take out the porn, and what you have are blogs, social networks, video and UGC sites.  Some of the fastest growing encompass  one or more of those content strategies.

There’s not a traditional media site in the bunch. Even the government (weather.gov) is kicking MSM’s butt.

Your audience is drifting away, MSM.