CTV MyNews contributor Adrian Geromimo captured this photo of a truck on fire after being overturned by rioters following game 7 of the NHL Stanley Cup final in downtown Vancouver on Wednesday, June 15, 2011.
September 10th, 2011, Toronto - The battle to control the hearts and minds of readers, viewers and listeners has long raged in the media world. Media outlets have fought to out-scoop each other with ever-more tantalizing, intriguing and even controversial headlines.
As the recent scandal over alleged phone-hacking amongst journalists at U.K.-based News International publications such as The Sun and News of the World have proven, the more salacious the headline, the more papers (or advertisements), a media outlet can sell.
But in recent years, developments in rich media-sharing technologies via the Internet have helped news outlets turn to the public for help in telling the very stories that shape their lives. Citizen journalism—which may take a variety of forms from a Tweet-ed report from the middle of a riot, to an ordinary citizen’s uploaded video of a major weather event—have changed the way people interact and consume news.
It's also changed the way the media covers events.
Take the 'Arab Spring' uprisings, which focused the world's attention on the stability of dictatorships across North Africa earlier this year. When news began breaking of a tsunami-like shift in public sentiment in the region, it was largely video content emailed or uploaded to news media websites, or social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, which breathed life into what would eventually become a historic series of events. From there, defiant citizens used citizen journalism as a tool to highlight the abuses of local dictators, prove their dedication to social and political change to the outside world, and remind that the movement was not to be short-lived in countries such as Egypt and Tunisia.
While news outlets deployed crews and correspondents to cover the developing story, nightly television broadcasts and news websites leaned heavily on sometimes-unverifiable citizen journalist content to tell the story. A conundrum soon emerged in newsrooms around the world: could this new type of content be trusted?
The journalistic consensus that emerged was yes, the content could and would air—but with cautious disclaimers reminding that in many cases, the source of the content was unverifiable. Even when the news organizations's own crews emerged on the scene to cover the story, citizen journalist content was broadcast alongside professional reports.
But it may have even greater implications.
As the thousands of hours of uploaded video from the post-Stanley Cup riots in Vancouver proved earlier this year, citizen journalist-produced content does more than boost network ratings and provides journalists with new perspectives on breaking stories-- it offers clear social benefits. In that case, videos and photos helped Vancouver police apprehend dozens of rioters who otherwise may have eluded arrest and prosecution as police struggled to maintain order.
Citizen journalism has not only changed the way media outlets cover the news, it's improved it. More importantly, it's here to stay. Here's why:
It's easy: Continuing developments in mobile technology have allowed citizen journalism to grow, making it easier, faster and cheaper to produce and upload content to news media websites. That ability will only improve over time, making citizen journalism and even more indispensable tool in a reporter's arsenal.
It drives ratings and saves money: In August 20, 2009, CP24's coverage of a major storm which saw funnel clouds touch down across Southern Ontario, drew a record 1.2 million viewers. That coverage was almost entirely facilitated by jaw-dropping citizen journalist-produced videos of blackened skies and threatening clouds ripping across the province. A critical point for budget-conscious media organizations, that type of content is free and in many cases exclusive, uploaded only to their websites. That represents huge potential annual savings as news channels and websites seek to enhance coverage in the face of constant revenue pressures.
It drives engagement: A recent electrical storm that swept across the Greater Toronto Area saw huge spikes in traffic across the websites of news outlets such as CTV Mynews, CP24 and The Weather Network. Photo and video uploads experienced a 132% increase, photo and video viewing spiked by 232%, while the average conversion time for photos clocked in at an impressive five seconds and four minutes for video.
It's not a threat to traditional media: As the Vancouver Riots and Arab Spring demonstrate, citizen journalist-produced content can help reporters and producers augment and complement their coverage, without usurping it. While professional journalists must still perform their due diligence to ensure the validity of the content's sources, these often stunning reports can provide fast, comprehensive insight from the proverbial heart of the storm, just as history unfolds.
It's what people want to see: As social media continues to gain in popularity and an increasing number of people upload their personal content to sites such as Facebook and YouTube, sharing and experiencing content across media has become an expectation. People demand to interact with the news just as they expect to interact with friends on Twitter.
In short, citizen journalism has become as much a part of everyday life in the 21st century as huddling around the TV to watch the nightly news was in the late 20th. Expect our reliance and commitment to this type of content to grow exponentially in the years ahead.
To arrange an interview to discuss citizen journalism and its wide-ranging implications for media outlets worldwide with Filemobile chief creative officer Steve Hulford, contact:
Chris Atchison, Shockwave Strategic Communications
Pelmorex Media's Weather Network (TWN) recently launched an updated version of their WeatherEye desktop client. This new version now offers users 1,000's of user generated content associated with over 5,000 Canadian cities. Filemobile's Media Factory API's allow TWN to gather citizen journalism from 1,000's of Canadians across the country. The photos and videos once submitted are geotagged, moderated, published to the website, desktop application, and to Television.
The popular WeatherEye application is a free download and offers users:
Aug 20th, 2009 - CP24's user generated coverage of a Tornado in Vaughn, Ont
Toronto, Canada - Nov 17th, 2009 - We wanted to respond to the many questions we are getting about YouTube Direct and if it is a good citizen journalism solution for mainstream media (MSM) companies.
The short story is that it’s a promising solution to those looking to offer user-generated content to their website, but it has many shortcomings for mainstream media (MSM).
Full disclosure here: we are Filemobile and provide enterprise citizen journalism tools. We work with MSM to provide them with tools to power their citizen journalism efforts. This article is written to give you insight into what we have learned in this space. We think it is important that mainstream media understand YouTube Direct’s strengths and weaknesses.
There’s no doubt that YouTube is a vital distribution platform for any type of video content. It is used like Google, in that it is often the first place a person goes to search for a video. YouTube can be a major referrer of visitors to your site by offering links back to your community where they can get a more intimate look at the content you are offering.
So, depending on your objectives, it can be very important to have content inside YouTube. However, it is equally important for MSM to be able to have their own channels that allow them to feed their multi-platform programs and to be able to monetize these efforts.
What MSM needs to do is build a community around citizen journalists. Nurture this relationship - give this audience a reason to publish their news to your platform, give them photography lessons from your best photographers and promote their work in your mainstream papers and TV stations. Make them feel like they are part of the newsroom, and give them a reason to love you.
You will succeed because you have built a community around your citizen journalists, and they think of you when it comes time to report the news. Give them tools to publish to YouTube (your YouTube account) and to your own site. Give them a good mobile app to make it easy to collect geo-tagged media. Make citizen journalism an important part of your news broadcast like CNN does with their Ireport brand. Tie it into all aspects of your news coverage. If you do these things your citizen journalist community will be a major source of, and help you compete in, this new era of real-time news coverage.
If you don’t see the below mentioned limitations as important, then YouTube Direct could be a good tool for your business. Check out Youtube Direct for more information on the service.
1) Lack of photo and audio upload
While it is great to tell a news story with video, sometimes you have to take what you can get and that means using photos when a video isn’t available. YouTube is not the place people go to post photos. You need to offer photo, video and audio upload.
2) Limitations of the YouTube Player
The YouTube Player must be used together with the Direct service. This mandatory combination has the following shortcomings to mainstream media companies:
a) Advertising – MSM want to have their own branded player integrated with their own ad serving solution for pre-roll advertising. As video advertising is growing, more and more MSM want their own ad serving technology so they can control it. Companies are using third party ad servers and have direct relationships with media buying agencies and brands who pay them to advertise to their audience. They have no interest in sharing the revenue with Google.
b) Branding – Most MSM have their own custom branded video player, and would not accept a YouTube branded player in their digital environment. The YouTube chromeless player offers more options, letting you display YouTube video in your branded player. However, in that case the video will come with a YouTube watermark burned into it. So it’s hard to get away from the YouTube brand unless companies give the user the ability to upload videos directly into their own players.
c) Hosting - Hosting becomes an issue from time to time because it is important for MSM that they physically have a copy and own the content they use. In some cases they must have this content physically in their country of operation. While it is nice to offload the cost of storage, it becomes an issue for MSM.
3) YouTube Account – The YouTube Direct model allows the user to submit video into a media company’s website, and that content is then associated with the user’s YouTube account. This is not ideal for a MSM. If the user who submitted the video decides to delete it, it’s gone! What we are seeing is an emergence of media companies who have built or are building their own single-sign on CRM systems. Providing an upload interface that first plugs into a media company’s platform, and then publishes to the branded YouTube channel is the ideal scenario. This offers the media company the most flexibility, with the same benefits of YouTube’s audience. They key point here is to have the audience populate a media company YouTube account.
4) Verifying the content – Verifying news information is built into the DNA of every journalist. There has been a lot said recently about the validity of citizen journalism content in the news. It is critical that mainstream media check its source, and this is especially true in a fast paced news room. Putting the proper process in place allows a media company to quickly answer the question: Who, What, When and Where and add important context to a news story. This can happen by using a CRM that is synched to a mobile app and web application. Users are instantly authenticated via their account. Geo-tagging technology can be used via a mobile application to know where the content was taken (photo or video). Lastly, date and time stamping technologies answer to the second question of when the news event took place. If you nurture your citizen journalist community, you know your audience.
Do the benefits of using YouTube Direct outweigh the shortcomings discussed above? While not appropriate for most MSMs. Youtube Direct is a good entry level tool that allows companies an opportunity to experiment with citizen journalism. Mainstream media should be building their own citizen journalism community, nurturing it, and working on next generation tools to gain maximum benefit for their business.
Here are a variety of features that can be built into a citizen journalism offering now to take your efforts to the next level.
a) Media Community - As media companies make the decision to build their own citizen journalism community, they should consider a full-featured media community application. They should offer a community tool that allows users to publish to YouTube, vote, rate, comment, and publish to Facebook, Digg, Twitter and other popular social networks. The viral nature of sharing this news content will promote the citizen journalism community to like minded people. The effect will be to draw in more citizen journalists and help the media company’s cause. Media companies can have a community host that profiles the great content that makes it to TV, and becomes hot in the community. User profiles can give the journalists some presence and notoriety. A point system could be setup to award those that have the most contributions. Build and nurture the community and it will grow.
b) API’s - When considering a platform for citizen journalism, media companies should be looking for a tool that offers flexible APIs. This allows for easy integration and contextual linking of information via the news CMS. Professional journalists will easily be able to associate citizen journalism content with professional content adding valuable context.. A rich set of API’s will also provide the ability to tie citizen journalism content into other aspects of the news network such as other websites, mobile apps or TV CMSs. Geo-tagging technology has evolved to the point where API calls can be made to return whatever media is available within a certain distance to a longitude and latitude reading. These capabilities give MSM new ways for their audience to explore their content, and to enhance their TV broadcast.
c) Multifile platform transcoding ability - A robust custom transcoding platform should always be at the heart of a solid citizen journalism solution. A good system will take any file and transcode it into any format, and send it anywhere. The benefit of this is one system to power a multi-platform content network offering video/photo/audio to mobile, web and TV. A custom transcoder allows the media company the ability to setup a system that gives the news producer the ability to publish any video into an automated TV broadcast system. A system can take a mobile video submitted by a user, and publish that to the web and TV in the same work flow. This process saves valuable time and reduces technical complexities. The effect is a live news room environment with greater collaboration between TV and web teams when citizen journalism assets become integrated into the news program.
c) Mobile Applications - The hand-held smart phone is hands down the best tool to capture live news. With better video and photo qualities, GPS positioning and a high speed digital pipe, the mobile phone is the ideal tool for a citizen journalist. What media companies should be doing is providing their community with an easy to use mobile phone application that makes the process of capturing and submitting photos and videos dead easy.
To read more about Filemobile’s Citizen Journalism offering check out this article and presentation. To contact the author you can email Steve Hulford or find him on Twitter @hulford , he is a Filemobile Founder.
May 3rd, 2009 - Pelmorex Media'sThe Weather Network went live with a revamp of it's citizen journalism offering.
The Weather Network audience is asked to send photo and videos of notable weather events from their communities. Weather Network is featuring the submissions on their English and French sites. Editors are highlighting and aggregating recent submissions. Audiences are able to search user generated submissions from thousands of Canadian cities. Top breaking news submissions are published from Filemobile's Media Factory platform into the Weather Networks automated broadcast system, ensuring that breaking news can go from cellphone to TV in minutes.
The Weather Network built this citizen journalism system using Media Factory's API's. If you see active weather, send it into The Weather Network. Your weather report might be used on TV.
Update: Popular UGC Industry Blog snoo.ws posted a story on the Weather Network website's UGC program.
April 25th, 2008 -- CTV News has launched a citizen journalism component to it's nightly news cast. Powered by Filemobile's UGC News platform, CTV can instantly receive news via cellphone or PC from across the country. CTV's news affilates will all be alerted when citizen generated news is received. When an editor receives breaking news, they can publish the news from Filemobile into CTV's Gateway system, and onto TV in a matter of seconds. In offering UGC News to Canadians CTV hopes to broaden it's base of reporters by engaging regular Canadians in the news gathering process. From CTV's website:
"Have you seen news happening?
Do you have a video or image(s) of something that should be seen on our CTV Newscasts?
It can be breaking news like a fire or accident or something eye-catching like a late spring storm or a celebrity sighting. We are looking for the best in citizen journalism to complement CTV's own newsgathering efforts."