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.