Holovaty, EveryBlock and Knight News Challenge

Adrian Holovaty, alumni of Lawrence.com is leaving the washingtonpost.com for start-up EveryBlock.com.

Apparently he’s been given US$1.1m under the Knight News Challenge to see what he can come up with.

Available clues: “To create, test and release open-source software that links databases to allow citizens of a large city to learn (and act on) civic information about their neighborhood or block.” And on the site: “EveryBlock will be a hyperlocal Web site that aggregates an unprecedented depth and breadth of public records, mainstream news sources, photographs, blogs and user-contributed information.”

Based on his previous creations – ChicagoCrime.org, US Congress Votes Database, Face Of The Fallen, Post Remix – one trusts that something exciting this way comes. Go Adrian.

MORE WINNERS.

Clipbandits: The YouTube jam band

They never met before and only knew each other by their ‘handles’. Three musicians from afar join forces to jam together and the ClipBandits are formed. They then scout around for a drummer, and now have become a YouTube phenomenon.

Touting themselves as the “first Internet jam band”, although one doubts this to be true, ClipBandits video, “Internet Killed the Video Star” has been downloaded 1.46 million times.

They’ve since been featured on Good Morning America, ABC News, performed live for the first time on the Tyra Banks Show, and have been covered by TV news in Italy, Singapore, Russia, Venezuela, India, Canada and Brazil, as well as countless print and online articles around the world. Nokia-Brazil selected ClipBandits Channel as recommended content for wireless Internet devices.

ClipBandits’ follow-up video is entitled, “Higher”.

More: ClipBandits YouTube Channel, and website.

Journalism’s future: video on mobile


While old newsmen still quibble about the “quality of journalism”, the need to re-train staff on new media tools, “convergence” newsrooms, and online workflow processes, others are already showing the way. Get over the tools already, I say.

Video journalism seems likelier to jump straight to the third screen and skip this PC-centric obsession with old-style, broadcast-centric reporting. In markets in Asia and Europe where broadband cellphone penetration is exploding, trading video via mobile networks is already the norm.

A previous blogpost about how Norwegian online pioneer VG is already doing this via VGTV.no suggests where we will be in ten years.

The Sydney Morning Herald documents how the Philippines’ Inquirer.net is already leading the way with Nokia N Series-armed reporters:

J. V. Rufino, the site’s editor-in-chief, said multimedia was the future for journalism. Inquirer.net has also set up a video channel on YouTube to display its reporters’ footage. (Note: Close to 200 videos already up.)

Multimedia reporter Erwin Oliva did a video interview with me in Manila. Oliva said he enjoyed having access to “cool tools” but believed the bottom line was the need for good journalism. “We get the news out in the fastest way possible in as good a way as possible. But nothing beats good writing.”

Joey Alarilla, Infotech columnist at Inquirer.net, said he was proud of the way his reporters filed scores of breaking news stories a day. “In the near future we have to train them to look beyond the printed word, and think of how they can tell their stories via multimedia.”

MORE.

Media M & A Gone Wild, or the Great Merger of the Noughties

The tectonic plates of global media are moving, with an eruption almost every week.

Google’s purchase of DoubleClick for US$3.1b on April 13th seems to have been the trigger for a number of seismic changes across the media landscape. Let’s summarise:

1. Yahoo acquires the rest of internet ad auction exchange Right Media US$680m.
2. WPP Group, which owns Grey Worldwide, JWT, Ogilvy & Mather and Young & Rubicam, buys 24/7 Real Media for US$649m.
3. Microsoft forks an hefty US$6b in cash for aQuantive, parent to digital agencies Avenue A, Razorfish, Atlas and DRIVEpm.

In January, Publicis Groupe purchased the online advertising company Digitas for US$1.3b.

Talk is ripe that ValueClick may be a target for the ensuing tsunami.

In media, Thomson Corp’s takeover of British media giant Reuters for 8.7b pounds, News Corp’s bid for Dow Jones, owner for Wall Street Journal, the recent sale of US media giant Tribune, owner of the Chicago Tribune and Los Angeles Times, and APN News & Media’s spurning of O’Reilly’s US$2.3b bid, all suggest we are in
a Marketshare Power Grab mode that shows little sign of abating.

But what does this all mean to us minnows at the bottom rung of media production?

We turn to the Sage of the Zero-Zero Ages, the Oracle of the Odious Times – Mr Jones.

Me: So what happens now Mr Jones?

Mr Jones: You won’t have a cubicle to call home. When the dust settles and the Great Merger of the Noughties are done, you will be made redundant faster that you can say “outsourcing”.

Me: That sounds awfully pessimistic, Mr Jones. Surely, more mergers means more jobs for those us in the media industry?

Mr Jones: Not if your skillsets are still stuck in the 90s. This War Of the Greedy Giants will seem like a recurring dotcom nightmare. Time to start packing.

Me: Packing? But where do I go?

Mr Jones: A one-way ticket to Mumbai, my friend. The pay’s cheap – but the curries are good. Just don’t drink the water.

Me: What?! What the hell am I going to do in India?

Mr Jones: Pick up yoga and preach non-violence.

Me: Is there an alternative?

Mr Jones: Learn Mandarin, move to Shanghai and sell smelly tofu.

Me: Okay, I’m out of here.

Mr Jones: Wait. There is one more thing you can do!

Me: What’s that?

Mr Jones: Write the book. It will be a best-seller. It’s the ultimate old media revenge.

Paying the price

Vin Crosbie describes how the “unpackaging” of news online will further erode print subscriptions and revenues, despite attempts to charge for online content:

What’s radically changed during the past dozen years is the balance of the supply and demand equation. It’s shifted from scarcity to surplus for consumers… Today, that consumer has online access to every newspaper and news magazine in the world. This access means that getting a printed edition of his local daily is no longer as valuable to him as it had been. So, printed edition circulations decline. And it should be no mystery that the declines have accelerated into multiple percentages annually now that most American consumers have broadband (’always on’) access…most newspaper publishers continue to operate oblivious to these changes, as if their product is still a scarce commodity and as valuable as it was a dozen or decades of years ago.

Currently, 35 of the 1,452 U.S. daily newspapers charge for access to either all or a portion of their online content. Only three of the 35 have more than 100,000 weekday circulation: The Wall Street Journal (WSJ.com has 761,000 subscribers), The New York Times (TimesSelect has 713,000 subscribers, only one-third of whom pay) and Arkansas Democrat-Gazette…

No means of charging online for any slice or dice of the traditional printed newspaper content will work. The solution is to discern why the readership of printed editions has decline for more than 30 years and formulate what other type or package of content that will create demand from them online and in print. Because those declines have been occuring far longer than consumers have had online access, the cause must be reasons other than just the change in supply & demand equation that consumers’ online access caused.

MORE.

Dyson on failure

Sir James Dyson tells Fast Company he failed 5,126 times before he finally got the bagless vacuum cleaner right.

Some choice quotes:

We’re taught to do things the right way. But if you want to discover something that other people haven’t, you need to do things the wrong way. Initiate a failure by doing something that’s very silly, unthinkable, naughty, dangerous. Watching why that fails can take you on a completely different path. It’s exciting, actually…

It can take a very long time to develop interesting products and get them right. But our society has an instant- gratification thing. We admire instant brilliance, effortless brilliance. I think quite the reverse. You should admire the person who perseveres and slogs through and gets there in the end…

A lot of people give up when the world seems to be against them, but that’s the point when you should push a little harder. I use the analogy of running a race. It seems as though you can’t carry on, but if you just get through the pain barrier, you’ll see the end and be okay. Often, just around the corner is where the solution will happen…

I am quite exacting. I learned that from the Japanese company I did a licensing agreement with. They would make hundreds of changes to products after they launched them, often at enormous costs. I asked them, “Why do that?” They said, “Oh, we’re not worried if we don’t make money for ten years. We want to get a perfect product.” They have this wonderful expression, “You’ve got to suffer before you succeed.”

MORE.

Adapt or die?

I sometimes wonder if we, as multimedia news pundits, make claims that are too far-fetched.

Here for instance is a quote from Howard Owens’latest blogpost:

Newspapers have a narrow window of opportunity to learn how to do IP-delivered video in a way that creates a growth opportunity. The (New York) Times is taking the right path. Eventually, the barrier to entry will be much higher. Those newspapers that are starting simple now and growing internal video literacy, and growing it broadly, will be at an advantage in years to come.

Actually, the exponential growth of technology and drop in prices suggest otherwise. The barrier to entry will be much lower in the coming years, to the detriment of news sites hawking video. What would differentiate NYTimes.com’s video news from USAToday.com’s or washingtonpost.com’s or YouTube’s, or any other niche video site for that matter?

There will always be “growth opportunity” in video online. Late-comers may even thrive, because it costs so little, and they won’t have the historical baggage that news site are already building up. Why? Because most video online now is still crappy. It streams jerkily or is not downloadable or is in grainy FLV, ala YouTube. The storytelling is not better, just because it’s in video.

It seems likelier that news sites experimenting with video and enlarging their “video literacy” now will eventually lose their best videographers to markets that pay better. Video news sites will be boring once all news video becomes commoditized, syndicated and distributed widely.

I would think users would gravitate towards video sites where their own videos are socially appreciated, and that are more daring, controversial, funny, episodic and cliff-hangerish. A lot more like TV, a lot less like news.

Training yourself

rhernandez of Multimedia Shooter rants on getting your own training and makes some valid points:

Everywhere I look, in dark corners of our building, at the cocktail party for POYi last night, in my emails, in my dreams…training, train us! How come they won’t train us to do multimedia? When will they get it? And on and on it goes.

Well, guess what? I have an answer. Or at least some advice. Ready?

Two words, train yourself! There I said it. If that makes you mad, then you can stop reading this and go back to your dark corner and wait for your newspaper to train you, send you to that wonderful all encompassing multimedia workshop in the sky, while the rest of us learn by doing. And when the layoffs come, and they will (have already) let’s see who’s left.

This is the sad reality of our business, for some of us our ‘calling’

-Down sizing
-Limited resources
-Leaders with no sense of direction (not in my case, of course)
-Falling profits
-A general feeling of doom and gloom in the newsroom
-People screaming, “Who moved my cheese?”
-No money for training

Wake up and smell the coffee! There are no reinforcements coming, no help on the way. Squint your eyes, open them wide, whatever it takes too see the writing on the wall. This is what is says…..If you love, truly love your profession, and you love to tell stories and want to be in the biz for the next decade, then, invest in yourself.

-Identify the way you learn best.
-Invest in that method of learning. If it’s books, buy them. If it’s DVD’s, buy them. If it’s a workshop, send yourself.
-Invest in yourself, it’s about you, not about your company.
-Close your eyes and go back to those days in college where you stayed up all night in the darkroom (for those of you too young to know, a darkroom was a place where you would…oh forget it) Harness this energy.

Still need more reasons:

-It’s the greatest return on investment, the returns are enormous.
-You become more valuable in the process. You stop settling for just getting by.
-You realize your potential.
-You own your own future.
-You become a risk taker.
-You will be happy and have the ability to do your own thing.

We all know we’re alone on this. Why? Because no one has to do anything for us, we have to do it ourselves because we’re the ones with the most to gain or lose. Don’t play it safe.

MORE.

Local reporter’s job outsourced to India

You knew it was coming.

James Macpherson, editor and publisher of pasadenanow.com, a two-year-old site devoted to news about Pasadena, California is outsourcing a reporter’s job to India.

The job posting at craigslist states:”We seek a newspaper journalist based in India to report on the city government and political scene of Pasadena, California, USA.”

Macpherson tells AP it makes business sense now that weekly Pasadena City Council meetings can be watched over the net and because of India’s lower labor costs.

“I think it could be a significant way to increase the quality of journalism on the local level without the expense that is a major problem for local publications,” said the 51-year-old Pasadena native. “Whether you’re at a desk in Pasadena or a desk in Mumbai, you’re still just a phone call or e-mail away from the interview.”

The first articles, some of which will carry bylines, are slated to appear Friday.

Naysayer Bryan Nelson, an University of Southern California journalism professor, grumpily responded: “Nobody in their right mind would trust the reporting of people who not only don’t know the institutions but aren’t even there to witness the events and nuances.”

Well Prof Nelson, you’ve probably never seen how American journalists parachute in to Asian cities, and write scathing reports, sans “nuances”, like they’ve lived here all their lives.

This isn’t sad. It’s the reality of web journalism.

Reuters already employs over 1,000 staff in India. About 100 of the jobs are for editing and writing while the rest extract basic financial information from company news releases, analyst ratings changes, earnings tables, economic polling data and other data products for the company’s subscribers.

Since the ad came out, Macpherson has already hired two Indian reporters for US$20,800, one a graduate of the journalism school at the University of California at Berkeley.

The website, which he runs out of his house, has 45,000 unique visitors per month and up until now, his main help has consisted of his wife and an intern.

MORE.

Mark Cuban and 23 ways to download YouTube vids

So now that almost everyone knows how to download YouTube videos, Mark Cuban questions how long can the good days last?

He asks:

How long do you think it will be before videos appear on Youtube slamming them for which content is selected to participate in the for pay program ? Milliseconds ?

And how long after that will it be before those who do provide content complain that they aren’t getting the same level of promotion as others and that Youtube has gone corporate? Instantaneously.

How long will it be until we see content that is on Youtube expressly to earn a living for its creator posted to other video hosting sites?

Which leads to the question of who is going to do something about it? Who is going to take the responsibility of protecting that content that Youtube is paying for?

Or will Youtube tell the content creators they are responsible for monitoring all those sites and sending take down notices?

Or will Youtube add DRM ? The net would love that.

MORE.

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