Tag Archives: BBC

Journalism Technologies: 9. Broadcast Yourself

It’s just over a decade since Jawed Karim stood in front of some elephants at a zoo in San Diego and mumbled into his friend’s camera for 18 seconds. It was the first video uploaded to YouTube, which Karim co-founded along with two other former employees of PayPal. A year and a half later, it had already grown to become the fifth largest website on the internet, and was sold to Google for $1.65bn – a fortune at the time, but cheap at the price considering its continued impact on the media landscape.

This week’s lecture in Journalism Technologies took in the story of YouTube’s rise and rise (there still hasn’t been a fall), by way of its various battles with the old big media companies, angry at how their content was being shared and shared again. YouTube, with Google’s help, was ultimately able to resist years of legal pressure and avoid going the same way as Napster. The final irony is that YouTube has become much more like broadcast television – a home for professionally made content rather than the ‘broadcast yourself’ homemade videos on which it made its reputation – while any TV station you care to name has a platform which somewhat resembles YouTube, not least the BBC’s iPlayer.

For a theoretical approach, I turned to Spreadable Media, a 2013 book by the father of participatory cultures, Henry Jenkins, along with Sam Ford and Joshua Green. Explaining the way certain videos spread on YouTube, they draw a contrast with sticky content, a term popularised by Malcolm Gladwell in his memorable book The Tipping Point. Jenkins and the others say that no matter how good – sticky – a piece of content is, these days it still needs people to share, recommend and remix it to their networks, so it can reach a large audience.

The practical sessions involved getting students to actually make quick and easy YouTube videos, using the platform’s basic in-built editor and some of the copyright-free footage and music available on there. Despite being big consumers of YouTube, only relatively few students in the groups had ever uploaded anything themselves before. At least now they know where all that tinkly music so beloved of vloggers comes from!

James Naughtie And The Enduring Power Of Radio

I’m in today’s Yorkshire Post, discussing why radio still matters. The paper’s Chris Bond gave me a ring yesterday for a feature off the back of James Naughtie’s last broadcast on the Today programme.

The general thrust of what I said was that radio has been remarkably resilient over the years. Predictions of its demise have been around since the early days of television, but the latest RAJAR figures show that almost 90% of us still tune in once a week. The quality that allowed Today’s millions of listeners to feel as though Naughtie was talking directly to them, is something that TV has never matched. Perhaps more surprisingly, in an era when we reveal much more of all our lives on social media than ever before, the intimacy of radio still has a special power, at least sometimes.

But on the other hand, there’s trouble ahead for traditional radio. While 41% of 15-24 year olds say they listen to the radio on a tablet or mobile once a month, it’s not immediately clear how many tune into linear radio in the way their parents and grandparents do. Certainly, the days of sitting poised over the cassette player during the Top 40 are over. Young people I teach at the University of Huddersfield are still interested in radio, and love podcasts, but even as it seems outwardly to be in rude health, I suspect traditional radio is also at the beginning of a gentle decline.

Streaming and social media won’t kill linear radio any more than TV did, but it will cannibalise its audience, and in time Naughtie’s successors will be a less significant part of our national conversation.

The BBC’s Hyperlocal Consultation

The BBC consultation.

The BBC consultation.

There’s lots of consulting going on this week. Two extremely interesting ones began yesterday, with the government asking for views not only on the future of the BBC, but also on plans to further reduce the number of court buildings across the country, with magistrates courts in Oldham and Halifax among those marked for closure.

But I’m going to save both of those for another day. Earlier this month, the BBC announced a consultation of its own, on how it could work more closely with hyperlocal publishers. You can read the proposals here. But to sum them up in a sentence, it’s better linking to hyperlocal sites, training for hyperlocal practitioners, having the sector represented on various working groups, making sure local BBC journalists know what hyperlocals are, and compiling an updated list of active hyperlocal sites.

All very sensible and achievable. In fact, many of these proposals have been kicking around in one form or another for some years. I’m not as on the inside of the hyperlocal world as I used to be when I ran Saddleworth News, so I’m not clear why issues such as more linking have never actually come to pass. But anyway, in my brief response to the consultation, I made a couple of extra suggestions.

One would be to appoint a named individual within the BBC responsible for driving forward this agenda (this being the BBC, it would have to be a ‘hyperlocal lead’). It seems to have been done informally in the past with the result that when an individual moves on or leaves, any momentum behind the partnerships is lost.

My other suggestion is to get hyperlocal practitioners involved in BBC local radio. Stations are always desperate for lively contributors, and if they can add a little journalism alongside local colour, so much the better. A regular slot with a modest tip fee of a fiver or a tenner would be mutually agreeable, I’d have thought.

The consultation ends on 30 September, with a summary due to be published in November.

Embed Getty Images In Your Blog For Free

Scanning the Getty Images archive, and sticking an appropriate image into Photoshop for a quick bit of tinkering before publication, is as much a part of the online journalist’s toolkit as calling the police press office or doing the tea run.

Or at least it is if you’re working for a professional publisher paying for a proper licence to access Getty, the world’s best known photo agency. But bloggers and social media users have instead faced a choice: nick something that’s not yours and hope you don’t get a legal letter, or try to find a copyright-free image. Flickr Creative Commons has 300 million of these, so there are options, but it’s relatively rare to find much freely available on either current or archive news and sport events.

Until now. Getty has taken the decision to make 35 million images from its library embeddable in blogs like this one, which is why I’m able to put a picture from tonight’s demonstration in Sevastopol at the top of this post. I don’t pay anything: but I have to use Getty’s embed code, which at least ensures a credit if no money for both it and the photographer. I also had to tinker slightly with the image sizes within the code to make it fit nicely, but this only took a few seconds.

Click on a picture in the Getty library and this is what you see. I've highlighted the Twitter, Tumblr and embed code links below the image.

Click on a picture in the Getty library and this is what you see. I’ve highlighted the Twitter, Tumblr and embed code links below the image.

All very nice, then. But you might ask why Getty is doing this. A fair summary of the reaction from people far more knowledgeable about photography than me would be that it’s simply realised it just can’t prevent its images being stolen and shared. So it may as well let us do it for nothing in the hope that it can develop some revenue-raising tools around that freely-available content, like YouTube does.

Commercial publishers are still going to have to pay for a proper licence, so Getty will hope its bottom line won’t be affected, but photographers, relying on Getty for cash from those licensing deals, may well wonder where this will end. There’s a blogpost from the British Journal of Photography here, and more reaction from Business Week and the BBC.

There’s more about exactly how it all works on the Getty website here.

And just because I can, here’s a picture from the Getty archive of the last time Crimea was the focus of the world’s attention; Churchill, Roosevelt and Stalin at the Yalta Conference of February 1945.

 

News Rewired: February 2014

I was at Journalism.co.uk’s latest News Rewired conference in London last Thursday. As is often the case at these events, I learned a new word. This time it was ‘dronalism’ which I heard casually bandied around during a session on drones for news, as if it was an entirely normal thing to say.

Peter Bale from CNN demonstrated the above video of the wreck of the Costa Concordia, which they broadcast after buying it from Team BlackSheep. As cool as it undoubtedly is, I thought Bale was pleasingly candid when he said that drones would be all the rage in TV newsrooms for a while, but that things would die down when editors got tired of them and realised they only really add a dimension to certain stories.

Mobile in general was the key theme of much of the day, and several speakers mentioned the new benchmark being reported across leading news websites including BBC News – that visits from mobiles and tablets taken together have now overtaken those from desktops and laptops.

Matt Danzico of the BBC, and one of the brains behind its new Instafax service on Instagram, said it would be the template for Auntie’s offerings on all social media away from Facebook and Twitter. He pointed out that putting text on a short-form video is often a better solution for mobile than the traditional TV package mixture of clips and a voice over, because people like to watch these things in public and don’t want to send sound booming across the bus queue.

Amid all the well-received show-and-tells, the only real note of tension came whenever the issue of online copyright came up. The keynote speech from BuzzFeed’s ‘cat guy’ Jack Shepherd was smooth and mostly went down very well, the gif-based fun only draining away a touch when someone asked about whether they had the proper permissions for every single one of those images.

The same went for Hannah Waldram’s similarly enjoyable presentation on Instagram. Persistent questions from one freelancer about the company’s treatment of the metadata of the images uploaded to its app turned the mood in the room a bit sour. Waldram said that it was still an emerging debate, and someone called out: “Yes, and you’re right in the middle of it!” Only idiots go to media conferences and make predictions, so here’s mine: this is one talking point we’re going to be discussing a lot more.

There’s more information about News Rewired at its website.

Using Instagram Video In The Classroom

The new Instafax service from BBC News.

The new Instafax service from BBC News.

I was in Leeds yesterday, leading a practical session for some BTEC media and journalism students at the City College. I thought I’d give them an insight into something new they could expect to learn more about during any future university course they might do, so put together a one-hour workshop on smartphone video, using Instagram Video.

Launched last summer, Instagram’s video function allows users to stop-and-start their way to little 15 second clips that be easily shared. Its rival, Twitter’s Vine, lets you make six second videos which loop. This last point seems to give Vine the edge for creativity, but BBC News recently began experimenting with Instagram Video for a service it calls Instafax. They’re little mini-bulletins featuring some still images, a bit of text and background music, currently sent out about three or four times a day.

It’s too early to say whether others will seek to copy Instafax, but with 130 million active monthly users, Instagram appears to be too popular for media companies to ignore.

In yesterday’s session, after rattling through some of these points and explaining why smartphone video is another important piece of kit in the toolbox of the modern journalist, I gave the students ten minutes to make their own short clips on anything topical they liked.

I’d hoped to send them outside, but I turned out to be giving the session on the 11th floor, so I just got them to see what they could find in the corridors. One made one on the lift which wasn’t working, which seemed like a newsworthy enough story to me having walked up 11 flights of stairs! Getting the students to save the clips on a particular hashtag meant I could use one of the many Instagram desktop viewers to take the group through some of their work and give a bit of feedback.

The presentation I gave is here.

Lecture: Copyright Law

I delivered my latest media law lecture to the journalism and media first years at the University of Huddersfield this morning. It was on copyright law, with a particular focus on the law as it applies to social media.

It’s a bit of a challenge making copyright law interesting enough to sustain the attention of several dozen students in a large lecture hall for close to an hour. But I did my best, using clips and examples ranging from the IT Crowd, the recent plagiarism row involving Carly Fallon and the Press and Journal, the familiar story of Peter Pan and Great Ormond Street Hospital, as well as who exactly owns what on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Wikipedia, Flickr and all the rest.

The full presentation is here.

Twitter Rumours, Andy Murray’s Cancer Donation, And Why Journalists Should Check Before Hitting Retweet

Andy Murray serves in his semi-final win over Jerzy Janowicz (picture: filmstalker on Flickr).

Andy Murray serves in his semi-final win over Jerzy Janowicz (picture: filmstalker on Flickr).

It’s not exactly an innovative observation to say that you shouldn’t believe everything you read on Twitter, and that sometimes completely untrue rumours can be circulated as fact with alarming speed. I’ve written before on this blog about how I was at the centre of one such incident a couple of years back.

People can post what they like, so you can’t stop it happening. But what journalists can do is avoid giving credibility to rumours by spreading them without properly checking the information first. A brief Twitter storm that blew up last night following Andy Murray’s victory in the Wimbledon final shows us what happens when people don’t think before they retweet.

Tweets started appearing during the evening that Murray was going to donate his £1.6m prize to the Royal Marsden Cancer Charity. This seemed extraordinary, but there was a reason to believe it might be true: Murray donated his £73k prize for winning Queen’s Club last month to the charity.

Quickly searching Twitter for the source of the rumour, there was no word from any official Murray or Wimbledon-related accounts, or from any of the journalists covering the tournament. The apparent source was actually from this Twitter account: a photographer who said she’d been told the information from a friend and fellow photographer who was at the Championships. Her original tweet, since deleted, was the first to mention the “donation” and was the main one being retweeted again and again.

However, the story seemed too good to be true. And before too long, one of the journalists at Wimbledon simply asked Murray about it.

End of rumour. But not really, because earlier tweets about it kept being recycled all evening and into today. Not a big deal in the greater scheme of things, but for some people it was a deflating end to a day of sporting excitement.

I’m sure the original tweeter posted the information in good faith, but what happened isn’t really her fault. What transformed the life of the rumour on Twitter was the casual retweeting of it by prominent sports journalists at organisations including the BBC, Sky Sports, the Daily Telegraph and Reuters among others (I won’t ‘name and shame’ individuals especially as apologies and deletions soon followed, but the damage was done).

Twitter users with large followings who work for credible news sources have to take particular care when retweeting information. Partly because they are publishing that information to a relatively wide audience (wider than the information might otherwise reach), and partly because they are lending the credibility of both themselves and their employer to that information. A tweet or retweet from someone working at one of the organisations mentioned carries more weight than one from a random individual.

Given the amount of interviews Murray had to do on Sunday evening, there was no excuse for not waiting for a bit of verification from the man himself.

So, what should journalists do? It’s not an exact science, but this particular Twitter minefield isn’t as difficult to navigate as it might first appear. Good rules to follow are:

1. Always try to find the original source of the information. If it’s not an official account of some kind or backed up with other credible evidence, treat it with caution.

2. If something seems too good to be true, it probably is. So if in doubt, don’t retweet.

We all make mistakes on social media from time to time, but it’s worth making an extra effort not to. Because sometimes, false information on Twitter is about more serious things than tennis.

(ps. I couldn’t find a picture of the Wimbledon final on Flickr that I was free to reproduce, but I did find this one of the semi-final that was uploaded by filmstalker).

Blackburn Lecture On Journalism And The Internet

I did some teaching at Blackburn College’s University Centre just before Christmas, including this lecture which I gave to a group of first and second year students.

It’s a quick introduction to some of the current themes surrounding the current state of journalism. I thought it was important to emphasise to the students that, although newspapers are generally in decline, there are many factors at work and it’s not just “because of the internet”. I also wanted to stress that the skills they are learning on their course will be useful to them regardless of what they end up doing, whether it’s working for a traditional media company, in some related industry such as PR, or doing their own thing.

Here’s the full presentation.

SMC_MCR December

Alan Davies is among the well-known figures to have apologised to Lord McAlpine.

Social media and the law is the topical matter up for discussion at next month’s SMC_MCR on Tuesday 4 December. Media lawyer Steve Kuncewicz, Pirate Party UK leader Loz Kaye (still the only party leader to have visited my (old) house) and journalist Iram Ramzan will be on the panel for the event at The Northern pub in Manchester’s Northern Quarter.

We’ve seen both criminal and civil cases arising from tweets in recent times, with lawyers for Lord McAlpine currently pursuing individuals who falsely linked him to allegations of child sex abuse following the now-infamous Newsnight report of 2 November.

Full details are here at the SMC_MCR website. I make it along to these monthly events when I can and they’re always interesting and thought-provoking, and this one looks like it’ll be particularly good. It’s also free.