So a new year is upon us, and as usual, it’s a good time for reflection and making big plans for the year ahead.
There’ll be some small tweaks to how I do all this blogging in 2012, so briefly, here’s a quick round-up of how to keep in touch with everything I do this year.
In return for your attention, I promise to keep writing useful practical advice on multimedia production, plus ideas and advice on publishing and entrepreneurship.
This blog now reaches between 5 and 10,000 people a week which is really nice. The posts here are usually much more thought out than anything else I write, and focus – as much as possible – on the doggedly practical.
Make sure you subscribe by putting your email address in the box to the right of this page. It’s free, and you should only ever get an email whenever a new post is written.
You can also keep in touch over RSS – click on this link to grab the rss feed for this blog.
I started using Tumblr more in 2011, and it’s a much more informal place for raw ideas, quotes, thoughts and more reflection. I wrote a post looking back on 2011, which was more personal than you’d expect here, as well as explaining why I’ve quit Facebook. There’s a very small, but growing, number of readers – if you’d like to be one of them, just follow me, the tumblr way, here.
If you want to keep up anywhere, Twitter is probably still the best place, although I’ll be tweeting a little less in 2012. @AdamWestbrook is the link to click.
The video.fu library of remarkable video storytelling is growing over at Vimeo. I add any awesome factual video I find – and usually go onto to write about it here. But subscribers see the videos as soon as they’re added: a nice way to keep your inspiration flowing.
The website & journal
That’s it! Here’s to an amazing 2012.
Some card said on Twitter recently that they feared the Future of Journalism was ‘endless conferences on the Future of Journalism’.
They’re probably right, although if we can help it, the future of news will be defined with action rather than words.
Having said that I’ve been lucky enough to be invited to take part a whole host of interesting events and conferences so far this year including News Rewired in January and Digital Storytelling ’10 in March. There are some particularly good ones coming up too:
Frontline Club :: 6th April
I’ll be joining John Brazier and Anne Wollenberg at London’s Frontline Club to share my experiences of going freelance in the new digital age. It’s an event tailored just for freelancers so if you’re lucky enough to work for yourself or are thinking of giving it a go, then you’ll find it really interesting. Click here to get tickets.
International Journalism Festival :: 19th – 25th April
I’m really excited about this one: 20,000 journalists from around the world, converging on the beautiful Italian town of Perugia. You’ll find me alongside the team from Media140 for a week of future of news chat, audio booing, qiks, slideshows and possibly even some pizza. I’ll be speaking on the Friday about the power and potential of audio slideshows, and throughout the week Claire Wardle, Ande Gregson, Christian Payne, Kate Pickering and I will be trying all sorts of multimedia nonsense to show off real time web.
Local Heroes 2010 :: 14th May
A one day conference to sort out the future for local news in the UK. It’s being held by The Press Gazette, at Kingston University, London, where I am currently Journalist-in-Residence. I’ll be speaking to news editors from across the country about “why video could be the answer for local news” and the rest of the line up looks excellent. Local journos sign up here!
If you’re going to any of these events drop me a line – it would be great to meet face-to-face!
It’s that time of year again…
After a turbulent year in the industry, I’ve had a good think and put together my top 10 trends for journalism for 2010, wrapped in a big shiny positive outlook. But rather than roll out another list, I thought I’d be a bit different and crack out some video. Enjoy!
And is there anything I’ve missed? Add it in the comments box!
There’s a tidy post over at Mashable today with advice on how to launch your own indie journalism site.
It doesn’t offer anything we didn’t know before, but sums it all up quite nicely:
- it’s pretty much free to set up a site like this
- think about how to get advertisers or sponsors (without losing editorial control)
- wordpress is best
- use Twitter and Facebook to build up an audience
There’s clearly an appetite for this and with so many lay offs this year, it’s not surprising. Will 2010 be the journo-start up year?
The world shared a very important anniversary this week: 40 years since man landed on the moon.
Some call it the biggest single moment of the 2oth century; they all call it a day history was made.
But what does history have to show for it? It is a subject in decline, both academically and in the mainstream. That, however, could be changing and the moon landing anniversary has spawned a project which I think symobilises history’s rebirth as a popular subject.
We Choose The Moon began a week ago, and lets its visitors follow the Apollo 11 mission in real time. At it’s centre: a beautiful 3d animation showing key sequences including the Apollo launch (above). Original audio recordings from mission control and the lunar module let you relive the event. At certain stages you can click around an interactive multimedia display to look at video, pictures and audio.
It is a fantastic – and rare – example of multimedia being used creatively and with innovation, not to tell news stories, but the news stories of the past. And I really think there’s a future in this.
There is another one I’ve found, albeit on a newspaper site. Ted Kennedy: A Life In Politics, set in the same iconic era as We Choose The Moon is a multimedia biography of the brother of the man who uttered that immortal space-race phrase.
Less innovative than the moon landing story, it is still packed with beautiful images and video. What I really like is the carousel at the bottom of each chapter, giving you access to original documents from the past.
Could this be the start of a much needed retelling of history? I think history is a fantastic subject for multimedia storytelling to embrace. History is already leaving the dull theoretical debates behind for the academics; for the average punter I think an exciting new fascination awaits: focused on using video, original archive material and interactivity to tell amazing stories. It’s a heady mix of surprising facts, gripping narratives and great personalities. There might even be money in it.
Who’s with me?
Fascinating article thrown my way through Twitter today: “why journalists deserve low pay“.
As a journalist, on low pay, I was immediately angered by the title. And therefore had to have a read. Annoyingly its author, Robert G. Picard, makes perfect sense. This is not so much an article on why journalists deserve low pay (for now); rather a thesis on the very reason journalism, as a concept, is struggling for breathe.
Broken down it says:
Economic value is rooted in worth and exchange. It is created when finished products and services have more value – as determined by consumers – than the sum of the value of their components.
That’s the first time I’ve seen what I do broken down into its raw economic terms.
These benefits used to produce significant economic value. Not today. That’s because producers and providers have less control over the communication space than ever before,
So the reason newspapers aren’t making money, and radio & TV are losing money: they’ve lost their economic value.
Journalists are not professionals with a unique base of knowledge such as professors or electricians. Consequently, the primary economic value of journalism derives not from its own knowledge, but in distributing the knowledge of others. In this process three fundamental functions and related skills have historically created economic value: Accessing sources, determining significance of information, and conveying it effectively.
This too has been diminished by the internet and social media. So not only has journalism lost its value, so have journalists.
Today all this value is being severely challenged by technology that is “de-skilling” journalists….until journalists can redefine the value of their labor above this level, they deserve low pay.
It’s so refreshing to see our profession reduced to its raw bones; and until we solve these core issues of value in what we do, no pay-wall or subscription fee will save us.
The great thing about multimedia journalism is that it provides so much choice for treating stories. Do I write a straight article? Upload an mp3 interview? Produce a video package? An audio slideshow? An interactive map? Even a timeline?
I’ve been experimenting with most of the above for both work and in my own time, and discovered there are more and more free web based applications which let you do many of these without too much technical know-how.
Here then is a list of great free resources for multimedia journo’s hoping to get things done on the cheap. It’s by no means comprehensive…if you know of a better one, then stick it in the comments box!
Great apps for multimedia journalists
Soundcloud is what’s been inexplicably missing for a long time: an audio version of Youtube. Quick uploads allow you to embed a very attractive audio player into any webpage. Best of all, the player is customisable, and means, for example, my radio station Viking FM can embed it in branded colours. The people at Soundcloud are very helpful too.
Cost: free (or paid subscription)
Downsides: the free subscription only allows 5 uploads a month.
Lots of noise about this 4iP funded startup, which allows you to upload audio from your iPhone direct to the Audioboo server and thus any website you chose. Has the benefits for a multimedia journalist in that you can upload audio from location, as Guardian journalists did during the G20 protests.
Cost: free (registration required)
Downsides: no iPhone, no boo.
Still in beta, this is yet to be available to everyone, but looks like a more speech orientated alternative to Soundcloud.
Downsides: not yet in operation
Jamendo was a very happy find for me: a copyright free music site – where the music is actually quality! Record producers should be hunting Jamendo’s ripe jungle for new talent: it’s all unsigned artists (mostly electronic, and mostly French) who put up their music for free use under the Creative Commons Licence.
Cost: free (registration required)
Downside: it’ll take some time to find the perfect soundtrack to your piece.
This is the film makers Youtube. It allows HD uploading, has a smart player and quick streaming. A big benefit is an excellent web 2.0 set up and talented community. Your video might get more passing views on Youtube, but it’ll get less “fuk dis shit innit rofl lol” comments. In fact, almost all the comments I have had have been useful, constructive criticism of the technicalities of the piece.
Cost: basic registration is free. You have to pay for Vimeo Plus HD uploads.
Downsides: smaller audience, but as a video host to embed, it’s fine.
Already leading the charge from traditional media, Al-Jazeera has broken new ground by putting stock footage available for download under the creative commons licence. It’s so called ‘repository’ currently holds plentiful (and harrowing) footage of December’s conflict in Gaza. A useful practice tool, if anything, in the art of knowing what distressing images to include and what to leave out.
Cost: free, with CC restrictions, although it does allow it’s content to be used for commercial purposes (see comments, below)
Downsides: until Al-Jazeera expand the repository it just contains Gaza content.
It’s fantastic for finding generic images to match the design of your website (you’ll see a few on this site). All images are released under creative commons.
Cost: free to use
Downsides: you can’t search for the subject of images; frustrating when you want a black and white image of that something.
Soundslide seems to be the market leader in creating professional audio slide shows at a low cost. It allows greater control and manipulation of images, captioning and music/narration control. On the other hand though, it doesn’t finish in an easy flash window for you to embed. Oh and it’s not free.
Cost: $69.95 (~£50.00)
Downsides: The finished slideshow is turned into several files which you then need to upload to your own webspace. A bit cumbersome.
This is one I’ve been getting to know a little recently, in an overly ambitious attempt to create an interactive timeline of every Hull FC v Hull KR match since 1899. Sadly the sheer number matches put paid to that. And that’s a difficulty with X-timeline. You can input events individually if there aren’t many. Or you can use an excel spreadsheet, and upload it as a .csv file. Despite this it is still the most user friendly way to create and embed timelines I’ve found yet.
Downsides: the timeline design is un modifiable. No matter the design of your site, you’re stuck with an odd camouflage green colour.
I’m yet to use this, but from the outset it appears to be a pretty easy to use platform, with a slick final product. You can create global maps on any subject and highlight stats by colour.
Downside: limited to world maps.
There’s nothing to say about Twitter which hasn’t already been said in 140 characters or less. Except to say it’s a great free tool for both finding contacts and stories and publicising your own work, and building a community of followers.
Responding to the rise in homemade mashups and APIs, the Guardian recently opened a site publishing statistical data on various subjects. The rather nice idea being they put the leg work in and give you the stats for free. Great to plug into applications of all kinds. Such as…
A very clever way of collecting information from all sorts of sources and publishing it in allsorts of ways. The cleverest thing has to be the user interface, which has you dragging a coloured pipe from one thing to another like a digital playdo set. With a bit of practice, this could be a great way to present detailed information, or even several newsfeeds through one aggregated embed.
Links to all these sites, and others not featured here, have now appeared in the Multimedia Tools links section to the right hand side of this site. If you have any better suggestions, suggest them!
Protests are always a magnet for the media. Scuffles make great pictures for TV, chants make great sound for radio; the mass of people suggesting some great social movement.
Why should multimedia be any different?
It was no surprise all the big news organisations were employing blogs, twitter, online audio and video for today’s G20 protests. They’ve used them on news stories several times over the past few months.
What I think makes today different is this is the first time newsrooms have had significant warning of a news event, to flex their multimedia muscle and see what it’s capable of.
They had time to think ideas, get creative and explore. So, how’d they do? Here are some UK media examples:
Immediately popular was BBC News’ interactive map which appeared mid morning.
The movable image covered central London, and as reports from the ground were filed, they appeared on the map.
The stories were multimedia; everything from text, audio, video and images.
The Guardian were out in force at the protests, with journalists employing all sorts of technology to help them in their quest.
So excited were Guardian journalists by this new technology it seemed they were happy to upload all and every interview they conducted, including the one pictured, with Rory O’Driscoll.
“Sorry, were you expecting some a little more, err, involved?” he told the reporter, clearly not at all bothered about what was going on.
Someone (on Twitter in fact) commented, on seeing this image, that there must have been more journalists on the streets than protestors.
What these provide though, were unfiltered, immediate dispatches from the scene.
Stuck in an office, those of us in Web 1.0 world were forced to watch Dermot Murgnahan and the rest of the Sky News reporters stumble their way through the protest.
“Oh look, a policeman’s fallen over” was just one remark, along with a car-crash interview with Russell Brand, the comedian who’d clearly taken the wrong turning on his way out to get some milk.
These Guardian dispatches though – raw, mispelt, abbreviated into 140 characters, gave you the very latest – and of course they’ve not been through an editor.
The BBC had a similar live update system with similar benefits.
This one though included chosen comments from viewers/listeners as well as BBC correspondents (and in some cases media students) on the ground. It looked good, and continued until 2100…but I’d wager cost a lot more than any other news organisation would manage.
So lots going on, and it felt – for once – there was more to be seen online than on TV. Has this set a precedent? I hope so. Throughout today, no-one was tweeting/blogging about the G20 coverage they heard on the radio or seen on TV. They were sharing links to sites like the above ones.
The key benefits: immediacy, raw information, and interactivity.
But for that, do I feel the coverage of the protests was any better than the old media? Hmmm, that’s not so clear cut.
It was a busy day. Lots of last minute editing to do for my radio station’s week of reports on Iraq and content to put online; then bits to send to sister radio stations in Leeds and Teeside; not to mention a huge amount of local news moving including some important court cases and inquest verdicts….
In short, probably not the time to engage in a debate about the future of journalism.
I said: I love doing online journalism and multimedia – but how do we make money out of it?
Matt said: No-one will ever pay for online content – not when it’s free everywhere else
I said: so how will we make any money as video journalists online?
Matt said: once newspapers ditch print and we all have Kindles, they’ll have audio, video and text – in short you’ll be a VJ for a big newspaper, and people will watch your films on the underground.
I said: but what about in the meantime?
…we both shrug our shoulders.
I then tweeted the summary – and caught the attention of @jonshuler (here’s his website) and the following debate occured in 140 characters or less-a snapshot of the new media debate raging across the world
Three young media types trying to figure out the future of their profession. That’s the new media debate - join in!
update: Check out this video from Beet.tv: they interviewed online video producer Zadi Diaz at SXSW. Her advice for getting through the tough times: team up with other producers and see if you can come up with a good way to make it work financially. You have to think outside the box. When online money dries up Zadi switches to consulting/advising others to keep herself going.