The Customer Is Always Right
February 7, 2007
During the past year, we have seen many changes in the way that viewers use and consume news. Viewers know that they can search Google Video, YouTube and MySpace and find news content that they want. The key words are "what they want." Many viewers will search and find any type of news content--it does not necessarily have to be from traditional sources. Viewers are also willing to trade content for quality and don't know or care that it was shot on a Sony XDCAM or Panasonic P2, for example.
To compete with these other sources, broadcasters need to be in the content business and to provide viewers with as rich an experience as possible.
Also, branding is becoming less important. While many would argue that their local news product is a brand that people trust, Google, MySpace and others have proven that viewers just want the story and don't necessarily care where it comes from.
Finally, user-generated content is now playing a very important role in the reporting the news.
OhMy News in Korea has close to 20,000 citizen journalists and only 50 editors and gets millions of views per day. User-generated content when managed the right way, as in the case of OhMy, can be very effective.
You probably gather a lot of content that never makes it to the viewer, such as a whole press conference or interview. Also, if you look at what you are shooting, it may be possible to change the way you shoot or acquire that material to acquire it cost effectively.
At many press conferences, there is a pool feed or a pool distribution box. If you were to take a laptop with a capture device or a portable streaming encoder, you could encode the press conference in a Quicktime 1.5 Mbps format and use Quicktime Pro to trim the head and tail and publish it to a Web site.
Sony recently released the HVR-VR60 hard drive that connects via i.Link to any Sony i.Link-enabled camera. If used with the new Sony HVR-V1U 1080i/24p HDV camera, you get added features like remaining record time. If you record in DV, the drive records in AVI and when you attach the drive to any Mac or PC, it appears as another hard drive. You can edit directly from the drive to most NLEs and eliminate ingest time.
This camera and hard drive lists for about $6,000. So for $6,000 you can quickly and easily produce HD or DV content. The drive holds 4.5 hours of DV content so you can put an entire press conference or interview on one disk and when you get back to the station, you can transcode the entire interview into your preferred Web format and post it to your Web site.
Also, try to provide your content in many formats, like a podcast. Apple's next version of OS X, currently named "Leopard," will have a program called "Podcast Producer." All you need is a camera with FireWire out, a Mac and Leopard server and you can easily produce Podcasts and RSS feeds.
Another system that will give you a lot of bang for the buck is iTX from OmniBus Systems. It is truly a channel in a box that accepts multiple formats--baseband or files--and has all the functionality of an automation system, a video server and a master control switcher. It runs on standard PC hardware and uses standard IT storage (Isilon, Net Apps, Xsan) and AJA Video I/O cards. With this system, you can easily create a 24-hour streaming channel.
EASE OF USE
Google Video, YouTube and MySpace make it very easy for viewers to search for video or stories on a particular topic. If you make it easy for the viewer to get to the content they are looking for, they will watch your content.
Many sites have their main content prominently displayed and easy to find. If there is any background material, it is sometimes harder to find. You need to make the background or supplementary material easy to get to. Try creating a page that has links to all of your video.
This is probably a little harder than it sounds because it involves keywords and metadata. However, in one of my earlier articles I discussed the ENPS Assignment Desk and the ability to export much of the data contained in it to XML. The assignment grid contains valuable data such as names, phone numbers and other background information that when combined with video, can be a very effective search enabler.
The ways in which consumers are finding and consuming content are changing very rapidly. We need to be pro-active and not rest on our brand names. Apple iPod and iTunes proved that if you give users an easy way to select and consume content, they will use it. When we were creating NY1 News, we lived by the following mottos:
It's good enough.
When the answer is "that's just the way we've always done it," do the opposite.
If you don't do it, someone else will. We all need to look beyond our traditional ways of operating and reinvent ourselves before the Google train hits us!
Harlan Neugeboren is CEO of The Workflow & Technology Group. He can be reached at Harlan@wftgroup.com.