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Oct 20, 2006

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Chewie

Who's making money on YouTube?

Oh yeah, that's right... ad agencies, corporations, and the production, post, and graphics professionals they hire.

In other words, Mentos and diet Coke - not Frat Boy.

Ed Cone

Another question might be, Who is cost money by YouTube, and the web in general?

One answer seems to be: NBC.

The amateurs aren't necessarily in it for the money, as has been discussed endlessly in the realms of print journalism and blogging.

And it seems likely to me that some amateur vidjocks will find ways to make money, and that big companies will continue to find ways to use the web profitably, too.

The derisive use of "frat boys" in you comment would not seem to present a challenge to my thesis that the pro-am arguments are coming to video, too.

Chewie

No doubt that the tremendous availability of crap video is going to hurt companies who aren't prepared. It's part of the decline of western civilization. We eat crap, consume crap on TV, and now we'll consume a lot more of it on the web for less money.

Eventually, companies adapt to take care of business, or they die. That's already started on YouTube, where smart companies have mastered the medium and are busy tricking the stupid consumer flock into watching ads without realizing they're doing so.

Look at the killer deal that Sony, Mountain Dew, T-mobile, and Pop Secret are getting over at Current TV. Produce a crappy commercial for us, we'll pay you a pittance that you think is a fortune, and then we'll take it national - probably international - and that authentic, shaky, grainy cell-phone camera look the kids are so fond of will make us billions.

People eventually get tired of crap and don't want to pay for it. Frat boys will also one day grow up and realize that they worked very hard, stayed up all night editing, impressed their girlfriends and thought they were fulfilling their creative potential... but they were really just helping The Man get richer.

It's a nice thought, a truly democratic economy on the back of a creative renaissance, and I can see why lots of people think the Web is our Great Salvation -- but that economic model has never, ever happened, in America or anywhere else, throughout human history.

That doesn't mean you can't enjoy your cell phone camera. You earned the money to buy it, so express yourself all over the place. I liked your hula hoop girl clip - but I wouldn't have paid $.99 to download it.

Ed Cone

Gotcha. And bloggers are just losers sitting around in the pajamas writing about their cats. Nobody is going to use the improving technology to create compelling or newsworthy video. It's all just crap.

Jeffrey Sykes

Ed:

I wrote about this (sort of) on my private blog last night.

The impact of the revenue crunch and consolidation in tv appears to be the same as with print: more generic coverage, with hyperlocal being the only variety among those companies smart enough to "get it."

I think the outcome of the FCC decision about consolidation will hurl this trend forward in not so good ways for tv and print, ending up much like the current state of commercial radio.

Chewie

Most blogs are total, utter crap. I can't believe you would even debate that.

A tiny percentage of online video will be compelling and newsworthy. Tiny. Miniscule. The quality will float, others will sink, and for the good ones, money will enter the picture. Some will be co-opted or bought. Others will be tempted and used.

A tiny percentage of the tiny percentage will continue to do good work just for the love. Just like blogs. The number is so insignificant that it heralds only a technological, not an economic revolution.

Meanwhile, rich and powerful people and entities will utilize the technological revolution to grab more money and more power. It was ever thus.

NBC is greedy and smart, and they will prevail. They're hardly threatened by 2.0 content that is incredibly painful to watch.

Ed Cone

The thesis of my post, that already-evident economic challenges to the prevailing TV model will cause friction between professionals and web upstarts, is looking stronger with each comment.

Chewie

I'm not in the TV business. Your tendency to root for ragtag, know-nothing amateur output over that of skilled, experienced, trained professionals is puzzling, especially considering that you get paid to write. Would you think the world a better place if we gave an illiterate non-English speaker your job at the magazine? That's the impression you project.

You seem to feel that crap has some kind of untaintable charm and an economic right to exist. I don't think the market agrees. And even if crap becomes king, it will still be companies, not users, lining their pockets. Smart news outlets are already making money on "citizen journalism." Lots of it.

Ed Cone

I don't recall rooting for crap, whether it's on corporate TV or a local blog or a newspaper or magazine.

For every Ze Frank there are a lot of people lip-synching in their dorm rooms, and for every Josh Marshall there are a lot of crap bloggers, and for every Sopranos there are tons of crap TV.

Some people like to watch stuff that I think is crap, whether on the web or on TV. More of them are choosing to enjoy either crap or quality on the web.

There is an issue of technical quality and proficiency. As we've discussed in the past, a grainy video interview that I find interesting does not seem like crap to me, although it may to you. Some people are bothered by poor spelling and anonymous posting at blogs, but if the content is useful, there is value to be gleaned -- and every minute spent watching that grainy video, or reading that uneven blog, is time away from traditional media.

I've merely observed that the web is upsetting traditional economic models in video-based businesses, as it has in print, and that this will bring the same sort of tensions to the vidworld that it brought to print.

John Hood

"Crap, crap, crap. . ." I am getting a neo-Python skit stomping through my brain at this point.

I'd like to agree with Jeff Sykes: hyperlocal may well be an effective (though not the only) response by MSM firms to this trend. I think that is going to happen before long in talk radio, for example. It's already the evident model for saving music radio, not that I think it will succeed. Community papers in rapidly growing metros are doing better than the old-line dailies. It is why local TV news is OK and national TV news is, uh, I forget.

I would even venture a guess that my own "industry," public-policy organizations and think tanks, are having to respond to these changes by going more regional and local. But being at a tank with a regional and local focus, I would say that.

Gate

The public never gets tired of crap. They just accept new levels of it and call it quality.

Lenslinger

Change IS afoot in TV News, and not just in terms of the internet. Lenses and laptops continue to shrink, as do payrolls and profit margins. Technology allows one person to do what used to require a whole building of underpaid staffers. Al Gore's series of tubes delivers seemingly-fre content to a nation of YouTubers, undermining long-established avenue streams for broadcast outlets big and small. As a result, a thinning of the herd is upon us. I wish unemployment on no one, but as a person who has been multi-tasking since before the term was vogue, I welcome this revolution.

Having said that, I'm far more optimistic about TV's future than that of the ink-stained wretches (LOVE that term, by the way). Why? Video. Instead of holding the moving image in disdain like the print crowd seems to, we understand it to be the cornerstone of post-modern newsgathering. The first print outlet that truly embraces fresh footage - and brings their research talents and literary nuance to the form will make feakin' history. Perhaps they'll even find an audience.

As for we broadcast newsies, we'll continue our fine tradition of wringing out every ounce of ability from even fewer people - all while we park our product on more platforms than currently imaginable. Otherwise we too will 'go dark'. But ven if we do perish, it's unlikely we'll do so with as much pompous twaddle as the assembed scribblers displayed last Saturday. I know we're all agape at the new frontiers before us, but that session reeked of the Donner Party.

Then again, what do I know? I just point and shoot for a living. Anyone can do that, right?

Randall

I disagree totally with Lenslinger. TV stations will be hit harder in the long run by so-called citizen journalism than newspapers for several reasons.

1) Most people don't care about the level of quality of news videos:

Whether or not Lengslinger wants to admit it, as seen by the success of YouTube and viral videos on the web, most people really do not care if a video is shot by a professional who has $80,000 worth of equipment and sets up the shot perfectly with a tripod or if it is shot by some kid with a $100 camera. Especially when it is free.

When watching videos from the tsunami disaster a while back did most people care that they were shot by amateurs? No. Even the networks ran the footage even though they were shot on small camcorders.

In other words, people have lower expectations of professionalism in terms of news coverage than they even expect from commercial films (where quality expectations have eroded as well).

2) The typical local TV station story would rarely be out of the reach of local Internet amateurs:

In terms of local amateurs providing TV coverage on the net, they would simply need to show up at an event and film it. For example, to cover the NC State Fair, they would be able to get about the same footage that a TV station could get. And the Internet amateur could shoot it, edit it, and post it on the web in about an hour.

To cover the local crime scene, they show up, film it, get some details, and then post it on the web.

You get the idea. TV stations cover a lot of crime stories and "event-driven" news.

3) Videos require little context, little research, and therefore are easier to produce as news than written stories.

As a person who has covered stories via TV and internet video and in print, I can tell you that shooting and editing video lends itself to the amateur as opposed to writing newspaper stories.

Why? A three minute video speaks for itself, shows the event to the viewer and requires editing, but usually little else that is not gathered at the scene of the event. A picture speaks a thousand words, but a video speaks volumes.

Writing an in-depth print article where you have to call two or three people to get quotes, know the background issues, go to meetings, and craft a story is not something that most people take the time to do. (Although as we have seen in Greensboro, there are some bloggers who have done it well).

I'm sorry if this offends TV journalists, but a 30 second TV story is not the same as a newspaper story.

4) The six and eleven o'clock newscasts are slowly dying:

TV stations make a majority of their advertising revenues from the news broadcasts. Thanks to the Internet, cable and 24 hour newschannels like Time Warner News14, people are not required to watch the 6 or 11 pm broadcasts to find out the news (if they are home at all, since people are working later).

I can watch every single news story separately on News14 on the web right now even though it is 1am. Some stations offer that choice on the web, but certainly not all of them.

4) If you want to find out what will be on the TV news that night, just read the newspaper headlines that morning.

In my experience, newspapers generally do more digging and are more proactive in their stories. TV stations are more reactionary and generally report the news as it happens.

I have seen stories out of our newspapers and others reported almost verbatim on TV, usually without attribution or further research. Some TV stations have literally turned their anchors into true "news readers."

TV stations will continue to exist as well as newspapers and there will be no "mass extinction."

However, people who are on the streets with subpar equipment, absolutely no training, small budgets, and even no regard for making money will slowly replace local media outlets as sources for news.

Newspaper editors will complain about the grammer on blogs and TV videographers will complain about their equipment, but people will read and watch anyway.

5) Local TV news may be portable to the web, but good luck with getting local TV commercials on there.

It's hard enough to sell LOCAL advertising on the web in the form of banner advertisements, etc. Just ask the News & Record what their online sales are like compared to print sales.

Now try to find a LOCAL tv commercial on the web. Can't find one? Try getting copyright clearances for jingles, stock TV footage, music, etc for transferring a TV commercial to the web. Try getting royalty payments for actors in TV commercials straightened out for play on the Internet.

It has been hard to transfer print advertising to the web, but some local newspapers have done it. I have YET to see any TV station do the same with TV commercials on a consistent basis.

Randall

Please note with a twist of irony that I spelled the word "grammar" in my last post incorrectly. :0

Max

Randall, here's wishing you a better, cheaper root canal, all you need is a few simple tools. Why pay good money for a professional. In fact why go to a trained, skilled, craftsman for any service, it's a democracy right? As a future third world country we can be at the top of our game.

max

Lenslinger, I think Randall just ranked you. The newspaper writers are professional. TV news is done better by amateurs. You steal your news from the N & R everyday, right? Newspaper writers do the real work, calling all those people and then use words. Amateurs could never do that.

Randall, aren't you the same guy that got spanked for the shakeycam interview of Ed at last years converge? You have a TV blog that wants to compete with news stations, right?

Should you have revealed your bias in making your arguement?

Lenslinger

Randall,

Weird venom aside, you make a few good points.

Number 5 ain't one of them. At my humble station's site (myfoxwghp.com)we have a rotating slew of current stories - ALL prefaced by local ads. Drop by sometime.

As for your assertion that producing Tv news requires little skill. I'll meet you halfway. Anyone can turn a camera on and point. Not everyone can capture something worth watching. Shaky-cam is fine for breaking news, but too much of it turns the stomach - much like extended viewings of 'The Blair Witch Project'. Sure that little film made a ton of dough, but a new genre of nausea-cam didn't exactly spring up in its shadow.

Despite your claims of vast TV news knowledge, there's a bit more than 'showing up on scene and filming it' (Who said anything about 'FILM'?) Since you hold my profession in such low regard, I see little merit in arguing further. However I'd welcome the chance to compete with you or any other blogger in the video (or fo that matter, print) realm, should you see fit to descend from your ivory tower and mix it up with the little people. Otherwise I have to call 'Bullshit' - for your argument strike me as someone who knows a little but assumes a lot.

Must be mighty comfortable being that smug.

Chewie

"Whether or not Lengslinger wants to admit it, as seen by the success of YouTube and viral videos on the web, most people really do not care if a video is shot by a professional who has $80,000 worth of equipment and sets up the shot perfectly with a tripod or if it is shot by some kid with a $100 camera. Especially when it is free."

That explains the explosive growth of Cable 8 in Greensboro then.

Don't suppose YouTube's popularity has anything to do with content management and community aspects like searchability and best of lists?

"And the Internet amateur could shoot it, edit it, and post it on the web in about an hour."

Bust ass like that for no paycheck? Not more than twice, they won't. "About an hour" is for Lenscrafters, not Lenslingers. Digitized, edited and uploaded much? One juicy hard drive fart can kill the better part of an hour in recabling, recapturing and tech support.

If what you do at RTPTV is so cheap, quick, and easy, requires no skill or equipment and isn't "real" journalism, what shift at McDonald's do you have your eye on, Randall? Or will you pack up a cell phone and wait in Indonesia for a tsunami?

His name is spelled Lenslinger, and you're mistaking him for someone much less on top of the situation.

John Hood

Yeah, Randall, sorry but I am going to have to disagree, too. I also have many years of experience in both formats, print and TV, and while there is no doubt that the two media differ significantly in their journalistic uses -- no question, for example, that evening newscasts reflect news judgments that are largely picked up from the morning papers, in both agenda and approach -- TV is less likely to be displaced by the web than print, at least in the immediate time horizon. We can see that in the numbers (for local news consumption, I mean, as discussed above) and it just makes sense.

In both cases, amateurs without a stream of ad revenue can do it. In both cases, my guess is that many-to-most amateurs will not do it for long. But because the nature of the news-consuming experience is so different, reading vs. watching, print is more vulnerable. We watch TV news not for the most penetrating analysis (I sincerely hope) but (in part) because the visuals and audio add important information. The production values do, indeed, matter (except for breaking news, as you said, where speed and access are the key). At least for a time, and as long as they play to their strengths with local, I see the TV stations as maintaining viable and profitable news operations. So will truly community newspapers, be they 5,000 or 50,000 circulation. But papers that try to do everything, even though readers can find it easier, cheaper, and frequently better online, are in big trouble (as they know, but highly resent).

Also, local TV ads are out there on websites, often in the front of TV stories posted. My understanding from TV execs is that they (the whole package, not just the ads) don't get a whole lot of traffic just yet, but they expect that to change. For example, the WRAL-TV site in the Triangle is one of the top media sites in the country in daily traffic. Its weather forecasts are a major part of the traffic. But not very many readers actually watch the video segments available on the page. They click, read, and move on. But, again, the execs expect that to change.

Ed Cone

I think 'Slinger is right that video is a key to the rebirth of the news organization. That's why I've been banging on the N&R and other newspaper sites to add video in a meaningful way. As I've written before, web video represents the newspapers' first chance in generations to steal marketshare back from TV.

But that underscores my original point, that traditional TV business models are in trouble, which is supported by financial data as well. Clearly ,it's not just kids on YouTube that are the threat.

The technical quality debate seems a little off-point to me. Obviously there are times when tech-quality is just not an issue -- the only available footage of something spectacular or unique, for example. But just as 'Slinger points out that technology is remaking TV news from within, technology is giving non-TV pros better cheaper tools as well. We're so early in this process...in just a few years, when fullscreen realtime video and simple editing software and video search are available, the game will really have changed.

The disdain for amateurs or non-traditional corporate content-generators puzzles me. It's early, but we're far enough into the web era that the wide distribution of talent seems pretty well established, and the ability of the web to put it in front of interested audiences is, too. And, as Gate notes, crap always has an audience anyway.

Reducing the observation that there is a broad talent base with better tools of creation and delivery into an argument that pros and specialists will disappear seems wrong to me. In fact, I don't see many people making it, except as a strawman to knock down in frustration at the new world emerging.

I think professional journalism, in print, audio and video, will be around for a long time. I believe in talent and expertise and experience and collaboration -- but the economic and technological forces that once confined them in large part to corporate ownership are shifting fast.

meblogin

This is an interesting topic.

Could you comment a little more about "My business has been turned upside down by the web."

Do you see it turned upside down for the better..worse...more profitable...less?

I like both the pro and amatuer video.

I like both the pro and amatuer news.

For the most part I enjoy reading blogs and being able to see others digging a little deeper than I ever could with print or video.

My guess and just an example...I don't think I would have listened or read if this subject was in print or video. (..smile..just a newbie's take)

Keep on talking...this is great.

thanks Ed.

Ed Cone

Meb, print journalism outlets are laying off reporters and editors and watching profit margins dwindle as the web not only puts information online faster, but also unbundles the traditional news business model by creating ad-delivery vehicles (e.g. CraigsList, Google) that have nothing to do with journalism. Journalism itself is getting faster and broader with the web. Smart companies will adapt, less smart ones will wither and die. It is a brutal time to be in this business, but exciting too.

meblogin

...sounds like a similar story to American manufacturing for the past few years.

Some will fail and some will reinvent and benefit.

Randall

Some quick responses to everyone and I certainly enjoyed everyone's comments as we discuss the future:

Everyone: Sorry if I appeared smug. I am sometimes guilty of stirring the pot using hyperbole sometimes to bring it to a boil for the sake of discussion. And also my tone was not proper and very grouchy, probably as a result of a long week of server problems and late hours at the newspaper. I am sorry for any improprieties.

Lenslinger: I didn't mean to impugne Fox8 specifically. Actually I was referring to another station in the Triad that ran some of my newspaper stories verbatim several years ago without attribution or attending the meetings that they arose from. Also, it has been reported on this website that WFMY has reported from blogs without attribution. In addition, I have several friends in the TV business at smaller stations. They have stated exactly the same thing that you said -- smaller staffs are expected to do more, resulting in shortcuts being taken in gathering news.

By the way, I am not an expert on TV, which is why I say that if I can post videos on the web and have purchased weekly TV airtime on Fox50 for my shows and have people watch them, then ANYONE can. Anyone can go to Best Buy and duplicate my efforts.

Mr. Hood: I appreciate your comments and I am very familiar with your TV work -- I encoded your NCSpin TV show for the web for several years. Sorry we never met. I am glad to see that WRAL has picked up where I left off and NCSpin is a great show which is why I volunteered to encode it for several thousand viewers in NC. Not to digress, but locally produced shows like that are what is needed on local TV.

Max: I thought your comment on root canals was pretty funny and reminds me of a Far Side cartoon, but I don't think people will think they need the same level of professionalism in an online TV news segment that they need for a medical operation. Also, for the record, in addition to bashing TV stations, although I am in the newspaper business I think daily papers in general don't "get it" either as seen by their decline in circulation.

Chewy: Duh, I know who Lenslinger is. Also, I don't work at McDonald's, I run newspapers. I do like Big Mac's though.

Everyone: In general, I disagree with the assertion that people will not post videos to the web without making money. It flies in the face of recent experiences with YouTube and even blogs. If people write items for little or no money, then why won't they post videos for little or no money? Example: Hoggard who is doing journalism work at his blog for no pay. Can you expect that video news online via blogs will not follow suit? Just because someone is not getting paid then they can't produce a quality TV (or print) journalism item?

Thanks again for everyone's comments and as you can probably see, I really enjoy debating the future of journalism. The Internet has enabled everyone to have their own newspaper or TV station with little or no barriers to entry (as long as they have another job?)

Chewie

From cocksure to meek in 24 hours. You're a phenomenon, Randall.

The point is you were not content just to totally devalue the work that you do online - a strange crusade, indeed - you drew a sword and took swipes at the work done by TV photogs and reporters. I'm sure you understand that the issue isn't that you did or did not "impugn Fox 8 specifically" - the issue is that you pointed to someone and said, "what you do for a living isn't worth a shit and requires no brains or skill."

Now when challenged, you want to say that you are "not an expert on TV".

That's quite a different tune than the one your other personality sang - you know, the one who lectured us on how "videos require little context, little research, and therefore are easier to produce as news than written stories"?

It must be incredibly crummy to work very hard at creating a site, produce some quality work, get some buzz and some traffic, all the while believing that anything with two legs and a wallet could "go to Best Buy" and duplicate your work.

Why do you bother doing it? Your neighbor's kid with the iMac is obviously going to eat your lunch.

Randall

Yes, believe it or not Chewy, people in the media business get criticized since their work is in the public. Even TV newscasters and local TV stations get criticized, which you seem to see as infallible.

And yes, I have a right to criticize TV media as much as anybody else just like TV news teams can be extremely critical of my work. (And have been to be sure). Your criticisms are valid -- we have a long ways to go to being as good as any TV station.

My criticisms about TV news are valid and still are. I said nothing new about TV news that hasn't already been said here on this site by others. I just regret that I chose a bad day and my tone came out very badly indeed. I apologized for any comments that were out of line and my comments were never personal in nature as yours seem to be.

I am not a TV expert, but I have produced TV shows. We have put hundreds of shows online and also some on regular TV stations like Fox50 and Pax47. I consider myself somewhat experienced but in no way expert compared to those in the business. And by the way, I didn't just "build a buzz" and then drop it -- we started in 2001 and ended our weekly videos this year when we started our new paper.

You are missing the point completely. My point is not that TV news is not worth the curse word that you mentioned. I watch it to get a good overview of what is going on and TV news serves a role just like papers.

What I pointed out that a lot of TV footage is easily duplicatible by those with little or no experience, as evidenced by my work. In addition, TV news is inherently visual and extremely different than what is usually put in newspapers. A thirty second TV news story is usually different than the in-depth article in the newspaper just by the nature of the medium. They don't have time to do in-depth pieces. On the web, there is no such time limit. Is it as good as what Channel 2 films? No? But is it good enough? Probably.

It's not a zero sum game, Chewy. Just because some kid with an iMac does it doesn't mean that he will put Channel 2 out of business next week. But in aggregate, 100 video blogs in Greensboro with local footage from around Greensboro showing various news coverage, sporting events, interviews, business news, etc. will give people at least an option in where they get their local TV or video coverage of Greensboro.

And by the same token, just because there are 100 bloggers in Greensboro doesn't mean that the News & Record will fold up tomorrow, but again those bloggers -- in aggregate -- offer alternatives to what has been traditionally a monopoly on news by local print newspapers and TV stations.

I just happen to think that 30 seconds of TV footage is easier to reproduce by people on the street who have the desire to do so than the breadth and width of the newspaper coverage that is seen in your typical daily newspaper. Why do newspapers have dozens and dozens of reporters on staff, when TV stations typically have much less people to report the news?

Mr. Sun

Chewy.

Dave

This conversation is happening on the wrong axis. My argument in all this is that in the world with an explosion of content in every direction - 200 channels and growing on just the TV not counting the possibilities online - "crap" is not a meaningful adjective. There is only "relevant" and "irrelevant" to each individual personally.

When Chewie argues against "crap" that is relevant and meaningful to me, that's a losing battle. Her arguments always come back to the existence of much irrelevant material online. I find mostly irrelevant material online too but for me it is no different on TV where there is not a single prime time show - scripted or not - from any major network I give a damn about. Because of the Long Tail effect I'm finding in sum more relevance online because I have more choices. All the resources available to the five networks and they don't give me anything I care about as much as Tiki Bar TV.

My personal revelation that personal relevance is more important than anyone's perceived quality is why I've spent the last year working on and running a relevance matching engine for internet media.

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