Old & New Media: Why can’t we work together?

This morning I attended a press event at NAIT where the winner of the 2008 novaNAIT challenge was announced. Congratulations to Stephane Contre who won first place with his crime forecasting software. You can read more in my post at Techvibes.

There was an impressive number of media people present – perhaps, as one of the NAIT representatives remarked, because everyone is sick of doing Christmas stories. Or maybe they were there simply because it’s their job to be there. While I was standing around, I happened to overhear a conversation between a couple of the camera guys. One guy did most of the talking, and though I only heard part of it, I think I caught enough:

“Why would you put this on the web? No one cares about this kind of story. You basically have to force-feed it to them during the evening news.”

Not word-for-word, but that’s the gist of it. I’m not sure who he is or which organization he’s from, so his job is safe (not that I’d name names anyway). If I were his boss however, I’d have fired him on the spot had I overheard that remark. He clearly doesn’t get it.

novaNAIT Challenge 2008

Why wouldn’t you put this story online? Give me almost any topic, and I’ll find you a community of people who care about it on the web. That’s one of the greatest things about the web – it makes it easy for small, geographically separated groups of people with similar interests to come together. And when they do, they’re not so small anymore.

Anyway, I don’t know what he was talking about. Technology and entrepreneurship, especially together, are topics that tons of people care about. Such as the community of people that read Techvibes.

Here’s a better question – why bother sending that camera guy for a story like this? I arrived with a point-and-shoot and my Flip video camera. The media guys all had DSLRs and large fancy video cameras, complete with lighting and microphones and other equipment. Obviously they acquired some higher quality content, suitable for broadcasting, but one camera could have done that – half a dozen wasn’t necessary. Heck, give one guy a Nikon D90 and he could have recorded high quality stills and HD video for the evening news. It seems like an incredible waste of resources the way news is gathered now.

Basically, what many people have been saying became real for me today. Local media organizations should be doing what they do best, and linking to the rest. This wasn’t a “breaking news” kind of story – why not let the citizen journalists gather the news and use the organization’s resources for something else? Why can’t we work together?

Of course, most local news organizations don’t know the meaning of the word link. They can’t even be bothered to hyperlink the URLs they include inside their own stories!

Here’s the funniest part of all this. This story will probably get a sixty second spot on the evening news, and the folks who are interested will fire up Google to find out more (I remain unconvinced that anyone uses those annoying “links in the news” sections of TV station websites). And guess where they’ll end up? Potentially here, and definitely at Techvibes (and they can then follow a link to all my photos and videos from the event). Heck, four of the top ten results in Google for “novaNAIT challenge” were created by me and all I did is write a couple of posts and upload some photos. So, thanks in advance camera guy!

28 thoughts on “Old & New Media: Why can’t we work together?

  1. While I do not totally agree with his comment, I do see where it came from. If you changed his quote to be

    “Why would you put this on our news channel’s website for the mass audience? The mass audience doesn’t cares about this kind of story. You basically have to force-feed it to them during the evening news.”

    it makes more sense. And he comes from the world of mass audiences. He comes from the world where the evening news viewership is measured in hundreds of thousands and that’s what gets them their (big) ad dollars.

    A better thing for him to say might be

    “Why wouldn’t you put this on the web on a specialty tech site? The mass audience doesn’t cares about this kind of story. You basically have to force-feed it to them during the evening news.”

  2. I disagree that it doesn’t belong on the news channel’s website though. I’m just saying they don’t need to produce it themselves. All it takes is a single link! It costs them nothing.

    Send them away to bring them back. It doesn’t just work for Google!

  3. I saw that Brittney, but again, there’s not a single link inside that story. Why does it have to end with the few paragraphs that were written there? And heck, why not a link to my story which came first?

  4. I think it’s still lodged in local media’s minds that as long as you get it yourself, there’s no need for links to other blog entries or other sites. From my perspective, if we’re linking to a blog about it… why stop there? Why aren’t we linking to our competitors who might have got to it first or who might have different information? Because that’s not how it’s done. You don’t want them looking over there for more… because you’re trying to give them what they need. You get the story, you post that story. I have linked to blogs in the past…but it’s not commonplace. As to not having links, that’s up to the reporter who does the story. (Or to the web person who puts up the story.)

    A story like this, which isn’t (in the grand scheme of things) a major story… probably wouldn’t be given tons of links which a bigger story may have warranted.

  5. That was kind of my point – this story isn’t a major story, so why bother sending anyone at all when you know someone else is going to cover it?

    Why do you think Google News is so successful? They don’t publish the news, they just aggregate it. I’m convinced news organizations can do both (and the NYTimes has been experimenting with this, for instance). That’s a major opportunity in Edmonton that is currently being missed. You’re so close with iNews880 (with blogs and Twitter and stuff)…why not take that next step?

  6. “I’m just saying they don’t need to produce it themselves.”

    I dis-agree. In my experience in many fields I’ve learned that very often it’s a good idea not to trust someone else to do something you can do. You have no control over the quality or content that you need/want.

    No offense, but the video you took could never be used for TV. The quality is too low. The sound on the interview is terrible and has far too much background noise.

    There’s a reason the professional media were there with expensive equipment: to produce professional results.

    Now, you could say that there’s no point spending money producing professional content for such a small audience (if they weren’t to put it on the evening news, as I think you’re also proposing). Well that’s just a side effect of the way local news coverage is produced.

    I’ve been involved with/covered by local news and media organizations quite a bit in various capacities (Nexopia, my horse business, etc) and talking to the reporters/camera people, you get an idea of what they’re work life is like.

    Basically the news companies have to have full time people on the staff to be able to cover ‘real’ news (eg, important things happening in the city that everyone is interested in). During the time they’re not covering ‘real’ news they cover marginal stuff – filler content if you will. I’m talking things like this. Things like Christmas events. ‘Human interest’ stories, etc. Polished turd quite often.

    So yes, it would be cheaper to let the ‘new media’ cover an event like this because the quality/professionalism of the content doesn’t have to be perfect because it’s for such a relatively small audience, but they have these guys sitting around in case something ‘real’ happens, so they might as well send them to produce some filler content so they can put out a full hour of news each evening (which is a hard task in a city of Edmonton’s size where there isn’t really enough going on most days to justify 60 minutes of news coverage).

    Any why doesn’t inews880 link to you? Because you’re the competition, and why help the enemy? Don’t think they see you as the enemy? You’re wrong. You, and people like you, are a threat to them, their business model and their existence. It takes a hell of a lot of guts to take the risk of ‘sending them away to bring them back’ and if I were them, I personally wouldn’t do it.

  7. I think that we have taken the next step with the iReports section… although right now we’re waiting (for the most part) for people to send their stuff in voluntarily. (I think we both know that I haven’t been just sitting around though.)

    Also, next time you’re covering something like this, let me know and we’ll see what we can do about merging the medias.

  8. Rob – I agree my video isn’t production quality, and said as much in the post. But my other point is still valid – why send six such cameras when one would suffice? And the D90 is an example of consumer cameras that are becoming good enough for broadcast quality. As for your point on iNews880, see my comment about Google News. That’s why.

    Maybe you’re right Brittney – I could be doing a better job of letting you know when I’m covering something. I wonder if that’s something we could improve upon for all bloggers.

    I don’t think waiting for people to send stuff in voluntarily is the right approach, but I totally agree that you’ve done some extra work in that regard.

  9. “Why do you think Google News is so successful?”

    I don’t think it is. Sure, it’s changing things slowly, but right now, in the grand scheme of the HUGE news gathering and presentation industry, it’s nothing. 99% of news is still conveyed and presented in the traditional ways, although now with different mediums (eg, the Internet is a new medium but being used by the big traditional media players the most (I mean by viewers)). I’d be willing to bet that the big news player’s get many times more traffic than any ‘new media’ provider.

    I get my real news from people like CBC, BBC, etc, and most ordinary people do too.

  10. Sure Rob, until the news organizations finally die or change anyway. Let’s hope we don’t bail out the newspapers!

    And like I mentioned, NYTimes is a fairly mainstream publication that ordinary people read, and they see the value in linking elsewhere. Others will follow suit.

  11. “why send six such cameras when one would suffice?”

    Because the six news providers in the city all have camera people sitting around being paid waiting for the news to happen. It costs nothing more to send them there to cover it, and is easy. Where as getting the content from someone else who may or may not have got the content you wanted is a pain in the ass.

    It’s a company-specific resource management issue (or not an issue) rather than a industry wide problem

  12. Some newspapers will die, others will evolve (I agree their model is under direct attack from the Internet), but providers like Global News will always exist in something very similar to how they are now – the Internet doesn’t pose much threat to them simply because they’re very different formats

  13. “Because the six news providers in the city all have camera people sitting around being paid waiting for the news to happen. It costs nothing more to send them there to cover it, and is easy. Where as getting the content from someone else who may or may not have got the content you wanted is a pain in the ass”

    Exactly. Plus, those bloggers contributing to the media outlets (usually) expect to be paid. Why have another expense when you’ve got the guy on staff?

    And I don’t quite think newspapers are that hard up yet. There are still people who enjoy that medium.

  14. I think the “six cameras” issue is tricky actually. On the one hand, I think it’s terribly inefficient. On the other hand, I’d hate to see local news fall to the quality of a wire service – generic across the board.

    The again, there’s not much difference between the stories in the Journal and the Sun or the segments on Global and CTV as it is.

  15. Brittney: I agree totally on the newspaper front. The web 2.0 people are pretty adamant that newspapers will disappear, which I think is crazy talk

  16. Great post Mack. I agree that the local new organizations don’t “get it” yet. They’re doing a terrible job of using the web, but I don’t think it’s as simple as just letting the citizen journalists cover stories like these for them.

    I think that the problem is that the local news agencies have their own guidelines as to writing and content, so they can’t always republish or endorse content (by linking) from civilian journalists. With regards to written content and photographs, they have strict legal hoops that they have to jump through to secure copyright for content that they don’t produce themselves. So, perhaps it’s easier in the end to just send a reporter and photographer than to try and deal with vetting and obtaining copyright from third parties.

  17. That, and someone has to inflate the ego of Nait management, and what better than half a dozen professional camera crews jostling for positions to see you talk about something not really that interesting? lol

  18. I totally see your point Darren, but here’s my question: if the NYTimes/Washingon Post/LATimes can get past that issue, why can’t others? Is it because the policy isn’t actually local, but in fact is national (via CanWest or whichever parent they belong to)?

    Haha Rob, I’d admit that only one guy instead of six would seem much less impressive.

  19. This is so funny, one the one side is someone that looks at things from the traditional media perspective – and has some interesting points.

    I think the comments by the camera guy reflect their lack of understanding the narrow-casting and long-tail nature of the Internet – people that care about these stories online find them.

    They find them because they have taken back control of what, when, and where they consume news and media.

    Niche info + Motivated People + Google = Online Consumption

    If you put news/info on your website, motivated people will find it, when they’re ready.

  20. Agreed Greg. People that care will find the stories online. But like I said above, that doesn’t mean the mainstream media should ignore these kinds of stories – just that they shouldn’t expend so many resources on them!

  21. I know what you mean, when I read your post I was thinking that it is a competitiveness issue. Every media outlet competes for the same limited attention and the reason for so many resources is to see if their guys/gals can get a unique/better/exclusive take on the story.

    Not sure they share resources because of one-up-man-ship.

  22. Mack, May I suggest fear and resistance to change are 2 reasons for the Media Solitudes, in our berg.

    What we fear, we resistance. What ‘we’ resist persists.

    Traditional media does not understand how to monetize free news. It’s late comprehending, how news, as a piece of the information, puzzle is consumed. It resists the fundamental change, underway.

    New media tends to be caught up in, a ‘look what I can do syndrome. Enabled by easy and free access to relatively new publishing tools. It’s practitioners tend to publish first, think second.

    In the Stephane Contre story, here’s what I would like to know.

    The Person Angle:

    Who is he? How did he come to do this? What is his vision? How does his vision mesh with the needs of the Edmonton Police Service? Is the product adaptable? Could it be ‘mashed-up’ with Google Maps? Would that make it useful for the real estate industry, the land development industry? Could it be used to provide a more comprehensive ‘classified ad’ experience? Revenue?

    The Nait Angle:
    Who started this incubator program? Why? Who else has won? Where are ‘they’ now. Where does the money come from? What is Nait’s vision for the program?

    The Business Angle:
    Who in Edmonton can advise Mr Contre? What does he or she think is necessary for him to get to the next level? Is this a product, or a service?

    This story is dynamic. It isn’t over. There was lots press conference reportage very little journalism.

    News is story telling. Tell me a good story. Give me context. Make it relevant to me, the audience. I’ll consume it, where ever I can.

    Oh, and the cameraman, next time, ask him, how he intends to illustrate the story? Any monkey can shoot talking heads!

  23. Thanks for the link Darren.

    Bruce – fantastic comment. I completely agree that there are more interesting parts of the story that could be told than just “hey, he won!”

    I think you might break it down into two pieces – reporting and analysis. Most of the angles you’re talking about fall under the latter category. Sadly, there isn’t much analysis that takes place.

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