Friday, December 21, 2007

How to launch a news video service in London - What's wrong with the news!

One of the most intriguing aspects of regional vid news in London is the lack of it, unless you consider the half hour squeezed from traditional broadcasters as adequate.

Take this map above, its a representation of the number of boroughs/ municipals that make up London.

It has several local newspapers - sometimes as much as three per borough competing with each other.

There are an estimated 7.5 million people of diverse culture in the capital, which generates huge sums of money.

According to the national statistics online here are some other interesting figures
  • 5 milion of those are between 16 and 65 pensionable age
  • "London has a relatively young labour force, with 41 per cent aged under 35 compared with 36 per cent nationally. This reflects the young age profile of its population. Londoners are more likely to be self-employed than people in the UK as a whole. In the second quarter of 2006, 16 per cent of working people in London were self-employed compared with a UK average of 12 per cent|". ~ direct source quote
    Labour Force Survey, Office for National Statistics (ONS) and more ( see link

    BUT there are ONLY TWO half hour evening news broadcasts that serve London.

    May I repeat that: 2

    And less I skew my own argument I'm not pleading for lengthier evening broadcasts - no, that's not the point.

    The way news is covered in the capital resembles something bordering on serendipity - based around proximity of news, press release news, editorial currency and balance ( which news item the editor favours) and limited staff based around the central arcane hub of news gathering.

    It's a system that has stood the test of time as news has evolved, but how well does it bear up to scrutiny today?

    Hyperlocal news, thus, is a real battle ground for broadcasters, newspapers and any new venture, across London in particular and the UK generally.

    How News is Made
    It's a bit of a misnomer as news/events are continuingly unfolding, but how do you make sense of it?

    The traditional model gathers news around a number of sources
  • Calls to the police and emergency services
  • headlines and front pages from local newspapers
  • Pre-prepared news items from a forward planning desk
  • Judgement and whim of editor and editorials
  • What the opposition is doing
  • PR traffic
  • knowledge from the reporters and correspondents
  • a subscribed to diary service saying things such as Will Smith will be in London on December the 5th to promote his film.

    The fundamental flaws in all of these credible processes is one that has crept up on broadcasters in the multi news litaeracy age, but first saw daylight back in 1993.

  • The method of gathering is too centralised
  • News values are predicated on prefab foundations
  • and the sytem is too inflexible to respond to sequences.

    As you're reading this now, it's more than likely that a significantly pertinent event is happening which may have a huge impact on Londoner's daily lives. The value placed on that item involves a myriad factors one of which will be "Do I have the space to put it on air".

    Traditionally brodacasters pool their reporters to jobs for the day, unless they're feature pieces.

    Their time and reportage is more or less fixed; you come in to the building you get your assignment you leave to cover it.

    These flaws I refer to became obvious when we launched London's Channel One TV in 1994, modelled on New York One -a 24 hours cable news outlet.

    The concept of newsgathering was in principle, though this eroded because of news competitive pressures, placed around the beat reporter.

    And each beat reporter was supposed to have greater affinity with their community, though as I say London's model came no where near to NY1s.

    But the real jewel in the crown to emerge post Channel One, which today would have a powerful news indices, was civic journalism.

    The combination of civic journalism - a paradigm of an experiment launched by the Knight Foundation - coupled with decentralising today, could generate what would possibly be a tour de force in news coverage - a 21st capital which really doesn't sleep.

    The hyperlocal news today is....

    Regional newspapers passing through the video bottle neck, circa 2005, did so in part response to land grab the hyperlocal market - advertising n’ all, before mainstream media.

    Some like the liverpool Echo and Manchester Evening News are proving formidable at providing local vid to strengthen their print brands.

    Some however are making a fist of it by adopting TV stanzas, wedded to the mechanics of mainstream news and programming, a clear mistake.

    We may dislike this truism, but the x-factor, a definition much used amongst UK broadcastersin the late 80/90s, before a hit TV show camer along, gave kudos to the messenger and complex inter- active qualities between the outfit and consumer.

    These complex qualities, distilled by marketeers, were exactly what made Peter Jennings, Tom Brokaw, Trevor Mcdonald and George Alagaih houselhold names

    So the model requires something else or the very least some background work.

    Fight back
    Traditional media is doing its bit to gain a foothold in hyper- local news e.g ITN with local news on broadband.

    All in search of that pot of gold; the untapped ad revenue is counted in hundreds of millions of pounds.

    The BBC has carried out extensive research into local TV using broadband and much of it is enlightening.

    I have a video of one of their senior managers from the department carrying out the trials which I'll post soon

    But how micro can local go ?

    City, town, community, street ?

    2008 trully will define the battle grounds

    We’ll be working with a few outfits in the new year looking to go local, as well as trying something like this out in January, - interactive magazine online which hopefully when it goes active with the back end might prove interesting, or not!

    p.s Question If you're running a dedicated Flash based server content wrapped on a Frame, how re you generating meta data?
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