Resist the ego bath. Some thoughts on online video

In my latest piece for the the Guardian Media Network, I look at examples of good online video in action. My experience is that most video on the web is “long, self-indulgent, rambling and shambling – video for bosses (internal stakeholders, if you must); not video for viewers.”

By looking at those that (mostly) get it right – from the NME to WSJ, The Atlantic to Channel 4’s The Last Leg – it’s possible to learn some useful lessons that are applicable in most circumstances. Lessons such as these:

1. Answer the question. Explainers work.

2. Keep it short. Brevity takes times. But it’s worth it.

3. Repurpose, repackage, reuse. Better 10 well-targeted one minute videos than one 10 minute grand tour.

4. Think discoverability. Headlines matter.

5. Text and moving images, a perfect partnership. To liven things up, aid understanding or create a brand new strand.

6. Leave them wanting more. And tell them where to go.

Read: BuzzFeed to NME: a publisher’s masterclass in producing online video


“Twitter is about leading people to water”

Another day, another former colleague… or two.

Yesterday I quoted my old boss at the New Statesman. Today it’s Jon Snow, Channel 4 News presenter and Charlie Beckett who now runs Polis at the London School of Economics and was previously a programme editor at Channel 4 News.

Both had interesting things to say about the evolution of news in the networked age. Both were talking heads in the final part of Steve Richards’ Making News series on Radio 4.

Here’s Charlie on the ubiquity of news:

The very definition of news is shifting. It’s completely abundant. It’s almost environmental. It’s a bit like the air that we breathe … anyone can get it just about any time … [This] is completely, historically exceptional.

And here’s Jon’s take on what role Twitter really plays in the newsroom:

I think Twitter so far is the greatest asset that the journalist has managed to get hold of. And I think it has deepened the news coverage. I don’t think it has superficialised it in any way.

People think [Twitter] is about 140 characters. It’s got nothing to do with 140 characters, it’s go everything to do with leading people to water. Sometimes the water’s stale and boring, sometimes it’s deep and succulent.

You can listen to the edition in question here.

Twitter complements, supplements and enhances newsgathering. Not bad for 140 characters.

I’ve put together some thoughts on the impact social media can have on conventional newsgathering over at the Press Gazette.

Using an example from my days working at Channel 4 News and drawing on an interesting post by Austrian radio journalist Nadja Hahn, I make the point that:

Social media doesn’t replace conventional media; and new techniques don’t replace old. However, social media does extend reach and, invariably, accelerates the newsgathering process. It complements, it supplements, it enhances. Not bad for 140 characters.

You can read the whole thing here.

Stephen Fry Attacks ‘Rubbishy, Cheap And Offensive’ Remarks… His Own

stephen-fry-channel-4-newsStephen Fry has had a busy few weeks.

Apart from appearing on our TV screens every Sunday night (and various points in between) he’s campaigned against the Conservative Party’s association with a right-wing European parliament grouping and was a prominent disseminater of the disgust felt towards Jan Moir’s infamous Stephen Gately article.

In a blog post published yesterday, entitled Poles, Politeness and Politics in the Age of Twitter, he conflated the two issues to offer some reflections on his own actions and on the nature of online debate.

Intriguingly, he used the post to retract some of the “rubbishy, cheap and offensive” remarks he felt he made during a Channel 4 News appearance when he debated the Tories and the Polish Law and Justice Party.

While the blogosphere and Twitterverse is censorious about others, here’s a rare instance of internet self-flagellation.

Sure, it’s a couple of weeks after the event and complaints had been pouring in but, given the shrill nature of much of the online debate (yes, including over the Moir affair), it is refreshing for someone to come to the point where they admit very publicly they badly misjudged their remarks. 

Here’s a taste of the Fry mea culpa:

I mean, what was I thinking? Well, as I say, I wasn’t. The words just formed themselves in a line in my head, as words will, and marched out of the mouth.

I offer no excuse. I seemed to imply that the Polish people had been responsible for the most infamous of all the death factories of the Third Reich. I didn’t even really at the time notice the import of what I had said, so gave myself no opportunity instantly to retract the statement. It was a rubbishy, cheap and offensive remark that I have been regretting ever since.

And his view of Jan Moir? Well, he still thinks the article was an “epically ill-judged piece of gutter journalism” but has some sympathy for her because:

I know just what it is like to make a monumental ass of oneself and how hard it is to find the road back. I know all too well what it is like to be inebriated, as Disraeli put it, by the exuberance of my own verbosity.

 – Is the Daily Mail in denial over Moir outrage?
Jan Moir, meet ‘the big gay who runs the internet’

Channel 4 News Theme Like You’ve Never Heard It…

…unless, of course, you were watching last night.

Channel 4 News theme tune video, Led Bib with Jon Snow and Krishnan Guru-Murthy

Jon Snow and Krishnan Guru-Murthy invited Mercury nominees, Led Bib, into Studio 6 for a bit jamming.

Half way through the band’s line-up changes – Jon on keyboards and Krishnan on guitar.

“Rocks your socks off,” says the notoriously well-attired Mr Snow.

Speech Debelle, meanwhile, was in another part of the building reworking the News at Ten bongs with Mark Austin. Probably.

(In case you are wondering, the Channel 4 News theme is called ‘Best Endeavours’ by Alan Hawkshaw.)

Ron Wood Bee Sting Returns To YouTube
Wogan Wages War On The Anchorman

When Is The Best Time To Publish Online?

Larry Weber thinks he knows.

In his latest book Sticks & Stones: How Digital Business Reputations Are Created Over Time and Lost in a Click, the co-founder of PR giant Weber Shandwick says that if you are posting a video to YouTube, do it at 9pm EST.

That’s a rather anti-social 2am in London, and 3am across much of continental Europe.

Weber explains:

Your video will be up for European viewers to watch before they go off to work or school and you’ll catch the eye of US viewers winding up their weekend web activities.

So there you go. Simple.

I can’t vouch for the success of Weber’s magic hour but it does point to a shifting pattern in internet consumption habits.

In the (not too distant) past, successful pick-up meant posting in office hours. The logic was simple – most of us were online most of the time Monday to Friday, 9am-5pm.

Indeed, at Channel 4 News the race is still on to get the nightly Snowmail out before 5pm.

Miss the slot (and we often did) and not only would you get complaints the following day from people picking up an out-of-date ‘what’s coming up on the show’ newsletter, you’d also see a significant reduction in click-throughs.

Even across the working week, some days are better than others. When we launched in the late 1990s we discovered that an email newsletter sent out on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday would generate more traffic than one sent on a Monday or Friday.

And then there are the daily spikes. Lunchtime and towards the end of the working day still register – the latter enjoys the double-whammy of not only being the end of the European work-day but lunchtime on the east coast of the US.

Much of the above still holds true, but now we’re online across more hours of the day, seven days a week the old assumptions are being tested. 

Nevertheless, 9pm EST? I’d like some proof.

Which Is The Second Largest Search Site After Google? (Clue: It’s Not Yahoo!)

Here’s Why Twitter As Glorified RSS Misses The Point

If  you simply use Twitter to pump out a stream of headlines and links from your news website, you miss the opportunity to do things like this:

channel4news: – As the floodwaters lap about his feet, Krish bravely presents the Noon prog.

Krishnan Guru-Murthy presenting Channel 4 News at Noon
Krishnan Guru-Murthy presenting Channel 4 News at Noon

A flood in ITN’s Studio 6 may not add to your understanding of (important) world events but the fact that the Channel 4 News* team went into contingency-overdrive this morning has more than a passing appeal.

Using Twitter to share what’s happening behind the scenes gives the viewer a sense of the “inside” and a flavour of the personality and character of the programme and its maker. It may even cement the relationship between programme and viewer.

Or perhaps that’s reading far too much into it. Either way, you would have clicked on the link.

Twitter as glorified RSS misses the point.

(*Declaration of interest: I used to work there)

Five Ways News Organisations Should Use Twitter

What We Learned About Online Video This Week

From YouTube to the iPlayer via newspaper sites offering moving pictures, the digital landscape for video already looks well-established.

But four years on from the moment we went from Dial-up Britain to Broadband Britain, we still have much to learn.

In my latest contribution to I look at five lessons from the last seven days. Namely:

1. If you build it they will come…
(…provided you build something elegant and easy to use. And then market it like crazy.)
2. Don’t do video unless you’re adding value
3. You can’t control the message
4. Brands love YouTube
5. Death is a good career move online too

More on each here: Five lessons from a week in online video

What Chris Brown’s YouTube Apology Tells Us About New Media
The Independent Adds Video. Why?

Five Ways News Organisations Should Use Twitter

Rule nine of the Twitter playbook says don’t talk numbers. The only person who cares how many followers you’ve got is you and this craven attention-seeking is likely to backfire – followers soon stop following.

Sod rule nine. For now, at least.

I want to mark the fact that @channel4news has broken through the 10,000 barrier.

It happened sometime on Sunday, a quiet day in the Twittersphere – the downtime between the height of the Iran crisis and the Commons Speaker-fest.

And as I no longer work for Channel 4 News and these are not my numbers any more, I can’t be accused of indulging. Much.

And anyway, it’s an excuse to re-tell the story of the feed, aka Newsroom Blogger. Continue reading Five Ways News Organisations Should Use Twitter

Iran’s Internet Revolution: The Backstory

Twenty-three million interent users, with a growth rate of 48% year-on-year and 60,000 active bloggers. Yep, we’re talking Iran. A third of the nation is online and, seemingly, another third is on the streets.

These figures, sourced from the Open Net Initiative, are no surprise to anyone who’s had any dealings with the Iranian blogosphere.

Back in early 2006 Channel 4 News presented a week of programmes from inside the country. News from Iran was fronted by Jon Snow and both international editor Lindsey Hilsum and science correspondent Julian Rush were on the ground for the week, along with a team of producers, cameramen, editors, and the programme director.

Alongside the broadcasts we were busily blogging and podding. In fact it was the first time we’d blogged in earnest – if a $149 Typepad licence counts.

What really made the site come alive were the contributions from Iranians, not just the diaspora but those inside Iran itself. The blogroll ran and ran. Continue reading Iran’s Internet Revolution: The Backstory