Super Speed Global Delivery
Over a weekend in the middle of September this year we set up a virtual newsroom for the start of the Clipper Round The World Yacht Race in the Yorkshire port of Hull. This involved gathering footage from two roving crews (and additional material from other crews at the event), editing the footage into short modules and uploading to a dedicated media resource website which we had set up in advance. The clips were then downloaded by broadcasters around the world for use in their news bulletins.
What struck me about half way through the first day is that we were achieving all of this set up on a small trestle table in the race organiser’s media room. Only a couple of years ago this same project would have demanded far greater resources – probably more crew, probably more kit, almost certainly an outside broadcast van and access to the uploading facilities of a major broadcaster. Yet here we were, three of us (on the edit and upload side), some laptops that you can buy in any PC World, a broadband internet line, and our footage was being seen by people on the other side of the globe minutes after it had happened. Amazing, isn’t it?
At one point an old friend who is a regional newspaper reporter came across to see what we were up to and was nothing less than flabbergasted by what we were doing (“no wonder the newspaper game is f****ed”, was his actual response). And he was right. It’s widely accepted now that the traditional paper-based news media is in its death throes and the immediacy of access to the internet is one of the major reasons – why wait till tomorrow to read about yesterdays news when you can see it happening in (almost) real time?
Most of the major newspapers and magazines now have some kind of substantial online presence and the best of them keep their websites rapidly (if not fastidiously) updated. However, the video content on these sites is usually pretty poor – the fact that the regional newspapers that are attempting to populate their sites with video content generally do this by throwing a cheap camcorder at their photographers and tell them to get some video while they’re out is clearly reflected in the appalling quality of the resulting footage. And also, it’s been reported, only two of the UK papers make any kind of profit from their websites so manning this service only increases the expense of running their already overburdened newsrooms. Until all of us are accessing our news through the web they cannot move completely away from paper into a subscription service and even when (of if) they can, they will still have to compete with sites such as the BBC that give their content away for free.
I’m not saying that that the ability to upload to the internet alone is ruining the newspaper industry, after all anyone with a video phone and a computer can post video material but you could never claim any of it is in direct conflict with newspapers, but the delivery method of material is shifting from physical to virtual. And the key to survival is simple – quality. The big differentiator between lone bedroom uploaders and the newspapers is quality control. Decent journalism and conscientious editors will always be in demand even if the medium they are working in moves from paper to digital. People still need trained and experienced professionals to guide them through the endless ocean of information that is constantly being thrust toward us from this new equal upload opportunity virtual world.
The same holds true for us, sat there at our trestle table. While the ability to do what we were doing is now almost in the grasp of everyone (as long as they can afford the expensive cameras and edit software), unless you can offer experience and skill in the way you shoot and edit and consistency in the delivery then just being able to upload to the web alone will not be enough and the video industry will still need trained professionals.
It now seems more likely then ever that over the next couple of years video content will be created for use solely on the web – no tape, no DVD. So like newspapers the video industry will go completely virtual. Fortunately the video industry is far less reliant on physical formats that newspapers so the transition should be relatively straightforward as long as everyone keeps their eye on the quality of the content rather worrying unduly about the physical form it takes.