People’s attention spans have shortened. Wait – are you still with me?
I said, people’s attention spans have shortened. For instance, I am no longer able to recite Sophocles from memory. And if I could, who would listen?
A few years ago, when I was writing more frequently about the “future of journalism”, the struggles and growing pains of traditional news outlets were mostly based around a) funding and b) competing for audiences believed to be no longer able to concentrate for long periods thanks to technological changes.
Well, journalism funding models are still primarily stuck in a pay-wall / subscription paradigm, but an interesting shift has happened around content. And you can see it in pieces like the Guardian’s NSA Files Decoded. Continue reading →
As a kid growing up weird in a town that didn’t really like weird, I found myself drawn to those sectors of society that didn’t even try to fit in.
For example, I didn’t really become a punk, but I listened (voraciously) to the music, understood the culture, knew the history, and was influenced by the artistic and political movements that punk drew from. I still am, in some ways, even though I’ve changed so much over the years.
Another example is skateboarding. I only skated hardcore for about seven years, but I firmly believe that skating is a “once, always” kind of culture that never really leaves your system.
Maybe that’s because skating makes you see the city in totally different ways. Or, maybe it’s because once you choose a pastime that requires you to repeatedly smash into concrete to get better, you never really forget it.
Either way, there’s a rich continuum in skateboarding that most skaters choose to learn, add to, reference and build upon both inside and outside skate culture that goes on long after you quit. “Mike V & The Brooklyn Banks” showcases this continuum quite nicely.
Nowadays, Mike Vallely is a bit of a celebrity on the Vans Warped Tour side of things, a pro skater who also fronts a punk band. When I skated he was just a skinny kid with a shaved head and combat pants who had lyrics from the Smiths on his grip tape. In other words, he was just like me. Key difference: Vallely is an insanely talented skater.
The short video, below, could just be an indulgence to me, but maybe there’s something in it for everyone that has ever been immersed in an underground culture. I found it fascinating to hear Vallely talk about being changed by the same videos, photo spreads and scenes that I was impacted by, and I think there’s a neat fold-in that Vallely eventually became one of these influencers too, inspiring kids to try things they’d never thought of and learn from those who came before them.
You may not know who any of these people are, or why the Brooklyn Banks were important to youngsters living hundreds of miles away (in my case, living in a different country), but in the age of instant access, I hope a video like this touches again on the raw inspiration that we used to feel when we were fully immersed in the underground and had to consume VHS tapes and print (that’s right, print!) magazines to get our fix.
These days I’m feeling like the things that used to be so critical to me are more important than ever, especially as the tools for creative expression become more ubiquitous and varied. I may not want to crack a kick-flip over a set of stairs (well, I may still want to…), but I do still want to be tuned in to why that felt so important, in both the small and large scale of things.
Check out “Mike V & The Brooklyn Banks”:
Have some gritty underground inspiration of your own (or others’) to share? Let me know in the comments!
Part of what I love about digital creativity is that if you are always receptive to inspiration, the internet’s tangential structure will eventually reward you.
For example, at work this week, I needed videos of epic fails and colossal wipeouts, and instead found a beautiful doc that basically showcases the opposite perspective. It won’t directly or immediately help my work, but it dovetails with my other interests and can inspire forms of creativity that may.
Choose Not to Fall is a short (3-or-so minute) documentary by Matthew Marsh and Sam Rowland of 63 Productions, focusing on parkour / free runner Daniel Ilabaca.
In the doc, Ilabaca talks about the mental aspects of parkour, and how going “all out” is important but only secondary to the real liberation of free running: recognizing the freedom in living in the moment and gaining confidence in choosing your own path.
That’s powerful stuff, especially for those of us who want to document and capture our unique (though still collective) perspectives.
Check it out:
For those of you looking for the “how” elements of this, I found some info about how 63 Productions made the doc.
The filmmakers chose to use a tripod for the shooting because they believed a hand-held camera makes the viewer aware of another person (ie: the filmmaker) being present, which they felt was a distraction. Also, the filmmakers could only shoot 8 seconds of slow-motion footage at a go, so they had to time their shots perfectly to capture the tricks they wanted. If they missed hitting record at the right moment, they missed the shot (which apparently happened). Note the Explosions in the Sky-style music, and the “vignette” effect on the footage as well – subtle elements, but shorthand for “this is meaningful”. Still more impressive, is that this video was shot in one day and edited in two.
Choose Not to Fall is another fine example of mini-docs, and their ability to move us, inspire our thoughts and document our lives together.
Recommended by Fauna Corporation!
Have some mini-docs or digital inspirations of your own (or others’) to share? Let me know in the comments.
Thirty years ago today, Pac-Man was released in Japan. I would have been about 7 years old, I guess, and it would take a few years for the game to reach North America, but when it did, it caught on like no game before it had.
Pac-Man was a departure from the “shoot-your-way-out” games that existed at the time, and its cross-over appeal (for men and women, video game geeks and people who had sex) forever changed video games and by extension, our present digital world and how we interact with technology.
In my hometown, Ms Pac-Man was the preferred choice, and I lost many hours at the Mac’s or 7-11, drinking Dr. Pepper slurpies and playing Ms Pac to avoid the blistering, Dune-like levels of punishing, arid heat that my hometown is known for. In these conditions, Ms Pac was like a digital beacon to an air-conditioned refuge that shielded me from walking on the surface of the sun. Thanks, Ms Pac!
Weirdly, I found myself walking around yesterday with a little 8-bit MIDI tune in my head, knowing it was from a video game, but not remembering which one (I actually thought it was the opening theme to Donkey Kong). This morning, in honour of Pac-Man and his lovely bride-to-be, I downloaded Ms Pac to my iPod and was delighted to find out the tune was actually for Pac-Man. I guess I was musically channeling the little yellow dudes in advance of their anniversary.
The cultural impact of Pac-Man cannot be overstated.
Without the game’s ability to reach across cultures, ages and genders, or its skill at humanizing a digital experience, we would not be as comfortable with cell phones and iPods, game systems in our adult lives, or movie / game crossovers like Avatar.
Could we have Massively Multiplayer Online Games, or deeply immersive pseudo-lives (such as World of Warcraft, Secondlife, et al), without the head-to-head tabletop editions of Pac-Man, Ms Pac and others? I don’t think so.
To show the overall impact of Pac, Google has done something interesting to mark the anniversary. Rather than have the ever-changing Google logo a simple graphic that leads to info about the game, they’ve embedded the game into the logo.
Visit Google’s homepage, click “insert coin” and play the game in-banner. Also advised, drinking a Dr. Pepper slurpie while playing.
Dublab released a short video about 2 months ago, called Secondhand Sureshots. It was probably only about 12 to 15 minutes long, but I think it will have a lasting impact.
The concept for the project was to take four well-established (but still largely underground) instrumental hip hop producers, send them to different LA thrift stores with $5 each, and have them shop for records.
The producers would then return to their labs and create a beat (ie: musical piece) using only the records they bought within their $5 cap limit. These beats were pressed to vinyl, and each copy was given a handmade, art-piece album cover. Beautiful. Copies of the finished product were then taken back to the thrift stores and reinserted into the thrift store record bins. I don’t know what that’s supposed to say, but I like the reciprocal symmetry of it all.
The whole art project was documented and Secondhand Sureshots was released online, for free, for about a week. It was then it was pulled down and some trailers remained online to promote the film.
Now Dublab and Stones Throw Records are selling the DVD, a vinyl copy of the finished tracks wrapped in hand-made album covers, and 2 slip mats for $60. I think it is a great deal, and a great way to market what is a wonderful and strange little project. Also, by putting their emphasis on engaging consumers in a full experience, Dublab and Stones Throw are able to sell this larger package (at a higher price) rather than only the CD and DVD of the documentary.
In an age of instant digital downloads, this emphasis on a handcrafted object that music fans understand and engage with at a deeper level could offer another option to the music industry, or possibly, some inspiration to journalists, digital storytellers and other multimedia producers. The value-add has never been more of an added value.
In spite of all the digital marketing speak above, let’s not lose sight of the core cool: this is ultimately a nifty little documentary and album aimed at a niche, dedicated audience. One that includes me.
The producers, Ras G, Nobody, Daedelus, and J-Rocc are all talented weirdos, and I’ve been influenced by their music for a while now. I found it very cool to hear their thought process (or feel process) for diggin’ in the record crates and making beats. And because I didn’t know in advance that the documentary was only going to be online for a week, and was so impressed by the well-crafted final product, I’ve decided to buy the full package.
Maybe you should too. Or release your own multi-format art piece?
The second, Tilles Singer’s piece, Skateboardanimation, is a nifty hybrid of fast-shutter photography from print, and motion graphics or stop-frame animation in digital video. If we also consider that the video is being distributed digitally, pieces like this can really represent the evolution of our media across the years, in a single piece:
Anyone with a scroll-mouse, or those technophiles that have harnessed the finer points of ‘page-up / page-down’ technology, can see that I haven’t posted to my beloved Fauna Corporation in quite a while.
There are a number of reasons for this, but what is most important is that I am resurfacing after a deep-thought hiatus.
Which is to say, after much consideration, I have decided to post to Fauna Corp again, but with a slightly expanded focus to the content I highlight, share and discuss.
Over the last several months of working in advertising, and gaining some distance from the harsh realities of freelance journalism in the midst of an economic downturn and an essential breakdown in the fabric of how media works, I have gained a little bit more perspective on multimedia content.
There is no need for someone like me to be wringing his hands about the future of journalism. I’m simply not plugged in enough now to really know what’s happening with the media giants, and far more attuned minds than my own could give you the 4-11 (or even the 9-11) on what’s happening.
Furthermore, at a certain level, I simply don’t care anymore. As countless experts discuss and debate, our digital culture moves forward. People upload their on-the-ground footage, others generate beautiful short films and slideshows, still more develop apps and widgets, while experts deliberate on a functioning media model in a shifting cultural landscape. It is not possible to know where we’re going, and I think my energy is best served elsewhere.
What I am plugged into (and seeing a lot of) these days is unique digital content deployed across the cultural spectrum. This has led me to think a great deal about digital narratives – the ways that we represent who we are (or who we aspire to be) through our digital ecosystem.
Sophisticated tools are becoming cheaper, average people are developing professional skills, and more and more people are using their creativity to represent their lives. It is becoming seamless, natural and, at times, deeply moving.
It is this, then, that I am going to focus Fauna Corporation on – the artists, journos and communities that document the people, places, products, ideas, stories and projects that matter most to them. The digital narratives we create and share, to connect, however briefly, with each other and those quiet parts of ourselves that represent who we truly are.
How this plays out will be shown in the next little while, but I just wanted to give you a heads-up about this shift to Fauna Corporation’s content, and thank all of you who have been regular readers despite a loooooong silence on this little blog.
Whew! This whole accelerated world we’re living in has been exhausting lately.
But I must say, the technology finally seems to be catching up to the creativity of content creators, and is also coming in line with the demands of consumers.
As usual, I find the discrepancy between what consumers are looking for, and how journalists & news outlets are talking to them, to be the biggest hurdle facing journalism as a whole.
My accomplice and I recently picked up iPod Touches, and have been experimenting with different ways to use these cool gadgets to actually enhance our lives (rather than just, you know, be cool gadgets). That’s been a fun process, but there have been a couple of videos out lately that show other potentially ground-shifting tools that are coming to market.
These new tools display some creative uses of cross-media delivery by magazine publishers, and seem to really enrich the user experience. Check it out:
First, Multimedia Shooter has posted a great list of sports-related, multimedia journalism pieces which is worth reading. This Sports Illustrated video shows how SI is planning to unveil their magazine in tablet form, and, despite the hokey digital hands, shows how the magazine’s main assets of stunning photography, quality writing and box scores, will be further enhanced by the tablet technology:
Also, I thought I’d include this video from Outside Magazine, displaying their idea of how an interactive magazine feature may work in the near future. I originally found this video from one of my RSS feeds, but now can’t remember which website posted it (apologies for that). Instead, I found the same video piece at the Living Art Media site. It’s a little hyperbolic, but the overall effect is very cool:
Both of these videos are ‘aspirational’, but they show that the technology we are becoming accustomed to on our hand-held devices are now beginning to inform the decisions of media outlets and how they craft the content we’ll be enjoying in the coming year(s).
Apologies all around for the longish silence here on Fauna Corporation. I’ve been working a writing contract for an advertising firm and have had less time for posting. The contract goes well, thus far, but I don’t want to forget my Fauna readers so I thought I would put something up.
On that note, while I haven’t been posting, I have been seeing some interesting content for Next-Gen Journos. The following are a few things that I’ve seen over the last few days that I thought you would all enjoy.
First, from Journerdism, a list of the 8 must-have skills for the journalists of tomorrow. The list is a little broad (ie: including programming skills), in much the same way that one could list the top 8 skills for tomorrow’s Olympian and include being multilingual and 12 feet tall. I mean, it can’t hurt, but in reality there are only so many hours in the day, so one must pick and choose what to learn. However, the list is pretty solid on the whole and does mention the ability to focus on experimentation and focus on creating artful, cross-media pieces, which I sincerely believe will be necessary to capture the next wave of web- and mobile-savvy media consumers. Of note, “fundamental journalism skills” comes in at number 8.
Next, 10,000 Words has a great list of gifts for the Journalist in your life, just in time for the holidays. While some are sort of obvious (newsprint t-shirts and boxers), some are totally awesome (CTRL, ALT, DELETE cup sets!), and either way, there is always a good reason to visit to 10,000 Words, so click on through.
Finally, from ProBlogger (a site worth visiting if you haven’t yet), a short list that substantiates the importance of having a product to sell. As journalism changes and freelancing rates remain dismal, this idea of having a product – whether it is your work, a collected series of pieces, an ebook, how-to, or anything else – becomes very important to grow revenue and audience (which in turn grows revenue and audience). While there is an argument to be made against every journalist being entrepreneurial, as technology changes us, we must change with technology. Increasingly, being entrepreneurial is tied to those changes.
Again, my apologies for the relative silence here on Fauna Corp. I am happy that my traffic has not dimished over the last couple of weeks, despite it. I will continue to do my best to keep you all up-to-date with what is happening with evolving multimedia journalism, and as always, I thank you for stopping by.
My fiancee and I are big fans of the NewsHour with Jim Lehrer. I recognize how geeky this makes us (being “big fans” and all), but we’re pretty dialed in to non-apoplectic news coverage, and we really enjoy the balance and depth of coverage that the NewsHour offers.
We comment on Jim’s usually excellent choice of ties, we tune in on Fridays to catch analysis by Shields and Brooks (and we’re Canadians!), and we hold the NewsHour up as an example of what news coverage should be (along with CBC’s National and BBC’s World Report).
So I read Anna Shoup’s piece on the changes at PBS, and the new iterations of its website, with interest and fascination (found out about the piece courtesy of Will Sullivan’s Journerdism site). It is not often that you get an insider’s candid take on the shifts inside a major media outlet, especially when the insider is a multimedia content producer who is be integrated into the larger media framework. That in itself is a bit of a switch-up from what’s happening in other news rooms.
Ms Shoup’s report suggests a progressive mindset in the NewsHour bullpen, but she’s still open about the grinding gears that sometimes happen when two carefully crafted machines try to mesh. Whether the new media shifts at the NewsHour are a result of progressive thinking – or merely survival – I think is irrelevant. In the current media climate, any steps that do not hold fast to the conventional broadcast model should be seen as progressive, simply because they are not status quo, or (worse) trying to regress to the sunnier times of media monopoly.
Basically, people are consuming the news differently. The NewsHour has always been able to cut through the media static to report solidly on essential issues, and their decision to more fully integrate multimedia elements and web-based pieces into their broadcast model is one that I’ll be watching with interest.
The NewsHour will launch their new website on December 3rd, and the new iteration of the NewsHour with Jim Lehrer (re-branded as PBS NewsHour) will debut on December 7th. Perhaps it, like the NewsHour’s coverage itself, will be a litmus test that other news organizations can learn from.
Super-Meta: digital image of a digital image of a digital image
I recently jumped into the shallow-end of the video camera market, picking up a Kodak Zi8 pocket-sized video camera. The Zi8 is similar to the flip cameras that journos were raving about a short time ago, except the Zi8 can record in full HD quality, has both macro and landscape settings, and has an external microphone jack – which is a major advantage for journalists using such a small piece of gear.
There are several reviews online that rave about the Zi8; however, my own experience with the camera has been mixed, and I’ve yet to see a review that mentions the issues I’ve come across.
For me, the biggest negative is that the Zi8 camera shoots in H264 (read: Quicktime’s .MOV format), which works seamlessly with Apple’s iMovie editing suite, but causes a complete horror show for most Windows users.
I have used Vegas Video on my PC for awhile now, but the raw files from the Zi8 wouldn’t work with Vegas unless they were format-converted first (to MP4 or AVI), and more often than not, this conversion would then cause Vegas to crash. I have heard this same story repeated online by many other Windows / Vegas users, and each has a ten-step workaround to just get the footage from their camera to work with Windows. Yikes.
This frustrating conversion-then-crash loop went on for a few weeks for me as well, but I recently switched from Sony’s Vegas to Avid’s Pinnacle software suite, and am happy to report that Pinnacle recognizes the raw files and works with .MOV files much like iMovie does – very simply and cleanly – just drag, drop and start editing.
This H264 compatibility issue is an important one for Windows users to know before they buy the Zi8: their usual editing software may not play nice with the Zi8, and they may have to deal with techno headaches to simply edit their videos.
The other important point to note is that the Zi8 ships with out-of-date firmware, and requires an upgrade to resolve tracking issues, low-light streaking, and a subtle (but bothersome) high-frequency sound in the audio recording. The firmware update is simple, but can not be done by just plugging the Zi8 into your PC – it requires a card reader (odd, given that the Zi8 has USB ports). So if your laptop does not have a built-in card reader, you’ll have to buy one to do the critical firmware upgrade and get the most out of your Zi8.
Having switched editing software, and upgraded the firmware, I was finally able to test the Zi8′s capabilities.
The footage is pretty impressive for a pocket-camera (and a budget one, at that). From the recommended distances, the image quality is sharp and the audio from the built-in mic is passable for web broadcast. The Zi8 only offers a 4x digital zoom, and the quality drops off noticeably with each interval. Also, like all pocket video-cameras, the low-light functionality is a little grainy.
One disadvantage of the Zi8, is that while there is an external microphone jack, there is no accompanying headphone jack on the unit. This means that audio levels have to be monitored via a little bar-chart indicator, or upon playback through the Zi8′s tiny speaker. Neither is ideal for checking levels, especially given that the Zi8′s microphone input is particularly “hot” and requires external mics to be carefully adjusted to find a balance between frequency response and outright digital clipping. So that’s a challenge for journos and media junkies alike, but with trial and error, good results can be captured.
Here are two videos I did to show the “macro” and “landscape” settings on the Zi8:
The Zi8 is pretty inexpensive – about $200 Canadian – and can shoot in full HD (720p, 720p/60 fps, and 1080p), and offers both a “macro” setting for close-up and arty filming, and a “landscape” setting that uses its fixed-focus lens. Coupled with the external mic jack and the high-quality footage, in the right hands it can be an attractive prosumer-level device.
I think as more people experiment with the unit, and work out DIY microphone rigs or DIY lens conversions, the results will improve and we’ll begin seeing some very cool multimedia pieces created with the Zi8. The price point and feature set is perfect for most citizen / freelance journos and cash-strapped media outlets to test drive the unit and see how it performs in a variety of settings.
Inexpensive, small footprint, two lens settings, HD-quality, external microphone jack, image stabilization, face-recognition, pretty slick technology.
H264 format problematic for Windows users, no headphone jack, firmware updates require card reader, less-than-ideal zoom & low-light features.
Ultimately, I would recommend the Kodak Zi8 for guerrilla multimedia journalists and / or digital storytellers because of its ease of use and image quality. There are a few hurdles to jump through to get your footage to an upload-ready state, but avoiding the format-conversion carousel and testing out the unit’s limitations can help you capture the events you want, cleanly and easily.
I have posted before about how much more progressive the UK has been in its adoption and development of multimedia journalism, and today found another example.
Whether through examples like the Guardian’s new media content, the way that UK-based media outlets have embraced the reciprocal loop of feedback with their readership, or the general acceptance of multimedia journalism becoming more ubiquitous, there seems to be a greater integration of multimedia journalism into the wider fabric of society in the UK than we see here in North America (and great deal deal more than we see in Canada, currently).
On that front, Journalism.co.uk posted today about Skillset (a training body for the UK creative media industry) offering multimedia training bursaries for freelance journalists. The inclusion of freelancers is probably a very astute business move given the current economy, but as a freelancer I must say that I am jealous that the opportunities for high-quality, multimedia skillset upgrades exists so readily in the UK and so rarely here in Canada.
These training opportunities seem to mirror the level of acceptance of the shift to new media content in the wider media. Which is to say, in Canada, media outlets are largely still in a holding pattern – debating how multimedia journalism will evolve and impact us all – while other countries adopt new techniques and narratives, and even offer professional training to push the craft further.
For a country as vast as Canada, and that formerly had one of the most advanced telecommunications networks in the world (alas, not any more), seeing the multimedia opportunities in foreign media is doubly frustrating.
So much of the emerging wired world (and web!) is so highly designed that we sometimes lose sight of the substance in all that style.
This morning, I spent some quality time on Multimedia Shooter and was directed to the short films of William Hoffman. His work is a revelation to me, as it pulls at the edges of fiction and non-fiction, and creates a momentary pocket where the real subject matter seems to be our shared humanity. What a gift, to be directed to something that makes you feel more you while simultaneously feeling so everyone else.
I recommend checking out Hoffman’s Moments and Parabolas pieces as a great intro to his work, but perhaps the Everyone Forever Now series would be the most journalistic option for Fauna Corp readers.
Finally, you could have a look at this post to read a bit about Multimedia Shooter, and a few more multimedia journalism websites that I think are totally indispensable. Each shows that style is great, but style plus substance is a combination that puts us in touch with the deeper truths about our selves.
Like a great many Canadians, I am deeply effected by Remembrance Day. Like millions of others, my family was touched, turned and torn by WWII, and in some ways the vivid memories of what my parents saw have been passed on to me and altered how I see the world.
While the timeline does re-purpose the same photos several times over (odd, given the archives the Guardian must have at its disposal), the information is solid and the break-out articles by George Orwell, Edward Murrow, etc., provide an eye witness context we seldom receive from our vantage point in history.
The Guardian timeline is recommended by Fauna Corporation, not only because of its journalistic / new media integrity, but because of its ability to remind us of the sacrifices our soldiers made for freedom.
Feeling old and rusty? Maybe you need some new tools…
When the media machine spat me out at the start of the new year, “inviting” me to return to the world of freelancing, I spent a fair bit of time researching the resources available to journalists who were transitioning to multimedia skill-sets. I am certainly not a noob, but as many of my readers will attest, there’s always more to learn. In my searching, again and again, I came upon posts from Mindy McAdam’s blog.
McAdams also began a series of pieces aimed squarely at journos who were trying to come to terms with new tools and techniques that were previously foreign to the newsroom. The series was called the Reporter’s Guide to Multimedia Proficiency, or RGMP, and McAdams has just collected the posts together in one PDF document, available for free download.
Visit Mindy McAdam’s site (http://mindymcadams.com/) to check out the depth of her work, and download the RGMP PDF while you are at it. McAdams has provided translations into Spanish and German as well for international audiences.
The RGMP guide is highly recommended by Fauna Corporation.
When speaking about the future, it seems that 5 years is the most popular milestone for people. Not far enough off to suggest silver hover-cars and jet packs, yet distant enough that we’ll accept some fantastic possibilities (especially if we consider Moore’s Law and it’s rate of acceleration), the 5 year plan allows us to see the road immediately ahead and plan for it.
The unfathomable future – Suddenly Fathomable!
This past week I found two informative pieces about the future of journalism that suggested what trends will become important for the media in the next 5 years. While everyone can predict the future, and every megalomaniac can build a 5-year plan, I thought these pieces were great food for thought for multimedia journos.
The first piece comes from (the awesome) ReadWriteWeb site, and features a brief excerpt of an interview with Eric Schmidt, the CEO of Google. The 6-minute segment discusses the role of video, non-English language communications, social media and bandwidth in the coming age, and also offers a fascinating look at how Google predicts media trends (non-separation between consumer and enterprise applications, for instance).
The second piece about the future of the web comes to my attention from Will Sullivan’s Journerdism site, and he draws it in from Noupe. Noupe’s piece asks “where will the web be in 5 years” and then presents 15 trends to consider. The Noupe article is pretty detailed, with examples, pundits (both pro- and con-), further reading and what I think are some pretty hilarious photos in support of their arguments.
Highlights include a prediction that consumers will gravitate toward web experience as the centre of their media world, where social media, net-based entertainment, mobile apps, and collaborative tools all become a core set of entertainment, education and creative tools for consumers. Essentially, the web (and its apps) will become stronger and we, in turn, will become more fluid in our integration of this experience into our lives.
While not Nostradamus or the Mayan Calendar (shout out to the 2012-ers out there!), the 5-years-into-the-future predictions are popular, and the two pieces cited above contain some excellent ideas to consider. Part of considering the future of journalism is intrinsically linked to considering the future of all consumer and enterprise media, and the articles in Noupe or ReadWriteWeb offer a great road map for next-gen-journos.
When I began keeping this blog on evolving multimedia journalism, I felt truly lost in a sea of websites. Sure, I found a few sites that carried some multimedia journalism, but the pieces they carried usually felt like afterthoughts to text or video-only coverage. Adding to the confusion, different journos and media outlets had different names for multimedia content (Visual storytelling? Cross-media content? Digital Journalism?) and no real agreement on what constitutes the content in question.
However, through repeated searching and a lot of late-night-reading, I’ve discovered a few sites that I return to again and again for inspiration and to be moved by excellent content. Some of these sites offer a showcase of cross-media / multimedia content, others primarily promote Audio Slideshows (my favourite ‘new’ form of journalism) and some simply offer instructions and suggestions to multimedia journalists looking to expand or transition their skills.
Here, then, is my list of the five most indispensable multimedia journalism websites operating today. I recommend you check them all out as a barometer of the industry and our place in it as journalists. And leave a comment if you have other suggestions!
Multimedia Muse:Multimedia Muse is a solid multimedia showcase site, with a daily round-up of photojournalism-based pieces. The founders remain anonymous, but admit to being photographers trying to get increased exposure for great content. As an example, check out Liz O. Baylen’s excellent piece for the LA Times on pedophilia.
Innovative Interactivity:Innovative Interactivity is a very deep site, offering news, tools, tips and showcases of multimedia journalism. My suggestion is to browse through the “categories” on the right-side of the landing page, which offer a way to filter and find the content you are after (for example, training opportunities, advice or interactive examples, etc.).
duckrabbit: Most people who are interested in photojournalism and / or multimedia content eventually find duckrabbit. The team of David White and Benjamin Chesterton produce their own work for media outlets and Not-for-Profits, but they also host consistently lively debate about the nature of multimedia content and what we should be doing as journalists. Their blog is highly recommended reading.
Multimedia Shooter: Another multimedia round-up site, with a very clean layout and excellent content. Multimedia Shooter presents tips, news, commentary and examples of the best of multimedia journalism being produced today. Wonderful site, worthy of repeat visits.
Interactive Narratives: Longtime readers will know my love for the Interactive Narratives site. I have found some stunning pieces through IN (particularly the LA Times’ piece on the Mexican Drug War), and as their title suggests, their showcased content tends to focus on the narrative, and human, side of the journalistic practice.
There are obviously other sites that present learning and training opportunities for multimedia journalists, or highlight some high-quality pieces, but these five are the ones I find myself returning to. I hope they offer you some inspiration and education.
On a quiet news day, if you focus and listen carefully – over the noise barrage from 24hr news services, the hand-wringing sounds of millions of journalists decrying their lot, and the scratching of next-gen journalists at the doors of mainstream media – you can hear a small murmur of information about digital tablets.
Digital tablets, or Tablet PCs, are pen- or touchscreen-interacted computers that emphasize portability and readability, and they’ve been the answer for mainstream newspapers for years now, whether they realize it or not.
The ability to have a small, newspaper-esque (really, more ‘zine-sized) piece of gear that allows user interactivity (ie: hyperlinks, comments boxes, multimedia assets) is the boon the newspaper industry has needed for many years. Newspaper tablets allow a decent viewing size for content, a departure from the phenomenal cost of print production and distribution, and offer a sophisticated multimedia vehicle with a clean, familiar interface.
An article on The Street today discusses that the New York Times is investigating Tablet PCs, mostly in preparation of Apple’s foray into the field (something that, until very recently, Apple has denied any interest in doing). While I disagree with hyping one brand over another (particularly with prototypes), it does seem wise for newspapers to wait until Apple has entered the fray, given how they tend to be game-changers with portable, personal media devices.
Whether these products roll out in 2010 or beyond (and my thinking is we’ll be seeing them sooner rather than later), there’s little doubt that they will shake up the way we consume media – much as the iPod changed how we consume music (and, uh, media).
While I don’t think the news media should try to adapt to every new piece of technology that is released, I think there’s evidence that Tablet PCs will have strong consumer uptake. The smarter newspapers would do well to plan for this revolution now (as the NYTimes, Washington Post, and a few others are doing), rather than waiting for the change in consumer habits to dictate newspaper development.
This could be the make-or-break situation the industry’s been expecting during it’s long, slow decline.
In the media switch-up, journalists train themselves
Probably a surprise to no one, but a study cited today in Journalism.co.uk states that European Journalists are producing more original content online, but have mostly self-taught themselves the relevant skills to do so.
Fully 67% of those journalists polled from the UK, Belgium, France, Germany, Holland, Spain and Sweden said they taught themselves digital skills, whereas only one-in-nine received training from their media organizations.
Despite the above statistics, and the fact that the journalists feel great pressure to produce more content while facing down concerns about job and industry security, 84% of the journos polled said they were “as happy or happier” in their current roles.
And this fact speaks to something I’ve been saying for awhile now – that innovative narrative and evolving multimedia pieces offer something to both the journalist and the audience, and that these mutual benefits create a feedback loop between the two.
New, layered pieces allow journalists to explore stories in new ways – through visuals, sound design, text, video, etc. – and audiences are, in turn, freshly engaged by these pieces in ways that they have not been (lately) with the usual text-on-page model. This engagement brings audiences back to multimedia pieces (and finds new, web-savvy audiences) and, again, engages these audiences for news outlets.
However, the fact that these journalists are forced to train themselves to create these new / stronger relationships, and the fact that so few traditional media outlets are participating in networked journalism, speaks volumes about traditional media’s role in the evolving media landscape.
Which is to say, traditional media is clearly benefiting from new ideas and storytelling forms in journalism, but it is not doing an especially good job of fostering, stewarding or seeking out these new journalistic techniques.
This report also shows a trend that my own research as shown – that journalists, by and large, have a good sense of where things are going and are trying to lead the way, and are not to blame for most of the turmoil in the industry.
A little over a week ago, PBS’s MediaShift website carried an interview with Jim Gaines, who is part of the team behind Flyp Media – one of the few, truly online magazines that I’ve encountered (ie: a ‘magazine’ allowing consumers to interact with a story in a variety of ways – through interactive elements, graphics, maps, video, still images, audio pieces, etc.).
Gaines’ interview addresses a lot of the concerns that I’ve heard expressed by magazine professionals over the years, but more importantly, it speaks to an optimism and frontier mentality that is now influencing multimedia journalism – a belief that forms can be blended and hybridized to create truly cross-media narratives. Exciting! Also, a little intimidating for journos frantically adding new skillsets.
As an example of cross-media content, check out Flyp Media’s piece on Yoko Ono and John Baldessari being honoured at the Venice Biennale. This piece combines typical print magazine side-bar elements (such as timelines and backstory pieces) with text, photos, videos, audio and interactive, mouse-over triggers to enrich the content.
While I am wary of touting any media resource as the be-all-end-all, I have been very impressed with Flyp Media’s understanding of our changing media consumption habits, and was pleased to read PBS’s MediaShift interview with Gaines as it offered context to my experience with Flyp.
NOTE: Despite my best intentions, this post began as a long-form essay on the changing nature of print magazines and the history of digital web magazines, my involvement with them, hurdles for the industry, the development of cave painting, time, breathing, etc. I cut out 90% of that rant, but may save it for another time as it all feels relevant but perhaps not critical to this post.