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TMCnet Feature

February 20, 2014

User-Generated Video Reshapes the News Business: For Better or Worse?


Having already forever changed the gathering and presentation of news and noise, the Web continues to provide us the most stirring and difficult footage to attain—the protests, insurrections and violence associated with civil unrest and upheaval in far-flung countries working to thwart such efforts.

Live streaming footage of bloody battles between citizens and an embattled government in Kiev,     Ukraine Wednesday morning is but the latest example of the powerful value of online video that dates back to the original uprising in Tehran, Iran in 2009 that showed the world the might of the media.

As is often the case in times of extreme turmoil overseas, the party in power attempts to contain the traditional media by shutting down TV and radio stations and closing borders. Protestors made history by sending online video to the rest of the web world using simple enabling products from pioneer Livestream.

After a few days, the U.S. broadcast networks made the video from Tehran on Livestream part of their breaking news reports, crediting the sources and shocking  a nation that had little idea what was raging on for days – attempted regime change – in the streets of Iran’s capitol.

Protests rage on in Kiev. Image via The Moscow Times

Back to the Present

Largely insulated from dire developments overseas because of ruling parties, logistics, costs and even language barriers, Americans who want coverage of no-access relevant events on an international basis still rely heavily online streamers roughly five full years after the initial Tehran uprising.

U.S. news organizations realize the challenges and make every effort to take in-country created footage from smartphones and low-end video cameras and deliver it to the American masses. If a picture is worth a thousand words, a video may be worth a million words and dollars.

News without Borders

Livestream, ustream and a few others empowered and equipped individuals and organizations to deliver some of the most important content regardless of barriers to a worldwide audience. This was accomplished using simple software and services and web destinations on which users could create and broadcast a channel of video content by themselves if needed.

By working to democratize the gathering, production and delivery/sharing of the most coveted content Livestream and others are providing an American audience still starving for relevant international news an alternative to spot coverage if any on major news networks.

Changing the economics for lightening logistics for news operations in the U.S. should be enough, but a growing number of American turn to the BBC and Al Jazeera for more focused coverage of news outside the 50 states. U.S. broadcasters frequently include video from these sources to fill the small spots they have for international news.

This has likely resulted in those seeking impactful international news turning from the big U.S. broadcast networks to the Web.

Lowering the Bar

Five years later, online video and user-generated content play a larger than ever role in news/noise-casts with smartphone equipped citizens sending in video of car wrecks, house fires, altercations of all kinds, entertainers-gone-wild and even pictures of how much snow they got in the latest storm.

But while the role and use of this content has expanded, the “events” covered and reported this was are of little direct impact to anyone beyond those filmed. News you can use takes a big back seat to noise that only make the cut because it has a compelling video that is quickly forgotten.

If these events aren’t local, it’s common for news outlets to roll footage of events anywhere in the U.S. The old saying “if it bleeds, it leads,” has apparently been replaced with “if it has got video feeds, it leads.”

Home Sweet Home

Despite fighting an uphill battle for time with crime and court news, entertainment coverage, weather multi-part weather forecasts and injury events, there continues to be more than a few major destinations for user/citizen-generated video content with mass relevance.

But whom would have thought five years ago when we saw live real new from Tehran that had a ripple effect throughout the region that these sources would be YouTube, live video portals and late night programming on Comedy Central?

The Bottom Line

News channels and those providing newscasts would be wise to integrated relevant and impactful content into telecasts or risk eventually being marginalized in this important category by outlets, especially online ones, that don’t bother with the noise.

This is a real threat when you consider that young demographics are increasingly accustomed to using online outlets for information than they are watching newscasts on pay-TV newscasts. Simply take a look at research firm’s forecasts of “cord nevers,” those that will never pay for cable/telco/satellite TV subscriptions.

What has taken place since the turmoil in Tehran way back in 2009 is the delivery and evolution of affordable software, service, platforms and sites that democratize video capture, broadcast and monetization for individuals and forward-thinking groups around the world looking to keep the far-flung masses informed and abreast of big developments outside their local or national region.




Edited by Alisen Downey


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