Gear of a Multimedia Journalism Student Part 2: Audio Gear

The Gear that Got Me Through the First Year of a Multimedia Journalism Program: Part 2 Audio Gear

zoom H4n

Read Part 01 of this gear review: Gear of a Multimedia Journalism Student, which focuses on video equipment.

Honestly, I did not purchase audio equipment until half way through my second semester.  I did not foresee the need for any of the audio equipment listed below but I can say that during the course of this semester I learned that quality audio is just as important as quality video in storytelling.

1. Zoom H4n 31IB-HEanfL–When faced with buying an Audio Recorder, my two main choices were the Marantz 661 and the Zoom H4n.  The Marantz was a little bit outside of my budget.  Update: I’ve been playing around with a Marantz 660 and the sound quality is great and I like some of the extra options but right now as a student I really have no immediate need for fancy options.

I went with the Zoom and I’ve been very happy with the decision.  It’s a solid recorder and I love that I have the option to mount the Zoom H4n onto my Canon T2i!  There are a lot of other options out there but I wouldn’t recommend that you get a recorder without any of these features:  xlr input, option for phantom power, long battery life, and recording in .wav and .mp3 formats

Pros: Affordable, it’s loaded with all the important options, mountable to my Cannon T2i, xlr input with the option for phantom power, great battery life.
Cons: Menu and buttons could use some usability testing (but that’s just nitpicking cause I’m very happy with my Zoom)

audio technica mic2. Audio-Technica AT8010 Omnidirectional Condenser Microphone – It’s the other half to my Zoom H4n.  There are so many microphones out there and an omni-directional mic is a good starter mic.  It was recommended to my friend and classmate Assia Boundaoui, who took this microphone to Egypt with her to report on the revolution.  You can check out the stuff she recorded with this mic here.

Pro:  xlr, option for phantom power, great sound, great size
Cons: because it’s an omni-directional mic, you have to be very careful of picking up unwanted sound.  You have to learn how to position a mic.


– A pair of over the ear headphones or a really good pair of in-ear headphones.
– SD Cards
– Batteries
– A desktop mic stand
– a short and a long xlr cable (I went with the 3 ft)

Here’s a price round-up.  Like I said before, I had a very tight budget for school, and I’m really happy with my gear.

MacBook Pro~$2400

Canon T2i body only (price now) ~$550

Canon 18-200mm 3.5f-5.5f lens ~$600

Canon Macro lens – 60 mm – F/2.8 ~$450

Canon 50mm 1.8 ~$100

Manfrotto Tripod and Head~$200

Zoom H4n: ~$299

Audio Technica Mic ~$150

SD cards ~$100 for 3 different cards I have

Hard drives: ~$300

______ Total: ~$5,149

If you missed the first part of this 2 part series, check out: Gear of a Multimedia Journalism Student Part 1: Video Gear

As always, I would love to hear about some of your gear! Leave me a comment if you have questions about my program or the equipment I chose to use.

Hyperlocal News

A New of World of Journalism, Sustainable Business Models, and the $30B Local Ad Market.

A New of World of Journalism, Sustainable Business Models, and the $30B Local Ad Market.

With the steep decline in advertising revenue for hard copy newspapers and increase in expenses, the world of journalism is undergoing massive changes in short order including the advent and surge in hyperlocal news. As everyone from the largest of media companies to independent local hyperlocal news sites seek to capitalize on the $30B local advertising market, which hyperlocal business models are succeeding and why? How will hyperlocal news change the world of journalism?

Jim Schachter, Associate Managing Editor of The New York Times/

Among the issues discussed at the event:

  • Why Hyperlocal News is poised to become a major business very soon.
  • The changing journalism business model. How we got where we are and what does the future hold what kinds of companies will be winners, what business models, incumbents versus upstarts.
  • How technological advances have caused profound changes in the world of journalism and what the future of technology might hold for the profession of journalism, including mobile devices/iPad and including economy of scale in content and ad sales fueled by technology.
  • How will the changing world of journalism impact advertising and marketing for businesses throughout the country and the world?
  • How will recent and developing transactions affect this space (such as Groupon’s $6B offer from Google, rejected)?

Warren Webster, CEO,

Panel Moderator:
– Stephen J. Balog, Chief Investment Officer, Executive Vice President, Beacon Trust

Panel Speakers:
– Jim Schachter, Associate Managing Editor of The New York Times/
– Michael Shapiro, Founder and CEO,
– Warren Webster, President of Patch Media
– Camilla Cho, VP, Business Development of (acquired by AOL / about a week after the event)

Michael Shapiro, Founder and CEO,

Camilla Cho, VP, Business Development of

Audience Q&A: Hyperlocal News

Tackable Pins Down The Future Of Social News

Tackable hopes to cut through that rubbish to create a social network that delivers news you can use.


Tackable community manager Jonathan Stypula shows off the app to Spartan Daily’s staff

After seven years in the news business, 28-year old journalist Luke Stangel grew increasingly discouraged by the amount of time it took to track down witnesses and information for stories.

“I can’t really explain to you how obsessed I became with live information. I’d wake up every morning with the uneasy feeling that I’d somehow missed something big while I was asleep,” recalls Stangel, who covered crime for the Palo Alto Daily News. “It was then that I first started thinking about how to get live information from the public to reporters.”

Inspired, Stangel in early 2010 approached Ed Lucero, founder of the digital marketing agency AGENDA, and asked him to come aboard as CEO, and together the men enlisted Steven Woo, at the time an engineer at game making company Blizzard, to be their Chief Technology Officer. And thus Tackable, a social network that maps user-generated local news, was born.

The trio initially funded Tackable themselves, and over the course of preliminary meetings met Jeff Herr, the vice president of interactive software at the California Newspapers Partnership, a group of 60 newspapers, most of them published by giant MediaNews Group, owner of The San Jose Mercury News, The Denver Post, and dozens of other newspapers. Herr saw the potential for Tackable’s growth wasted no time working Tackable into their plans.

“MediaNews is incubating us inside the San Jose Mercury News, as we finish a special, Tackable-powered project for them,” explains Stangel. “It’s a fairly unique arrangement — we’re building a special version of Tackable which features MediaNews content and they’re paying us development fees, which have allowed us to expand the team.” Other than the MediaNews backing, Tackable has no other investors, although anticipate closing a Series A investment by the end of the year.

In addition to its MNG partnership, Tackable has since launched two beta versions, one for The Spartan Daily, San Jose University’s student newspaper, and another as an Apple iPhone app, and has started discussions with a number of other organizations, including the Journal Register Company, which operates 10 papers across the country. Outlets in Australia, the United Kingdom and Portugal have also expressed interest.

Only about a year old, Tackable now employs a total of ten people, most of whom hail from the gaming industry. Asked why, Stangel explains that Tackable not only wants to deliver news, but evolve the social media world, as well.

“Tackable is — on some level — a real-world social game,” he says. “Our early challenge has been to understand why people would want to share live photos with the public, and how we can encourage a new social behavior. Game designers have a lot of experience in that realm, and we’ve studied successful social games to figure out how to power our platform. It’s a different way of looking at a social network.”


An example of the Spartan Daily‘s Tackable content

As they grew, the Tackable team also started tackling traditional start-up hurdles, like overtaking potential competition, including Australian app Snapr, which offers a similar service. But Stangel insists Tackable trumps Snapr, because his program allows users to curate their news. “Snapr just puts pictures on a map with no differentiation. We have chronological, geotagged and caption-search filters that let the public and press on certain beats to gather hyperlocal information faster.”

And then there are inevitable comparisons to another live feed social network, Twitter. Again, Stangel’s not concerned. “Tackable differs from Twitter because we’re news-oriented, rather than rambling thoughts.” notes Stangel. “We prefer objectivity over subjective ideas.” And his approach is far more efficient, he says, because it favors better reporting over a ceaseless, unedited steam.

“Tackable’s power comes from both the user-generated content,” contends Stangel. “Tackable users don’t need to search for real-time media, because it’s organized by time and location on a public map. Fewer pieces of live media will get lost in the ether, and we’ll be able to experience what’s happening right now in any corner of the globe.”

Stangel and his team also have to hammer out content-sharing agreements with partner papers, and figure out how to expand beyond captioned photos, an obstacle that reveals Tackable’s greatest challenge: building the public and press’ respective trust.

To that end, Stangel and his team are establishing restrictions to keep Tackable infallible, including requirements that pictures be uploaded directly to avoid photo shopping and having people sign in via Facebook to confirm their identity.

Once a user establishes their reliability, they will have more freedom to choose specific assignments, like photographing a local event, or can submit “news flashes” they deem share-worthy, and earn redeemable “karma points” in the process.

As for monetizing, Stangel says his team’s looking into microadvertising, in which businesses create and publish a short-term classified ad, such as a two-hour spot to promote a sale, and are also thinking about charging companies to create their own brand-specific assignments.

Stangel adds that the team prefers Facebook, Twitter and conferences to spread their message. “We’ve tried to keep our project under wraps, and have not done any proactive media outreach so far. Our policy has been to accept all interview requests, but to do very little proactive PR work ahead of the big launch.”

While Stangel may sound like he has everything figured out, he’s sure not to get too confident. “It’s a rookie mistake to believe that you know everything. The process of challenging your ideas is very valuable,” he asserts. “Tackable would be a much weaker concept today if we weren’t open to suggestions.”

Stangel cites friend and venture capitalist Craig Jones as one of his greatest advisers. “Craig was the first to point out that we had a classic chicken and the egg problem: We needed a lot of users to generate compelling content, and we needed compelling content to attract a lot of users. That comment set us on a different path, and prompted us to launch with a hyperlocal focus, with strong news partners.”

Now that the company is on it’s way, Tackable’s aiming high: “Our internal goal is to have 100 newspapers and news outlets using the platform on a daily basis by the summer. We’re currently about halfway there. We’d like to have 500+ newspapers on the platform and 500,000 active users by this time next year.”

If Tackable meets their mark, our news worlds may never be the same.

Startup Tools

Startups need tools to organize themselves. Here’s what Tackable uses behind the scenes.

  • Customer Relationship Management: Custom software.
  • Accounting: Quickbooks.
  • Project Management: Assembla
  • Cloud Computing: Amazon
  • Internal Communication: Google Sites/Gmail
  • Site Analytics: Google Analytics for the site and Flurry for in-app stats.
  • Email Marketing: MailChimp

What’s a Journalist?

Let us introduce you to a can of worms: Are citizen journalists and bloggers real journalists? Can they be?

Over on the Future Journalism Project blog we were asked the following question: I’m a journalism student currently working on an essay where the question is “Are citizen journalists and bloggers ‘real journalists’?” Do you have any views on this?

Our Qualified Response

Oh dear, you’re really opening up a can of worms.

Here’s what I think I think.

But before I think, let me back up and ask, what is this creature you speak of? What is this “real journalist”?

Is it a paid professional who ventures out into the world, reports what’s happening, verifies that reporting, distills and concretizes the results and publishes it through some means for consumption by some audience?

Better, does that professional need to be working for an established organization that somehow defines its mission as “news-gathering”?

It could be. And time once was when only well financed organizations had the means of production and distribution to make it so. And so it was.

But what then do we make of the rest of us, the rabble with our blogs and tweets and podcasts and such? Maybe we’re part of an organization but the organization is small. Maybe we plan to make money at it but we don’t quite do so yet. But maybe we do all that stuff the paid professional at the established organization does. Are we then journalists? And is payment a prerequisite for professionalism? Or are we just amateurs playing a pick-up game of journalism basketball?

Or what of the media teams at advocacy organizations such as non-profits and NGOs that can now have media teams because media is in the hands of all and peer production can be very, very powerful? 

Some say these people can’t be real journalists because they’re advocates working for advocacy organizations. Where’s the objectivity, these people say. But what then of journalists who work for partisan news organizations? Aren’t they just advocates too in different colored clothing?

I don’t ask these questions to be clever. Instead I ask because they’re questions that are being asked. 

And if you asked me really and truly, what is a “real journalist,” I hedge and hedge again and then paraphrase former US Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart when he wrote about trying to define porn: “I shall not today attempt further to define the kinds of material I understand to be journalism, but I know it when I see it.”

So let me get back to what I think I think. 

Never before have we had such complete and total access to the ignorance, depravity, ugliness, mundanity and folly of others than we do now.

And never before have we had access to the wit, wisdom, intelligence, humor and warmth of the human spirit as we do now.

It’s this latter access that enthuses me. The ability to read, watch, listen to and interact with people who have deep, deep knowledge on discrete subjects is something that perpetually amazes and gives me great hope for the information age we are in. I’m optimistic that way.

Are all these people journalists? Or “real journalists” as the case may be?

Most likely not. But they are citizens. And this is much more important. And they often commit acts of journalism as they go about being citizens and then share that with us through their online lives.

This could be on a personal blog, or it could be by submitting material to a CNN iReport, sifting through document data dumps with news organization like the Guardian, or posting videos and photos and short messages about what’s happening on the street in Egypt and Iran and Tunisia and Yemen and Algeria. Or, less dramatically, your backyard.

Last fall I invited Rachel Sterne to guest lecture a class I teach. Rachel is currently the Chief Digital Officer of New York City. At the time she was the founder of a global hyperlocal news site called Ground Report. This is what I wrote about her thoughts at that time:

While readily admitting that her network of reporters can’t compete with mainstream outlets like the Times on access and persistent, overall journalism quality, she does outline how citizen reporting such as that done on Ground Report brings entirely new perspectives and voices to the news cycle. In that way, she thinks publications like Ground Report can function as early warning systems in our future journalism environment.

I hope these stray ideas give you food for thought as you write your own. As I said, your question really opens up a can of worms.

Here’s another one for you: what’s the difference between a reporter and a journalist?


Future Journalism Project Does NYC

Reporting from New York on disruption and opportunity in American journalism — a short video update on who we’ve been talking to and what you can expect to see.

Over the past few months we’ve been exploring current disruptions and opportunities in American journalism by interviewing great minds about their thoughts on — and efforts in — a remarkably fluid and changing landscape. The video above introduces some of whom we’ve been talking to.

Following the FJP

Project Background

Our goal is to launch a Web site in early 2011 that houses these interviews so that those interested in the future of American news media have a deep resource through which they can explore changing newsrooms, business models, education and the stakes all this has on democracy itself.

Interested in Collaborating? We are Too.

A good place to start is joining us at our Tumblr blog at A few of us are posting there now. A few more would be great. If you’re passionate about the changing journalism landscape and want to join in, send us an email and tell us a bit about yourself.

We’re also looking for hacks and hackers of all stripes:

Sponsorship Opportunities

Interested in being a Future Journalism Project Sponsor? We are too!

Contact us and we’ll let you know how we plan to integrate Sponsors across the Web Site, the Podcast Series and feature length documentary planned for 2011.

You can learn more about the scope of the project here (PDF).

News and Updates

You can follow our progress on Tumblr or on Twitter (@futureJproject), or send us an email at

Video Still: Heading for the Scrap Heap by John O’Connell via Flickr. Used with permission.

Citizen Journalism as Early Warning System

Ground Report Founder and CEO Rachel Sterne talks citizen journalism and an interesting question arises: in our evolving journalism landscape, can sites such as hers serve as early warning systems to mainstream media organizations?

Are citizen journalists more agile than their professional counterparts, often breaking news before the big boys have had time to react?

About this Screencast

This screencast is from a course I teach at Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs that focusses on how NGO’s, non-profits, governmental agencies and citizen journalists use Internet and mobile technologies to communicate with core constituencies.

Future lectures as the semester progresses will be posted here.

The answer is quantitative and anecdotal rather than qualitative, and looks in part on how people use social tools such as Twitter and Facebook to report on the world around them. It also includes content produced for citizen journalism sites such as upstarts EveryBlock, Global Voices and Neighborhoodr as well as mainstream initiatives such as CNN’s iReport and AOL’s high profile Patch network of community news sites.

Social Web followers are familiar with the fact that the first image of US Airways Flight 1549 in the Hudson River appeared on Twitter; Facebook’s use by activists to report on protests in Moldova, Colombia, Venezuela and elsewhere; and Flickr, YouTube, Twitter and other social networks as prime channels for the world to learn what was happening in the streets after the contested 2009 Iranian elections.

More recently, Jose L. Leyva wrote about how citizens in Monterrey, Mexico are taking to social networks— and creating new ones — in order to document drug cartel violence.

Twitter, Facebook and other online forums have also become a primary source of information in a society in which self-censorship and anonymity have become one resort for journalists covering the drug war to avoid threats by cartels or harassment by Mexican authorities. Social media platforms have also become a place in which people eager know what’s going on the streets can get real-time information.

Interesting too are anecdotes given by Rachel Sterne, Founder and CEO of Ground Report, a global citizen journalism site launched in 2006. Speaking to a class I teach at Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs, Rachel put her site head to head with the New York Times to demonstrate how her network of 9,000 reporters has broken news ranging from January 2008 suicide attacks in Peshawar to Albino killings in Tanzania.

While readily admitting that her network of reporters can’t compete with mainstream outlets like the Times on access and persistent, overall journalism quality, she does outline how citizen reporting such as that done on Ground Report brings entirely new perspectives and voices to the news cycle. In that way, she thinks publications like Ground Report can function as early warning systems in our future journalism environment.

This idea dovetails nicely with a conversation I had with Mitchell Stephens, Journalism Professor at NYU and author of A History of News, over the summer for the Future Journalism Project documentary I’m working on. At the time he said something counterintuitive that makes more sense as I’ve thought about it over time: Journalists, he said, have to get out of the news business.

By this he meant focussing less time on being a “reporter” telling the world about the daily events that are going on, and more time being a “journalist” contextualizing the significance of what is going on. In other words, in a social media landscape where we already know the who, what, where and when, journalists and news organizations need to harness their scarce resources on delivering the how and why.

Perhaps, as Rachel suggests, citizen journalism sites such as hers can increasingly fill the early warning reporting role. As she says in her presentation above, her contributors aren’t necessarily amateurs, they’re often journalists in their own countries or subject matter experts with deep knowledge of the specific verticals they’re writing about.

In Rachel’s screencast above, she talks about Ground Report, its founding, how it works and who it reaches. She also offers insight into the technical and sociological changes occurring across the the Social Media Landscape. The screencast and her slideshow are available for download below.

Download Files

Download this Screencast

Right Click (CTRL-click on a Mac) to Download.

Image Credit: James Nash via Flickr/Creative Commons.

San Francisco Postcard from the FJP

Greetings from the Future Journalism Project. We started filming in San Francisco and made our way around the Bay talking education, business models, journalism practice and journalism’s role in democracy. Here are a few minutes of what we found.

I was in San Francisco earlier this month working on the Future Journalism Project. This is a multiplatform documentary we recently announced.

Follow the FJP

For news and updates join me on Twitter.

Funny though, as I begin shooting interviews and talking to people, opportunities begin to expand. Or at least ideas of what’s possible do.

Before heading to San Francisco, the idea behind the Future Journalism Project was to create a feature length documentary and a Web site that holds all the source footage so that those interested can watch interviews with those we film in their entirety.

Now that I’m back and have discussed the project with ScribeLabs and producers here at ScribeMedia, we’re beginning to recognize that the opportunities are so much more.

Here’s what we’re now thinking. In addition to producing a traditional documentary, we want to explore the possible. This includes:

  • Dedicated Web Site: the Future Journalism Project Web site will hold video of all interviews conducted. Each interview will be edited down to a series of 4-6 minute segments organized by subject matter and presented in an interface similar to video-centric sites such as YouTube, Hulu and TED. The goal is to let site visitors explore the ideas of individuals and also dive deeply into specific topics as discussed from a variety of perspectives. Mechanisms for community interactions and content submissions will be in place so that these interviews seed an ongoing conversation.
  • Podcast Series: Each Future Journalism Project interview conducted by the producers will be made available and presented in its entirety as an audio podcast. Listeners can subscribe to the entire series or download podcasts with the interviewees they are most interested in hearing from.
  • The Book: A book of essays written by leading thinkers is planned to accompany the project. The subjects and themes explored will echo and expand upon the video content, with authors focusing on Journalism Education, Journalism Business Models, Changing Journalism Practices and Journalism and Democracy.

    The book will appear in both print and digital versions.

This may sound obnoxiously aspirational but the truth of the matter is that in this day and age there’s really no reason that the above shouldn’t be seen as starting points with pretty much any enterprise reporting activity, documentaries most definitely included.

With the technologies and services available to us it’s really just a matter of opening our minds to the possible and seizing opportunities as they present themselves.

Gear & Gadgets

Our San Francisco Gear Included:
• Camera: Sony EX1
• Lights: Lowel Tota-Lights
• Editing: Final Cut
• Filters: Red Giant
• Audio: Soundtrack Pro 
• Sound Design: Reason

What I’m doing may be near and dear to my heart but in the end it’s simply content. Open source platforms such as WordPress and Drupal will let me organize it, video service providers like Vimeo and Blip will let me present it, on demand publishers like Lulu will let me create books about it, iTunes lets me podcast it, Creative Commons lets me license it. Really, what more could a producer ask for?

These are the conversations we’re having back at the Labs, conversations guided by the opportunity of digital possibility.

That said, I hope you follow this project for two distinct reasons: one, journalism in the United States is at a crossroads and we hope to provide fodder for discussion and, two, our very open business model is something we believe in and think is applicable across most subject matter.

The video above include a fraction of the ideas we captured in San Francisco. Stay tuned as we continue our explorations.

About the Interviewees

While not everyone we talked to appear in the above video, in order of appearance those that do are:

  • Dave Cohn: Founder,
  • Dan Gillmor: Director, director of the Knight Center for Digital Media Entrepreneurship at Arizona State University’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication.
  • Ted Glasser: Professor of Communication, Stanford University. Co-author, Custodians of Conscience: Investigative Journalism and Public Virtue.
  • Richard Gingras: CEO, Salon Media Group.
  • Gabriel Sama: 2010 Knight Journalism Fellow, Stanford University.
  • Mark Luckie: Multimedia Producer, Center for Investigative Reporting. Creator, 10,000 Words.

Links go to a their Web sites and/or biographies.

Cover image: San Francisco Spectator by VancityAllie via Creative Commons/Flickr.

Job Opportunities with

We have freelance business reporting positions, as well as a few internships available, here at Pass it along.

We have a few opportunities here at

For recent journalism grads looking to work on documentaries and Web-based video projects, take a look at the first listing below.

For business reporters with proven track records covering either online Advertising or Internet / Mobile Technology and Startups, we have freelance opportunities. Both are also listed below.

To apply any of these positions, please email us with links to your work, links to online personas that further tells us about you (eg., a blog, Twitter, Delicious/Digg/etc account) and for business reporters, the type of stories you’d like to pursue.


ScribeLabs has openings for two summer interns to work on documentary projects through its publication

One such documentary is the Future Journalism Project. Information about it can be found here

The second will be announced shortly, and focuses on technology and culture.

Interns will focus on subject matter research, writing articles, interviewee outreach, and various stages of the film pre-production and production process.

The ideal candidate will have excellent writing and research capabilities, and be tenaciously organized, team oriented, excited to learn new skills and a general joy to work with.

Video shooting and editing abilities are preferred but not required.

To apply, use the email link above with “Interns” written in the subject field.


ScribeLabs is looking for a few good freelance business reporters to contribute to, a multimedia publication focusing on the business, technology and culture of digital media.

Contributors would write about online advertising in general, and video advertising and online publishing specifically. Weekly articles would be a mix of original reporting and media analysis.

Questions and themes we wish to explore include the business goals, results (brand lift, ROI, awareness), the technology used, the creative process and consumer feedback and response, that advertising and brand campaigns strive for and are — or are not — achieving.

If interested, please write to the email address above with “Business Reporter” in the subject field. Include a brief bio with links to your clips, resume and online persona (eg., blog, Twitter, etc.)

The ideal candidate has written for publications such as Ad Age, MediaPost, AdWeek, Brandweek, etc., or reported on the topic elsewhere, is enthusiastic about using audio and video in their reporting, and won’t shy away from appearing on camera for interviews with key opinion makers.

Openings are available immediately.


ScribeLabs is looking for a few good freelance business reporters to contribute to, its multimedia publication focusing on the business,technology and culture of digital media.

Contributors would write about technology startups and the disruptions and opportunities throughout the digital media landscape. Weekly articles would be a mix of original reporting and analysis.

If interested, please write to the email address above with “Business Reporter” in the subject field. Include a brief bio with links to your clips and online persona (eg., blog, Twitter, etc.)

The ideal candidate has a proven track record writing about business, companies and technology, is enthusiastic about using audio and video in their reporting, and won’t shy away from appearing on camera for interviews with key opinion makers.

Openings are available immediately.

The Future of Web Video Journalism

Web video journalism has come a long way over the past few years with media companies large and small now using it as a primary audience driver for their publications.’s Craig Duff explains his strategies for online video storytelling, and discusses the company’s initial foray onto the iPad.

Time once was that video was a bit player in the online journalism experience. As traditional print publications moved online they didn’t have the human resources or technical infrastructure to create great video storytelling. Add a lack of bandwidth for viewers to actually enjoy video if it did exist and you see why the medium was slow to take hold.

Sponsored by

Watch all interviews from Streaming Media East.

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With today’s explosion of online video storytelling it’s hard to believe that reality existed until only a few years ago.

Craig Duff, Director of Multimedia at, is and has been a Web video proponent now for years. His goal is true storytelling adapted to the realities of the Web and mobile as a medium.

His strategy, he says, can be found in Pat Benatar lyrics: Hit me with your best shot.

In other words, tell us upfront what the story is about and show us what it’s really like to live with the facts and figures that underlie the news.

Craig and I spoke at Streaming Media East 2010. In the interview above he discusses’s video journalism strategy, producing content for new platforms such as the iPad and what the future of Web video journalism holds.

An archive of all interviews from that event can be found here.

Magazine iPad Apps? We’ve Played this Game Before

The holy grail for Web designers has always been the pixel perfect layout afforded in print design. Some publications jumped to Flash in order to replicate the print experience. That experiment was a failure. Enter the iPad.

GQ iPad sales figures came out the other day. They’re a bit confused. Initial reports read that 365 December “Men of the Year” iPad issue were sold. Later, VentureBeat clarified and wrote that 52,000 GQ Apple apps sold since December.

It’s a long way from 365 to 52,000 and as VentureBeat points out, GQ publisher Condé Nast doesn’t have a breakdown of which apps sold on which device. Meaning, Apple doesn’t provide analytics for anyone — let alone the publisher — to know whether they’re having success on the iPad or iPhone/Touch. This is a problem of course, and one that mobile analytics provider Flurry tries to reconcile.

But while 365 might be low, the iPad as magazine delivery system isn’t going to be the publishing savior hyped by hopeful insiders over the past few months. It’s been said before and is worth saying again: thinking a device saves an industry is a losing proposition.

Outside the novelty factor, few consumers who’ve left print for the Web are going to start paying for a magazine just because it’s on a new form factor. Once the novelty wears off, readers will settle back in where the content is free.

And while novelty can add incremental income, incremental income isn’t significant income. Listen to what GQ VP/Publisher Pete Hunsinger told the magazine trade publication min, “This costs us nothing extra: no printing or postage. Everything is profit, and I look forward to the time when iPad issue sales become a major component to our circulation.”

Hunsinger’s general point stands: digital product distribution is a great thing, but there are development and marketing costs with an iPad app so production isn’t a freebie. Besides, who among us expects him to come out, scratch his head and complain, “365? WTF?”

But compared to the hype of the iPad as a potential publishing bonanza, the implication of GQ’s sales numbers — be they 365 or 1,365 — are disappointing although I hedge with the caveat that it’s very early in the iPad’s lifecycle (about a million sold), and in publisher attempts to create something of value that people will pay for.

Most I talk to say it’s not magazine applications that are interesting, but video from Netflix and productivity applications like Apple’s iWork suite. This leads me to wonder if trying to recreate the magazine experience on a digital device is a bit of a fool’s errand. If it’s content people want, a Web browser sits about anywhere these days for people to get it.

Besides, we’ve played this game before.

The holy grail for Web designers has been the pixel perfect layout afforded in print design. A number of years ago some publications jumped to Flash in order to replicate print layouts but that experiment went nowhere. Publishing services like Issuu and Zinio are still trying to make that model successful today by giving content developers the means to replicate their print design in a Flash interface.

The results? Novel and interesting, but clunky from a usability standpoint. Don’t believe me? Try Sporting News Today.

There’s no doubt that magazine iPad apps do make content visually beautiful, but publishers are essentially asking readers to pay for a design iteration. Are there really enough people with such nuanced design sensibilities to make that a business model?

Of course, design and photo heavy magazines have a leg up in this regard. While Steve Jobs might be offering a world free from porn, I see Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue selling well. So too titles like Wallpaper, Dwell and Monocle that rely on the visual to begin with.

For the rest of us, our iPad apps need to be something in addition to content already available on the Web.

This includes supplemental material (eg., think datavisualizations and interactive graphics, photos that didn’t make the print or Web editions, audio or video clips, etc.) and actual applications (eg., geo-based and social networking services surrounding the content) that people will pay their few dollars for because they can’t get them anywhere else.

If we don’t do that, if we don’t add true and differentiating value separate from the content we already offer, we just spin our wheels playing with the next new thing that’s shiny and bright.