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Has Video Killed the Blogging Star?
This was the title of a panel I joined at the Social Media Influence event earlier this week in London. It was a slightly tongue-in-cheek question from Matthew Yeomans, one of the conference’s organisers, but interesting because it touches on a number of current trends — the phenomenal rise of video usage on the Web, the success of user-generated video sites and the impression that, perhaps, blogging has become a bit passe. Just this week we’ve seen a new study show that online video consumption has nearly doubled in the past year while new social video services are growing very quickly and Youtube recently appointed a citizen video news editor.
This was the full brief:
Okay, we’re joking…..sort of. But be it video-snacking, YouTube resumes, digital video activism or live-streaming to the web from your mobile phone, the world of Web 2.0 is being driven by the moving image. This panel will examine the role video is playing in shaping communication techniques within companies as well as helping reach new consumer audiences.
In a way the event answered the question itself. One of the participants, the BBC’s Robin Hamman, who I had thought was going to be on the panel instead streamed the proceedings live via his mobile phone to Qik where it is now archived. So now I’m thinking why blog about the event when you can see the whole thing on Qik? And, in my case, why write a note to my boss when I can just point him to the full recording and (slightly scary thought) he can make up his own mind on how it went?
In preparing for the event I did a couple of things. First, I thought about my professional experience within Reuters. We’ve got perhaps a couple of hundred journalists blogging on a regular basis but just a handful video blogging. That’s partly because video is still a bit tricky while blogging is relatively easy since, in essence, it’s just a text-based content management system and nearly all our journalists are writing on a very regular basis.
But that’s the view from a mainstream media organisation. What’s the picture in the blogging world? I asked a number of people in the Global Voices blogging network for a perspective. These are people who live and breathe blogging. They deal with the realities of handling content using social media day in, day out and from the four corners of the globe. I thought their answers gave the topic a deeper perspective that I struggled to get across to the London audience.
…there’s definitely lots going on with video, but I firmly believe most people spend so much time in their pyjamas they won’t want to be on video most of the time they spend online. It’s hard enough to get people to use their own names in discussion forms, blog and article comments.Someone sent us a link to this WordPress plugin the other day that allows people to make comments in blogs with videos. It’s kind of neat and perhaps the kind of thing we’ll be seeing more of soon. It’s complimentary to the Web 2.0 activity that already exists rather than something that replaces it. Personally, I think we’re more likely to see video, still photos, and text mingling more effortlessly on the web, rather than a situation where moving images dominate. The multi-media experience is much more effective for interactive story-telling. Text is just too effective and easy to lose the battle.
I think the idea that the world of web 2.0 is being *driven* by the moving image is debatable, especially given the dominance of microblogging platforms like Twitter that are primarily text based. Nor is video as immediately “social” as text. Which is not to say that it’s not an important ingredient in the mix.
I think that as more individuals become versed in multiple forms of media we’re probably going to see them mixing them and harnessing them for various purposes at different times. Online video can be of immense value, nevertheless, in the places where television continues to be very effective – ie in live coverage. Bandwidth and service constraints notwithstanding, the day a live streaming service like Qik is deployed beyond US borders it going to be revolutionary. And unlike TV, this content is instantly archived.
And of course, and perhaps obviously, the existence of cell phone and other small digital video cameras has completely changed the game in terms of security and privacy, both for better (police torture videos in Egypt) and for worse (videos featuring schoolgirls in Trinidad having sex). I was thinking just the other day how difficult it used to be to take photographs in airports, in many of which I think it’s still illegal to do so.
“As long as connectivity speeds are an issue, videos will continue being food for few. I´m hoping that web 3.0 will make it easier to tag online videos and search them, but so far it is mostly manual labor: sitting through dozens of videos trying to find the ones that have useful tidbits of information. So in countries where connectivity is slow, watching videos online can be torturous at worst and annoying at best. I spend most of my time looking at icons that remind me that the video is still loading, so I know firsthand it can get frustrating. Likewise with uploading content when one has an intermittent connection. Uploading and viewing video has tech requirements that blogging in text doesn´t, so I don´t think it will substitute blogs anytime soon, they will continue growing in tandem, complimenting the other’s content. As long as we depend on typed tagging for videos, videos will still depend very heavily on written context.”
Instead of writing this I could have recorded a two minute ‘piece to camera’ (will we start calling these items ‘pieces to mobile’?) and uploaded it to a social media platform. I haven’t done that because I just don’t think I’d have been able to tell the story as well. I like the flexibility that blogging gives me. I’ve got video here, I’ve been able to link to underlying sources, I’ve been able to use all the media there is. And very quickly.This feels like genuine multimedia production that plays to each medium’s strengths. I just can’t see video alone eclipsing this ability to weave media strands together.
Picture credit: Social Media Influence