Profile picture of Michael Rosenblum
The current economic crisis will make videojournalism a necessity for TV and newspapers online, says Michael Rosenblum, videojournalism pioneer and founder of RosenblumTV.

Speaking to Journalism.co.uk ahead of the Digital News Affairs (DNA) 2009 conference, Rosenblum says the media's need to cost-cut in the present climate will turn the concept of videojournalism from 'an abstraction to a necessity for survival'.

"TV stations can no longer tolerate the notion of four people doing one person's job, but for those people who can shoot and deliver (…) there's an enormous niche opening up. It's survival time now," he says.

News media must embrace new video technology and production practices wholeheartedly, says Rosenblum, and the falling costs of both make barriers to videojournalism much lower and more attractive to content providers.

At a local TV news station in Washington, FiOS1, the result of a partnership between the company Verizon and RosenblumTV, six staff produce 30 minutes of original video news content a day, which is edited and uploaded to a server from a New York office.

The total cost to the station is $600,000-a-year and at just $4.11 per 30-second advertising spot it will break even. Anything after that is pure profit, says Rosenblum.

"It makes us extremely competitive. Any commercial broadcaster can do this but they have to have the courage to burn the place to the ground. Here's the deal: the product for broadcasters and newspapers is the content, that's all they have to sell. When they go into cost-cutting the first thing they cut is the journalists. That's a crazy thing to do," he explains.

"What they have to do is chop rigorously at everything else and they have to train the journalist to empower them and make them much more streamlined in producing content. If they do this I think they can not only survive, but thrive in this economy."

News sites as social networks
Newspapers perceive a financial problem with making changes, but there is much a psychological block at play, says Rosenblum. Many broadcasters want to retain old practices and equipment and newspapers frequently try to recreate TV shows rather than video on their websites.

To break out of this, news sites should see themselves as social networks, acting as a nexus between users and information directories and potentially charging a small fee for this transaction, he says.

"Journalism in and of itself is a kind of a network: you send reporters out into the community, they meet other people, they gather the stuff, reassemble it and distribute it. If you want a real break out you have to embrace these social networks. Marry them to video, marry them to your journalists," he says.

"If you are a journalist it's a rethinking of the entire notion of broadcasting and local news, which is very hard for these people to do. For their entire careers they've said, we're the source, you listen and between 6pm and 7pm we're going to tell you.

"The opportunity here is enormous: inexpensive technologies, hand-held stuff, a web that is married specifically to networks and an industry that is itself kind of network-based emotionally."

The more local media make their websites like social networks, the more people will build an affinity with their sites, he adds.

Social networks as a model for news
The distribution of multimedia content on social networks should also be seen as a model for news websites, according to Rosenblum.

Reports should 'weave a tapestry of text and video' and journalists should be encouraged to keep video, as well as audio recordings and paper notebooks, he adds.

"The web is going to develop its own grammar. Right now you read text and then see the video part somewhere else," he says.

"We carry with us our experience of the past. We can't really wrap our heads around this notion of non-linearity - there is no first page, there is no back page. If you wrote your publication more the way Facebook is written, you'd do much better."

Competition
But Rosenblum is concerned that newspapers, in particular regional and local media, will not embrace the lessons of social media and networks nor the opportunities of low-cost videojournalism.

"The potential is sitting there in front of these guys and you know they're not going to take it. When Google elects to do local news in the UK, you know they're not going to build buildings and local crews," he says.

The BBC's recent local video proposals in the UK terrified regional newspapers, but the opportunity of the Trust's rejection has not been seized upon by local media to offer an alternative, he adds.

"The advertising money is there, the appetite for local content is there. But you have to re-architect the thing based on what the technology and the infrastructure can do. All the pieces are there you don't have to invent a damn thing, it's all off-the-shelf.

"It's a tragedy because they [local media] have the connections, the brand, the trust of the community. They know the stories, they have all the pieces keyed up and they just can't bring themselves to do it.

"Any idiot can learn to use video, but it takes years for a journalist to learn their community. That's an asset they have."

Michael Rosenblum will host a digital training journalism workshop at the DNA2009 conference. Follow coverage of the event on Journalism.co.uk and on the event's website.

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