I have always believed in the Media Singularity which is the ultimate outcome of increasingly cheaper technology combined with ever expanding online distribution.
I just never thought it would come so soon.
The end of the newspaper era is the beginning of decentralized news reporting, where ‘timeliness over quality’ is the rule of the day.
Of course we have been creeping along this path for some time now with excellent examples as far back as 2005. But it hasn’t been until this year that a ‘perfect storm‘ of economic recession, advanced cell phone technology and cheap HD technology has cracked the giant fortress of traditional top-down media.
A few of these citizen journalists will even be able to tell a complete story and articulate what is happening in an informative manner. (Unlike myself in the above video where I say ‘Fire Ambulances’ instead of ‘Fire Trucks.’)
With their cell phone.
Let me explain this transition in steps.
(This way it will be much clearer to those that have been holding out for multimedia to save the newspaper or for the amazing quality of the Canon 5D Mark II or Red Cameras that can do both still and video.)
This year, many of my articles have focused on small cheap 720/1080 HD camcorders such as the Flip Video Camera, Flip Mino HD, Kodak Z16 and Creative’s Vado HD.
These video cameras appeal to the amateur with their simple all-auto operation and ease of use when uploading to YouTube. A total beginner can shoot and upload decent HD quality video to the internet for millions of people to find and watch. Cheap and easy video technology poses a threat to professional journalists who are just now learning to shoot video for their paper using incredibly complicated HD work-flows that include wireless mics, DV Tapes, and expensive MacPro towers for editing in Final Cut Pro.
Many pros have great equipment and meet deadlines for producing weekly multimedia video in addition to still photos…but it will be all for naught because viewers don’t care about quality, they care about immediacy (Just look at the hit-counts for many amazing multimedia stories produced in-house at newspapers.)
To the photojournalists/TV people out there:
Get used to it. It’s only going to get worse.
On your current path to making beautiful, technically perfect multimedia stories, you will be absolutely crushed by the amateur who is there at the news event BEFORE YOU, sending text messages, Tweets, and gathering stills/video with some sort of video camera, cell phone or point and shoot camera with video…essentially gathering your news and eating your lunch.
And they will do it gladly, with gusto and for free. And there will most likely be multiple points of view and levels of quality for any event due to the number of people at the scene recording something.
Step 2: Enter the iPhone 3G
With the launch of the iPhone, cheap still photography meets cheap distribution, on a device that allows the user to take a photo, edit it on their phone, and upload it to Flickr or share it with friends via Twitterific instantly. The iPhone has brought together what I consider to be the two ultimate tools that a photojournalist truly needs in an immediacy driven world: a camera and an instant distribution network.
Is a two megapixel iPhone photo good enough for national news? YES.
If I still worked at a newspaper I would definitely consider shooting an iPhone photo immediately and getting that to my editor before shooting with my DSLR.
Step 3: Cycorder + Qik + Flixwagon: The Last Nail in the Coffin
This last week I jailbroke my iPhone using QuickPwn.
It was super easy compared to the relative complexity of previous jailbreaking attempts using the previous PwnageTool.
This allowed me to install Cycorder which is a free app that makes your iPhone into a Flip Video Camera (essentially.) With Cycorder you get 15fps recording with sound at 384×288 in an elegantly compressed video format. The file size, video size and frame rate make it ideal for web viewing without any modification.
Just upload it to YouTube once you get home…A video used to be embedded here but the service that it was hosted on has shut down.
(Shot with my Iphone + Cycorder.)
or better yet,
(Shot with iPhone + Qik.) (ed: I realize I cut off my chin in this vid. Didn’t quite point my phone correctly…)
These two programs allow you to share what you are experiencing live with anyone who is on your Qik or Flixwagon channel. Some people have already used this to great success.
To me this is live news reporting at its best and on par with the video phone reporting that I have seen more and more of on TV when they are unable to send a full camera crew and truck to a live news event.
Many will say that the quality isn’t there or that people won’t figure out how to do this, but just consider what is possible now with available technology. Everything is in place, it is only a matter of a few years before the citizen journalist overwhelms the pro.
Even if 5% of citizen journalists are good at what they do it will still outnumber traditional reporters significantly.
I’ll leave you with this thought:
With millions of iPhone owners out there who will all eventually know how to send live video, take great pictures and distribute instantly through the Internet with their cell phone, how many years will it be before the news is 90% crowd-sourced?
-Kirk (Lo-Fi, Hi-Style)