I have created a page under the “Resources” tab at the top of the blog with a list of links to free online tools. This is a gathering place for links that I showed during a presentation at the National College Media Convention in Louisville (and also a couple of other workshops). I’ll be updating it in the future with other sites. Check it out here.
Apple held their fall product announcement event yesterday. The iPod lineup got a complete makeover. The biggest announcement from a journalistic perspective – hands down – was the addition of video/still cameras to the iPod Touch.
While the Droid X and other Android phones duke it out with the iPhone for supremacy in terms of mobile phones, the iPod Touch has languished in development until now.
The addition of the HD cameras (both front and rear-facing) make it perfect for a journalist on the go who either doesn’t want to pay a monthly surcharge for data rates on a mobile plan, or doesn’t want to switch providers because of Apple’s AT&T exclusivity.
The downside, of course, is that the cost of the iPod Touch went up a bit.
The new features will be useful for students at the University of Missouri and other j-schools who are “required” to purchase one.
Update with comment: Kiesow notes the paltry quality of the back still camera and lack of GPS on the new iPod Touch:
However, the back still camera is a paltry 960 x 720 pixels (.69 megapixels), which is far less than the 5-megapixel camera included on the iPhone 4. Of some lesser concern, the iPod Touch does not include a GPS radio, so location sensing is handled by identifying the WiFi networks the device can detect. That is not necessarily an issue for actual news gathering, but it does mean you would need an additional device (GPS or cell phone) to meet any location or navigation needs.
These are certainly valid points. I suppose I’m seeing more of an attraction for college journalists who lack the resources to pay for a full-featured iPhone + mobile plan (or young journalists just starting out who would like to eat more than Ramen noodles on a beginning salary). As Damon mentions, the GPS issue is less mission-critical for actual news gathering. And, I imagine the camera will be upgraded in future editions (hopefully).
I won’t rehash what I wrote in that post, since most of it still applies, but I will point to four commercial options available to student media in the wake of the closing of CoPress last semester. These are companies that are aiming specifically at the college media market, not a standard commercial web hosting service.
Also, this post deals strictly with the hosting/server end of the web site equation. I am making no judgment as to the relative merits of various content management systems. Perhaps I’ll write more about that later.
I should also mention that the Daily Eastern News is in the process of updating our web site design, so I’ve been examining these options over the past couple of months.
College Publisher: College Publisher is the CMS/hosting system run by College Media Network, a division of MTV, which is owned by Viacom. It is the oldest, and by far the largest, player in the college media web hosting universe. College Publisher is on version 5, which is based on a CMS created by Polopoly (now a division of Atex). Unlike the other options listed here, CP is a “turnkey” solution. Student media sites are hosted on College Media Network servers, and technical support is provided by CMN. In exchange for hosting the site, CMN sells advertising in the top ad positions on each student media site. Student media outlets are able to sell other advertising spots as they are able.
• Alloy Media + Marketing: Alloy is an advertising and marketing company that aims at the college market, and they are providing a hosting solution similar to what CoPress provided. The set-up is much like what you would find on any commercial hosting service, except they hope to offer some added benefits to college media in the future (like an ad network, for instance), and they will be offering more focused support for the service. The basic cost is $250/mo. plus a set-up fee. They are currently supporting WordPress installs. Here’s a PDF that explains some of the technical details. The Cal Poly Mustang Daily is one of their clients, switching from CoPress.
• TownNews.com: TownNews.com is the content management system company that runs the online sites for newspapers in the Lee Enterprises newspaper chain (the Decatur Herald-Review in Illinois is one such newspaper). The company’s CMS is named Blox. It’s built on PHP, and hosted on the TownNews.com servers. It’s a drag-and-drop system that has some pretty sturdy features. However, you are limited in the number of design choices you can make to their templates at the moment. The Iowa State Daily and the Independent Florida Alligator both run on a TownNews.com system. The company is currently looking to expand into the college market, and I would encourage you to discuss the price with them. Like Alloy, they charge a one-time set-up fee and then a per-month fee. Paul Wilson was the salesperson who I spoke with about the system. If you’re interested, you may contact him at pwilson -at- townnews.com
• Detroit SoftWorks: Detroit SoftWorks has a CMS, Gryphon, that was originally created for the State News at Michigan State University. The company also integrates a web ad management system, a photo sales system, and a new housing guide system into a total online package. Costs of the DS system are: $250/mo. for weeklies (up to three publications per week); $375/mo. for dailies. Set-up charge is $1,500 for a basic set-up, with a $2,000 charge for data migration (which means someone switching from College Publisher would have to cough up $3,500 in start-up fees). Clients include The Grand Valley Lanthorn, the New Mexico Daily Lobo, and the Eastern Echo at Eastern Michigan University, among others.
Last week, I was able to talk via Skype with Dan Reimold of College Media Matters. We talked iPad, the ACU iPad app, and some news about CICM itself. hope you’ll listen. We’re thinking about continuing this, so let us know if you think we should keep talking or just shut up and blog.
A team of faculty and student researchers and developers from multiple departments at the university plan to have the Optimist ready for the iPad by the end of March. Optimist editors plan to employ the new platform to deliver a more converged form of media to the ACU community in addition to the print, online and iPhone app versions of the Optimist.
Sure enough, Dan Reimold reports at College Media Matters, the Optimist app is now available for download.
Here’s a video from ACU featuring faculty and student editors talking about the new app, and some footage of the app in action.
I downloaded the app over the weekend, as I was curious about what was included in this first student media effort on the Magical Unicorn Device.
Before I get into the details, let me give kudos to the students and faculty at ACU who worked so quickly to turn this app out. It works, and for what it does, it’s a perfectly serviceable app.
Version 1.0 of the ACU Optimist App features:
• Dynamic content selector to allow you to move between sections
• Access to over five years of story archives
• Photo montages
• Updated ACU Wildcat Sports scores
A screen capture from the Optimist iPad app page.
So far, my response to the app has been lukewarm. It looks and feels a lot like a basic port of the Optimist’s WordPress-powered web site. The stories are listed in descending chronological order. Clicking on a headline takes you to the story page, which looks a lot like a standard WordPress single post page.
The text on screen is readable. the full-color photos are gorgeous. Depending on your WiFi, the stories load quickly when you click on the headlines. If you swipe your finger from the right side of the screen toward the left (near the top of the screen), you can also move from one section screen to the next section screen.
At the right side of the screen is a “Contents” tab that slides out to reveal four sections: News, Sports, Arts & Culture, and Opinion. Notice anything missing from that list? A dedicated section for multimedia content. For instance, the store description promises “photo montages,” but, poking around the app, I wasn’t able to find any.
Compare that with the online Optimist web site, which does suffer from a little too much “nav bar creep” (The tendency to add more and more nav bar links to different parts of a site). But prominent in the lower nav bar are links to its multimedia content (podcasts and videos).
And despite the promise of “converged media,” much of the Optimist’s online text content still lacks hyperlinks. Over several days of testing the app, I was able to find one story on the iPad app home screen that had a hyperlink to another web site (to be fair, this isn’t the app’s fault – most of the current stories on the web site don’t have hyperlinks either).
I assume the archive access is primarily available through the search feature in the contents tab. It would be nice to have monthly archive listing available as an option. I typed “2007″ into the search engine and came up with nothing.
In terms of iPad capabilities, the one “bug” I found in the app was that it doesn’t rotate to landscape view when you turn the iPad on its side, unlike most of the media apps I’ve looked at recently. This is not an iPad specific feature, it’s also part of the iPhone/iPod Touch user interface.
As I said, having looked through the iPad Software Development Kit, I give high praise to the ACU students and faculty for producing an app for this new computing device.
But my overall impression is that the Optimist development team could have spent more time working on the presentation and iPad feature list and not so much on being first out of the gate.
As this is version 1.0, there is promise for much more innovation out of this effort, and I look forward to see what uses they can make of features like location-awareness.
I hope the development team will look at what other news outlets are doing with their apps – check out the Reuters News Pro app for an example of weaving multimedia content into the home page, for instance – and improve the Optimist app in future versions.
Tubemogul, a video hosting site, is a simplified way to publish your site’s videos online.
Unlike other video hosting sites, TubeMogul connects several video hosting sites to it, allowing editors to publish videos to several sites at once — including YouTube.
TubeMogul is easy enough to use as any other video hosting site and utilizes the same features. You can tag, describe, title, and categorize content, and all this information is published on the respective sites.
The most cumbersome feature of TubeMogul is that you must first set up accounts on the other video hosting sites. Setting up these accounts could take hours, but the time TubeMogul saves by uploading to each one of these easily makes up for that fact.
Screenshot from the upload process on TubeMogul
The advantage to uploading to several video hosting sites is that your video will appear more often in search engine results. This also relies on how you tag your video, but the more places your video is, the greater your site’s content reach on the Internet.
Speaking of reaching out, what better way to notify readers of your recent video post than posting it on Twitter or Facebook? Luckily, one of TubeMogul’s features allows you to instantly post and update two of your favorite social networking sites.
Another useful feature of TubeMogul is the video tracking and statistics about your video. With the ability to pull in statistics from several sites, TubeMogul easily provides the most detailed analysis of your videos.
To receive all the features of TubeMogul, users must setup a premium Gold account. These features can be found here.
The most prominent feature that your website would want to pay for is the ability to upload files over 300 Megabytes. Also, premium accounts give you the ability to upload more than 100 files per month.
TubeMogul is no doubt a powerful tool for online publications, a true time saver when it comes to video uploading and a wonderful way to analyze you data.
A major problem with any news site is the search engine. If users have troubles locating a specific story that isn’t a few clicks away, chances are they won’t revisit your site.
So what’s the best way to please your visitors who want to find that story that never appeared on the front page? The answer is tags.
The second best search engine, Youtube, uses the system of tags. Look at any video, the more hits/pageviews, the more diverse the tags are. But tagging can be a time killer. Here are some steps you can take to save time on tagging and make your tags more efficient.
Have the writer come up with the tags. They will know the story best.
Have generic tags like “football” or “Politics” at your disposal.
Tag the categories the post falls in as well.
Tag the sources- if a visitor is looking for a specific quote, it will make that quote easier to find.
For multimedia have five or six generic tags like “video” or the name of your site.
A great example of a publication that tags well is The Whit Online. Check out some of their posts to see how it’s done.
Curious as to how your site looks as a cloud of tags? Check out some WordPress widgets that deliver tags in a flashy, user friendly view. Want to try out a single post, then just put in your posts URL here.
But tagging still takes time and getting your writers to sum up a story in 10-15 nouns can be nerve-wracking. Subcategories offer a little less efficiency than tags, but save time and set up a strong hierarchy.
If you don’t have the time or the patience to tag every single story that is posted to your news site, be as descriptive as possible with subcategories. Don’t just limit your category names to “Basketball.” If your site covers women’s and men’s teams, branch the subcategories farther out.
Remember, Internet users like information at their fingertips. Both of these functionalities of WordPress offer this power, but if you have the time and the manpower, go with both.
Vanderbilt’s InsideVandy has been pushing the envelope recently in their online offerings. While they’ve been doing multimedia for a while, they are starting to package their efforts into more user-friendly experiences.
A couple of weeks ago, I wrote a post about video cameras. In the comments to that post, Kathleen Flores, adviser at UT-El Paso, wrote:
I’m considering the Sanyo Xacti. It is only $160 but has no microphone/headphone inputs. I want to get something inexpensive so that I can purchase at least four or five cameras and equipment (I could make a mojo kit for $250) to make them accessible for our students. Has anyone used these or have any other suggestions. I would rather get more students doing some basic multimedia than just one or two using the more expensive equipment. Whenever a new student wants to use our more expensive equipment, I always shudder and hope they take care of it. I was thinking that this route would encourage more experimentation and participation.
I don’t have any personal experience with that camera, but I do want to reiterate my personal preference in the quantity vs. quality debate as it regards video equipment: where possible, try to do both.
Budgets being what they are, it’s sometimes impossible to purchase both prosumer and consumer quality cameras. But if it is possible, I’d recommend purchasing some consumer-level cameras for reporters to take out into the field and experiment with, and then get a couple of higher-end prosumer cameras for the photography staff, and people who really seem dedicated to exploring video online. The amount of control over the quality of the images and sound is vastly different between the two.
This is similar to the iMovie vs. Final Cut (use your imagination for the PC equivalent) debate. You can learn quite a lot with iMovie, and for most breaking news or quick turnaround work, it’s a fine product. But if someone is really interested in video, a higher-end editing package is a worthwhile investment.
Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve gotten a couple of e-mails asking for recommendations for video cameras. This post is for those who might be in the market for a new video camera for your media outlet. I’ll give my experience, but I’d appreciate input from others out there who have experience with other cameras.
Last year, Eastern’s journalism department was equipping new mojo packs, and Jerry Mennenga of the Sioux City Journal recommended the Canon Vixia HF100. It cost around $550 at the time, included mic input and headphone input, shot in hi-def, and recorded to SD cards instead of tape.
I’ve used the camera for two semesters in classes, and dennews.com uses one to shoot videos for the web site, and they are really good cameras.
Here’s a fun piece the students shot with the sports editor:
The disk-based recording saves time ingesting video onto the computer, which is an added bonus. The downsides were that we had to use “log and capture” in Final Cut Express to convert the video files from .mts format to .mov for use on Macs. That has been fixed in iMovie ’09, which also handles the native Canon file format. And if you mess up the file structure on the SD card, the software won’t recognize the files, in which case, you will want to invest in a third-party conversion software (do a Google on “.mts to .mov conversion Mac” for some of the software out there, usually about $30-40 price range).
Since then, the HF100 has been upgraded to the HF200, which is basically the same camera at a similar price point with a few added features. The HF20 is the same camera with a built-in flash drive.
Canon also now has the Vixia HF-R10, which is a little less expensive and still comes with the mic in/headphone out. I have not tried out this camera.
Previously, we purchased the Canon ZR800, which was about $200 with a mic input and headphone output, and they work well for the most part, but don’t shoot in HD.
I know I sound like a Canon fanboi, but I shoot Nikon still cameras, and I’ve used Sony in the past. These are recommendations based only on my experience.
Any other suggestions for price-conscious shoppers who want a camera with a mic input and headphone out?
Or other types of cameras? I know a lot of people like the Flip. Drop a comment and let me know.