May 25, 2009

Video Killed the Travel Writer

Ooooh uh oh oh!

A good discussion has popped up between some members of the ASTW regarding the recent announcement by News Ltd that they'll be looking for their contributors to provide more than just words and pictures from now one, they want moving pictures to embellish their growing online presence. This has raised a few hackles and stirred up some old wounds.

I joined in with my two cents worth, because I think this time the publishers have got it wrong and will fail to achieve the stated aim. Experienced journalists need not fear that their bread and butter will be swallowed up by a younger generation who are video blog savvy - the real danger is that the big brands in media will fail to see the folly of their ways before they go broke. Falling advertising revenue and competition from the internet is not what is killing the traditional media, it's the knuckle headed management of these companies that is still searching for that elusive free lunch.


You know I don't disagree with your sentiments Paul, but I do think that there's a big difference between photos and video when it comes to the devaluation of our craft. Market forces have made the most of the digital revolution in still photography, and that's the reality for guys like us trying to sell images. I don't think it's as simple as just pointing the finger at editors and publishers, there is a broader context than that - If not for the current quality of compact and DLSR equipment then those magazines you refer to would not have the material they need.

But digital video is a different situation entirely. There simply isn't the same depth of quality material available out there, so publishers will have to spend money if they want publishable videos. And in all likelihood they wont or cant spend that money, and their aspirations for content will remain largely unfulfilled. As Julie suggested the skills and equipment needed to generate a presentable video are far greater than a good shot. A 30 second TV commercial in Australia requires a dozen people or more to produce, and costs more than any of us make in a whole year.

What this move does signal is an opportunity for those who have the right talent and are inspired to chase it. Graham is looking at getting some training so he can join the party. Good for you Graham, I hope it works out for you. Personally I'd love to shoot more motion video but I have my hands full processing the stills and writing notes while I travel. I have a backlog of both at present, so how on earth would I find time to start editing videos as well?

But some ASTW members will no doubt be better able to meet that challenge. My guess it wont be many however. Video is fundamentally a different challenge than stills. Writers are predisposed to making the leap to photography, by virtue of passion and knowledge of the subject - the digital revolution simply made that step more manageable for many by reducing the logistical burden of film and equipment. Video is far more demanding because it requires significant resources to edit what you shoot, and it benefits dramatically from planning and advance research of the material. Cheaper and more compact HD cameras is not going to result in competitive content flooding the online travel sections, it results in teenagers posting mindless video-blogs on Facebook.

So I think we need not worry too much about being pushed out of the market due to lack of video to upload with our stories.

And a word of caution for the publishers out there. If you think you can access quality video content at bottom of the bucket prices then you may have a serious flaw in your business model. But some of these publishers are the same people who still haven't recognised that reducing your budget for content invariably reduces the appeal of your travel section to advertisers.

They're still looking for that free lunch.

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