Posts about video

Will video become intimate?

There’s something surprisingly tragic about Apple’s latest touching, brilliant commercials for the iPhone 4’s FaceTime. At the end of each of these commercials — the first four below are vignettes about two new babies, one new hairdo, and a new set of braces — I feel a need for the people on either end to hug. But they can’t.

Now, of course, the video call only brings them closer together than a plain old telephone call could have — or an email or an SMS or (does anybody send them anymore?) a letter. That’s what makes Facetime so miraculous: it is finally almost like being there. They can almost touch. And that’s what’s tragic: they can’t.

This is to say that FaceTime is terribly intimate. And that’s what struck me, too: In an instant, the video of the people shifts from broadcasting to intimacy, from making a YouTube video millions may see to making a call for one. Is this how we’ll use video now, to connect two-at-a-time? Or will that now seem smalltime? Will we use the front-facing camera to face the world still? Will video be public still or private?

I don’t know the answers to those questions. We’ll know only when these tools get into the hands of enough people — and when developers use the camera to create new applications and when AT&T gets its act together so we can use the camera anywhere, not just on wifi.

Maybe the original video vision of Seesmic (before it became a Twitter app) comes to life: we hold video conversations. Maybe the camera only makes it easier for anonymous pervs to peddle their penises on Chatroulette. Maybe we walk away creation toward communication. Maybe we leave time-shifting for live. Maybe we invent new forms of phone sex. Maybe Leo Laporte uses them to reinvent the podcast and cable news uses them to reinvent vox pop. Or maybe nothing changes as we already have cameras everywhere; these are merely more portable.

Watch the commercials and see what visceral ping it elicits in you.

See MC Siegler breaking down the emotional appeal of the iPhone ads on TechCrunch here and here.

Human in the throne?

In March, 2007, for a Guardian column, I asked the then-head of now-PM David Cameron’s web strategy whether the man would continues making his personal, folksy videos if he moved into No. 10. Sam Roake replied: “If it suddenly stopped, that would be seen as a very cynical move . . . You can’t stop communicating.” This, he argued, is “a new stage of politics” that is about “sustained dialogue with the public.”

We shall see.

The new No. 10 moved to new YouTube, Flickr, and Twitter addresses. They are putting up press conference videos and linking to photos of the PM.

Yes, but will he talk with the people from the kitchen, as he used to? His last Webcameron video asks people to vote (you’d think he’d at least have one saying thank you). We haven’t yet seen the PM buttering toast. Will he? Can he?

Barack Obama got to office using the internet to be human and then he took on the imperial form of the office, mostly giving pronouncements. And he now inexplicably tries to paint himself as a techofuddy. Nicolas Sarkozy also got to office using video to present himself as human. Now, I suppose, he’s more human than ever — though inadvertently; when I search YouTube for his name, the first video is of him drunk at the G8. Germany’s Angela Merkel, who frankly never came off as terribly warm and human, nonetheless make a podcast.

Can a politician who takes the highest office stay human? In this age, can he or she afford not to? I think Roake was right: not to continue communicating eye-to-eye makes the persona of the campaign into theater or it makes office into theater.

Here’s a video I did of Cameron in Davos in 2008 asking him about talking to small cameras:

News(paper)

Friend Michael Rosenblum forwarded word that the Star-Ledger in New Jersey was just nominated for seven local Emmys for its video work. Bravo for my old friends there and for Rosenblum, who trained them .

I remember when my old colleague Jim Willse, then editor of the Ledger, told me he wanted to get the paper into video and I begged him not to do what other papers had done: turn out pale copies and unintentional parodies of local TV news, something that deserves no emulation. I introduced him to Rosenblum, who came in an politely toured the TV studio the paper had just built and then said, “This is bullshit.” Nobody wants to see fake TV, he said. The newsroom is the story; it’s where the action is. So he had them set up cameras in the newsroom and he trained staffers to make video stories with a small camera and a Mac. I’ve watched my own students learn the Rosenblum Method and come out empowered, like the Ledger’s old paper people. Yes, anyone can make TV.

If I had it to do over again, I’d do one thing differently: bring in ad people to train them so they would understand the power of making TV and would sell it to advertisers and make video for them: so they, too, would think video.

Editor as star

Kai Diekmann, the head of Bild, the gigantic German newspaper, is a journalistic celebrity of a sort we don’t have here: utterly charming, lustily egotistical, brashly opinionated, infuriating to those he infuriates (a friend of mine calls him Germany’s Roger Ailes), beloved to his fans, witty, quick, clever, innovative, and never afraid of the spotlight.

Now he has a blog. And a store. I’d heard about his blog for sometime but it wasn’t seen outside the walls of his office. Now it has gone public. He says he’ll do it for 100 days. I predict he’ll be addicted.

There’s a 360-degree tour of his office, starring him. Click on his possessions and learn more – about, for example, a piece of the Berlin Wall signed by Helmut Kohl, Mikhail Gorbachev, and George Bush (41). He has a bio and lots of photos. Diekmann interviews himself (Why are you writing a blog, he asks. “I’m just incurably vain,” he answers). He posts video he shoots himself – “ich bin Videoblogger-in-Chief für Bild.de” – including one in Baghdad and another of him getting a shot. He brags about the commercials for Bild made by Bild’s readers, who understand its brand well. He links gleefully to an interview with a competitive publisher and scion of a German publishing family (founders of Der Spiegel) who says the esteemed Süddeutsche Zeitung won’t be around on paper in 20 years – but Bild will. He tweaks the liberal competition, the taz. On his “fan club” page, he shows his critics (and I thought I was brave exposing underendowment). In his store, he sells books (starting with his own) and hoodies, buttons, totebags, and mugs with his own mug (as Che Diekmann) and Bild branding as “the red-hot chili paper.”

kai2

The guy has balls. And he’s getting attention, which surely is the goal.

I can’t imagine Bill Keller or Marcus Brauchlidoing this, can you? Not even Alan Rusbridger or Will Lewis. Not even the editor of the New York Post (who’s he?). Piers Morgan is the closest thing I can imagine to Kai in the anglophone world, but he had to leave editing to become a star. In Germany, Kai is a brand. In the staid world of anglophone journalism, that’ll probably be sniffed at. But on the social web, I see little choice but to be open and human and even – gasp – have a sense of humor.

I have some personal history here to disclose. See my own story about introducing Diekmann to the Flip video camera here. I later went to speak to editors and executives of Bild’s parent company, Axel Springer, at their retreat in Italy. There, Diekmann was constantly recording every event with his own version of the Flip camera, to his colleagues’ grudging acquiescence. Does he do this all the time? I asked. Yes, they moaned. Sorry, I said. At that meeting, I pushed them all to blog and I’m not suggesting that has anything to do with Diekmann’s effort. But I’m glad to see lots of blogs emerging from Axel Springer. On a very different level, see the blog by the editor of Die Welt. The form knows no limits.

Diekmann took the Flip and surprised me by not just equipping his journalists – other editors’ reflex – but instead equipping his readers. He took interactivity and didn’t just allow readers to comment on what his paper does – as other editors do – but instead had them define his brand. He now has taken the blog and surprised me again, making a comment on the form and his paper and his industry and himself. And it’s fun to watch.

: Later: I left a comment on Diekmann’s blog and in no time, I got email from him. He’s reading what his public is writing.

The Rosenblum method

I’ve been privileged to hear Michael Rosenblum’s spiel often and it’s inspiring. Here is video of a particularly good version of it delivered to newspaper editors in the UK (part I, part II, summary). He makes it clear that the sane response to new technology is not to fight against it and he shows how. I brought him into the Star-Ledger, where he trained a roomful of pencil-pushers to make good video stories in a week, which yielded this, and I brought him into CUNY, where he empowers students to find that they can make good video. Michael, like me, gets attacked for attacking the defensiveness of old media. But he’s doing something about it. He’s renewing them.

My blog is my network

Flixwagon, one of the companies offering the ability to broadcast live on the internet from your mobile phone, has added the feature I’ve been wanting: a widget-player you can put on your blog or web site so people there can catch your live broadcasts. Now, you have to put up a link to sites like Flixwagon’s and Qik’s and embed your video in your blog after it’s over.

Between this and Twitter, it begins to turn blogs live. Of course, we often live-blog events. But now we can also have a live flow of text and video from anywhere, anytime.

I’ve written about the challenges and opportunities live broadcast from anywhere brings to news. It’s also interesting to see the impact this will have on blogs. I can’t watch 10 bloggers at once. How can I know who’s live doing what where right now? It’s another need for live search — or call it live discovery. It makes me think I want an alert service — but then, the last thing I want is a bunch of those irritating tweets that tell me that so-and-so (you know who you are) is broadcasting live. I want context: the live TV Guide. But that’s hard, too: As I’m broadcasting, how can I tell you what I’m broadcasting? If someone else watches and alerts others to the fact that I actually have something interesting to say, then that’s necessarily syncopated; it’s not live.

All that aside, I’m glad to see Flixwagon’s widget and I look forward to seeing how YouTube handles live.

Coming out

My friend Mary Matthews makes an awesome video about coming out that’s getting a lot of YouTube attention:

TVJersey’s birth

As near as I can tell, the first videos submitted to the Star-Ledger’s TVJersey blog are of a baby sleeping and hiccupping. Well, I guess that’s what a local newspaper’s all about: getting your name in the paper.