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A New Era of Storytelling with John Battelle

August 18 2021 by Celina Dawdy

Good journalism is a superpower. 

With current events constantly evolving, journalism has taken a different road over the last several years. However, there's one crucial aspect that has stayed the same: storytelling. Journalism will inform, evoke emotion, and provide entertainment all in one effort. Because of its complex nature, it's a difficult art to master. We recently sat down with John Battelle, the CEO and Co-Founder of The Recount Media, to discuss how journalism has evolved and where it's headed.

John has been in the industry for decades. With that, he has learned to transform and evolve with changing platforms, mediums, and audiences. Due to his flexibility in his craft, The Recount has reached over 800 million views and over 2 billion social impressions. He manages this while still maintaining journalism ethics and credibility. This feat, though not impossible, is impressive with many challenges. 

For content creators, newsroom producers, and social media influencers, John provides a valuable insight into the world of media through video content. 

The Old Method 

Broadcasting and journalism have taken a drastic turn throughout the past few decades. Providing an audience with the news was originally a rigid task, which John referred to as "Suits on Set." 

Traditionally, people received their news by watching a news broadcast of their favorite reporters sitting on a mandated set and reading off a teleprompter. Though effective, it lacked creativity and visual interest. The audience rarely received a direct image or video that represented current events. The broadcast team also put their own political spin on the content, as John mentions:

"They tend to be coming from a partisan point of view. You're either Team Blue or Team Red. And the other sight, sound, and motion that's well established in journalism is documentary, [which is] long form."

"It struck [my partner] John Heilemann and me when we were starting the company that we were very much in a post-linear moment. Television was going through a significant shift and a major disruption - probably analogous to the shift from broadcast to cable. [This included] new forms of distribution, new formats, and new uses of video."

What had initially shown a significant impact on the audience was beginning to fizzle out. Where families would previously sit down nightly for the evening news, attention spans started to dwindle. With that, new forms of journalism and broadcasting were required to keep attention. John was one of the first to hop on the new wave. 

Generational Changes

With the digital age hitting our generation like a freight train, it's no wonder that television and journalism have had to adjust. Several different factors led to this change. 

Social Media 

With 3.78 billion social media users, there's an influx of sharing information and misinformation. Now (more than ever), less reputable sources can spread the news into the hands of billions of people. This has made a massive impact on the way that people digest and distribute information. 

Handheld Devices  

With the majority of Americans owning a mobile phone or tablet, information and news are now at our fingertips. This minimizes the need for people to catch the evening news or pick up the newspaper religiously. What was originally a popular format for news consumption has had a significant drop in views and readership. For passionate journalists, this has required a desperate change. 

Need for Digestible Information

Because information is available at our fingertips, we consume more news than ever before. This has resulted in the attention span for readers and viewers dropping drastically. According to Wistia, attention for online videos begins to drop after only 30 seconds, with a significant decline occurring after 60 seconds. 

Due to this, long-form journalists have had to adjust to short-form videos. 

Hip-Hop News

John and The Recount have been pioneers in leading the way to the new era of television. After identifying the new forms of distribution and format, the team at The Recount began to brainstorm new ways of news consumption. 

"Our mission and our ambition are to essentially reinvent television. In order to do that, we had to start with a clean slate and say, 'Well, what would we make if we didn't have to follow the sort of form and rules of traditional television journalism?' And that's when we came up with what John Heilemann calls Hip-Hop News." 

The idea behind Hip-Hop News is inspired by the ever-loved music genre, Hip Hop. 

"The idea is [based] on the form of Hip Hop by sampling. And reimagining the melodies from a base of music across decades and across genres and styles. It was a remix of the culture." 

The team applied this logic to television.

"The first products that we came out with when we launched about a year and a half ago, were remixes of all the videos that you find. Not only on traditional broadcast and linear cable, but also social media, audio, and even text, graphics, and graphical treatments."

This application led to a brilliant business plan, marketing idea, and hints towards the future of television news. 

The Recount began creating short, digestible videos that could easily be shared across all platforms. Some videos were as short as four seconds but provided enough insight and news to generate buzz and share valuable information to the masses. 

One of their most successful short videos got 100,000 views in only 30 minutes. This was a brief, four-second video that made a huge impact. The video was a comparison of Joe Biden versus Donald Trump when meeting the G7 leaders. The first clip showcased President Trump at the beginning of his presidency. As he met the G7 leaders, Trump pushed his way to the front so he could be seen by everybody. The video then introduces a clip of President Biden walking in a group with his arm around President McCrone. 

"It was a bit that they were so strikingly different. These two images ran side by side for only four seconds, but it's incredibly powerful." 

This is the concept of Hip Hop News. However, to master the art, journalists must be qualified and understand the context of the narrative they are trying to tell. It requires a lot of research, dedication, and time. 

Future of Journalism 

John also weighed in on the future of journalism. With more and more outlets transitioning to a digital model, there's a shift in news and broadcasting. As this shift has come to fruition, there has been a need for monetization and content management systems to support a new model. 

Though there is still a large change that needs to occur to optimize new journalism, the future is near. John provides insight:

 "As we move into streaming…[there's] a big opportunity to rethink the technical layer between production and publishing. It's super exciting. I think it's just as exciting as HTML in the late 90s. Before the emergence of Javascript and the other tools that led to the explosion on the web, everyone called Web Two. We're very close to television. I would say that in five years from now, it'll be a completely different looking field."

As John and The Recount continue to challenge modern-day journalism and provide unique insights into an ever-changing world, there's an opportunity to shift and improve while continually appealing to a broader audience. 

Conclusion 

For journalism lovers and broadcasters, there's value in understanding the changing news consumption habits of society. Applying recent trends, statistics, and knowledge can ensure that you stay on top of your game. Though this provides a significant struggle, it's both exciting and interesting to find new ways to produce information for easy consumption. 

Want to try the original news media video workspace for yourself? Try us free for 7 days to search and clip the biggest news moments as they happen.

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Creating Clips with a Screen Recorder? Consider These 3 Things First.

August 11 2021 by Sarah Eck

Most of us find ourselves in the role of content creator these days, whether we're trying to build a brand, disseminate news, provide commentary on current events, or figure out why we've been sucked in to using both IG Reels AND TikTok. (Okay - that last one is probably just me). 

As a result, we now have more tools at our disposal to create and edit video than ever before. Many of them don't require any video editing skills to use them effectively and a ton of them are free to use. 

Sounds great, right? 

I thought I'd try out a couple of screen recording tools to create some video content leveraging some third-party sources to augment one of my recent blogs. I figured, if a video content tool is truly easy to use, even my geriatric millennial self will be successful. A quick Google search turned up dozens of options.


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The short version?  I got the job done, but the whole experience was cumbersome, time-consuming, and the end result was just okay. Here are my three big takeaways if you're considering using a screen recorder for creating and editing clips of key video moments.

You Have to Know Your Source Content Inside & Out

For the purposes of my test, I was looking to grab some key moments from a virtual event I'd attended the week prior. There were a number of sessions with awesome content and I wanted to snag a few of the best quotes. I could generally recall what I was looking for but didn't know when in each session the key moment had happened. 

In this case, some of the sessions had provided transcripts which allowed me to find the correct timestamps to at least begin my search and start the edit. Without those, I'd have been stuck rewatching hours of content to find the moments I was seeking, making the effort take even longer than it would have. 

When going back to clip content that has happened previously, a better alternative would be a tool that provides a level of search capability or built-in transcription to find the exact moment you're looking for.

 

Be Prepared to Compromise on Precision

Starting and ending clips at the right spot can be tough, especially if you're aiming for a smooth end product devoid of "ums", "ahs" and other verbal transitions. I found this to be the trickiest part of the edit for two main reasons.

First - the screen recorders I tried are all built to accommodate recording new content. Meaning, they start with a countdown - which varies from 3 to 5 seconds, depending on the tool - before actually starting to record. This would be helpful if I were trying to record something new using my built-in webcam and microphone. Less so for clipping existing content. This feature meant that I either needed to have the reflexes of a cat (which I don't) or that I'd have to make sure I recorded more than I needed so I didn't miss the beginning of the moment I wanted.

Which leads to the second point on precision. When it came to editing out the extra seconds up front or at the end, I almost always had to leverage a fade in or fade out to cover the bits I couldn't edit out. This is because the mechanism to select portions to cut was limited to a slider bar. So the precision of getting to the right point was limited to my ability to get that bar lined up with the correct second. Spoiler: It took multiple tries and even a couple of re-records to get it right.

 

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What I found myself wanting was an option to advance or back up either by the second or by the frame to make sure I got the exact cut I needed so each clip would be as clean and precise as possible.


You'll Get What You Pay for When it Comes to Quality

I love a good free resource. Who doesn't? Content teams can't thrive without a few good ones in their arsenal. When it comes to clipping and editing video, however, I'd argue free isn't always the way to go if you're aiming for a high-quality end product. 

Among the free screen recorders I tried, the quality of my source content dictated the quality of the final clip. Meaning, there weren't options for maximizing resolution and, with a couple, there actually appeared to be some slight degradation as far as the overall clarity of the video. 

Additionally, there weren't options for exporting other formats beyond a straightforward clip. To really make the most of the moments, I'd have preferred being able to loop some of them or even create a GIF or two. Particularly for the time invested to find the moments and pull/edit the clips, I'd have liked to walk away from the whole experience with a number of variations on the output to feed all my different digital channels. 


Will I use a free screen recorder again?  For instances where I need to record my own VO or video over a presentation I probably will.  They make a ton of sense for this type of use and are easy enough to figure out. For clipping and editing video content, however, there are better options out there that result in a higher-quality end product and work more intuitively and quickly.

 

SnapStream & Small Biz Insider Discuss the Power of Video Storytelling

July 26 2021 by Sarah Eck

Origin stories aren't just for superheroes and comic books. And we always love an opportunity to talk about how SnapStream went from a consumer DVR product to the news and media video workspace it is today. 

On a recent episode of Small Biz Insider podcast our own Rakesh Agrawal joined Maggie Martin to talk about SnapStream's continued evolution and the importance of video-based storytelling. Here are a few key moments and takeaways you won't want to miss.

 

The Duality of Video Proof and Need for Context

We believe what we see and hear. And in the era of "fake news," being able to see events in real-time with our own eyes takes on new relevance. But if seeing is believing, then we also need to be more vigilant than ever about the potential for video manipulation.

This is where context becomes so important. Just as video can be used to clarify, it can also be used to obfuscate or play into confirmation bias. Narratives and details that accompany videos - particularly when it comes to video clips - are often as vital as the video proof itself. The way narratives and video work together are key to deepening understanding.

 

Video Content Sources are More Numerous than Ever

The nature of broadcast television and video content has changed significantly in the 20+ years SnapStream has been in business. Part of our charge has been to evolve right along with the rapid proliferation of video content sources.

With roots still planted in broadcast TV, SnapStream continues make our news and media video workspace compatible with a number of sources - from press feeds like CNN Newsource to live events and Twitch streams. Enabling content creators and storytellers of all kinds to easily harness video moments regardless of where they appear is at the heart of what we do.

 

Listen to the full episode now

 

Doing More with Less is the Name of the Game

As the news cycle speeds up and video sources proliferate, production, news, public affairs and social media teams are asked to run leaner and meaner each year. Publish more content, never miss a moment, stay ahead of competitors - but do it with smaller teams and fewer tools. 

Therein lies SnapStream's secret sauce. We make it fast and easy for any content creator - regardless of their technical or editing ability - to create frame-accurate, social-media-ready video content.

 

To hear about SnapStream's long relationship with late night TV as well as more of Rakesh's insights on building a successful Houston-based business, check out the full episode via the Greater Houston Partnership site or download via your preferred podcast app.

ABOUT SMALL BIZ INSIDER

Small Biz Insider is a podcast highlighting the innovative business owners, entrepreneurs and leaders of the greater Houston area who are making a big impact in the small business community. It’s part of a digital series produced by the Greater Houston Partnership. 

Now in its third season, Small Biz Insider has featured dozens of guests who have keen insight into Houston’s small business community, from branding to financial advice and more. 

 

 

Five Things Every Digital News Team Should Learn from ONA21

June 30 2021 by Sarah Eck

 

ona21-logo@2xThe Online News Association (ONA) held its 22nd annual conference last week and we couldn’t get enough of the incredible speakers and content. More than 1,000 digital news and media pros virtually gathered to talk about innovation and the future of online journalism. 

While every session was unique and featured varied points of view, a handful of themes seemed to bubble up in many of the talks. Check out the five themes that caught our attention and are top-of-mind in the realm of digital news.

 

Making News Requires More Collaboration than Ever

Teamwork makes the (digital news) dream work. Collaboration was a hot topic on many fronts - from battling misinformation to streamlining production and maximizing monetization. With ever more news to cover and reduced staffs at major outlets, digital journalists must continue to find ways to work together across organizations to craft compelling narratives quickly and accurately.

 

 

Embrace New, Diversified Financial Models

Is the advertising model dead? Depends on who you ask. Will the future of digital news be based on independent journalists, subscriptions, and emerging platforms like Substack? Again, depends on who you ask.

One thing most ONA21 speakers could agree on, however, is that the economic model of digital news is changing.  From hybrid advertiser and subscription models to affiliate marketing, newsletters, social media, and branded content, digital media organizations have more options than ever to diversify their sources of revenue. And in this digital-driven world, ensuring equitable and ethical monetization for journalists is paramount. 

 

 

Leverage Video Proof to Reestablish Trust

Misinformation runs rampant, hyper-partisan outlets continue to proliferate, and mainstream news outlets have a long way to go to regain the trust of the communities they serve. Though journalism has long been predicated on delivering the facts and separating fact from fiction, audiences often give more credence to an information source than the information itself. This is where video proof can play a powerful role in delivering the truth, creating a shared sense of reality, and rebuilding the trust news organizations have lost over the last several years.

 

 

 

Diversity in Newsrooms is Vital to Representative Reporting

Accurate representation of the communities digital journalists serve dominated several ONA21 sessions. Topics ranged from newsroom inclusion, source diversity and web accessibility for disabled readers, to accurate language translation and coverage of traumatic events. The takeaway was clear -- long-overdue changes MUST happen inside newsrooms regarding staffing, source identification, gendered language, content accessibility, and equity in coverage. Evolving newsrooms to meet the moment is paramount to regaining trust within the communities journalists serve every single day.

 

 

 

Explore New Methods and Channels to Reach the Right Audience

News audiences have more options for information than ever, ranging from quality journalism to outright propaganda. For digital news organizations of all kinds this means looking for new ways to meaningfully connect with audiences to capture attention and maximize reach.

One approach is to experiment with new channels (such as text) and new content types (such as events and branded content) to cut through the noise. We heard from other journalists that another successful technique has been to provide even greater transparency and to directly speak with audiences. Essentially breaking the fourth wall to create a dialogue with audiences and bring them closer to the story.

 

 

With so many incredible storytellers in one place, it was inevitable that ONA21 was going to be full of thought-provoking content and a vision for the future. We'd love to hear about which moments stood out to you. Drop us a comment and let us know what got you thinking.

 

What is SnapStream? There's an unlimited amount of video content out there: 24/7 news channels, breaking news events, sports, talk shows, awards galas, entertainment shows, and so much more.

SnapStream makes a real-time news and media search engine that makes it fast and easy to find the video moments that support our customers telling great stories.

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