How to break into online video journalism

Today, I’m turning over my blog to a guest blogger.

Jackie Hai, is a freelance videographer and Web designer who will graduate next month with a bachelor’s degree in journalism and philosophy from UMass Amherst. She blogs at Convergence Commons about the changing role of the media. Her blog is among the many in my Google reader, and I’d suggest you put her blog in yours, too.

Jackie Hai

Jackie Hai

Here is her post on breaking into online video journalism without breaking the bank.

These days, it’s no longer enough for newspapers to shovel stories online from their print edition and call it a day.  More and more newsrooms are now making forays into producing videos for the Web to meet the demand for multimedia journalism.

Here are some simple ways to add video to your news Web site, ranging from straightforward story packages to interactive discussions and live streams, at little to no cost.

You’ll notice that all of the suggestions below are with third-party hosting companies. There’s a reason for that. The best third-party hosts are free (many have paid subscription options with additional features you can grow into), and come with a lot of benefits:

  • Outsourced storage and bandwidth. They take the load of storing and delivering video off your own server, so your site won’t get bogged down.
  • Automatic conversion. They’ll automatically convert your videos to Flash from whatever format you originally uploaded it in.
  • Accessibility. Because of the ubiquity of Flash, your videos are guaranteed to play across a wide range of platforms and browsers
  • Existing community of users. Your videos have the potential to gain additional exposure outside your core audience and attract new visitors to your site.

So with all the options out there, which service should you choose? Actually, the answer depends on what style of video journalism you’re going for.

Ideal for: Interviews, documentary-style videos
File limits: Up to 500MB total per week
Paid options: Vimeo Plus for $59.95/year

Vimeo is a solid general-purpose host for video storytelling. Geared toward independent filmmakers and producers, its features are a cut above average video sharing sites. It has high-quality playback, HD video uploads and a gorgeous embedded video player that scales smoothly to any size.

The 500MB/week upload limit is unlikely to cause problems if you’re just starting out and only uploading a few videos a week. If your volume does grow beyond that, upgrading to Vimeo Plus is not too costly and comes with some extra perks, such as unlimited HD embedding and more player customization controls.

Ideal for: Vlogs, short clips
File limits: Up to 1GB or 10 minutes per video

YouTube has recently jumped on the HD bandwagon, but that feature is still under development and not guaranteed to work all the time. Instead, YouTube’s greatest strength still lies in hosting vlogs and short clips — the former because its ability to post video responses encourages conversation and the latter because of the potential for such videos to go viral with the site’s huge user base.
Ideal for: Series, episodic videos
File limits: Up to 1GB per video, but 100MB or less recommended
Paid options: Pro account for $8/month

As the domain suffix suggests, is made for television producers interested in creating shows with online distribution. While it is possible to upload stand-alone videos on, the site really becomes useful when you have a series of episodes around a particular theme (e.g. a weekly movie review, an investigative series, etc.) that you want to publish on a regular basis.

Videos can be syndicated as well as played from an embeddable browser that lists all episodes on the side. A pro account lets you upload longer videos and set a publishing schedule ahead of time.

Ideal for: Interactive video discussions, MOTS/vox pop interviews
File limits: Unspecified, but ideally under two minutes.

Take the asynchronous interactivity of YouTube’s video responses, combine it with the immediacy of Twitter, and you have Seesmic: the new kid on the block, but already making waves with its potential for innovative uses.

Seesmic comes with the Disqus commenting system, which enables readers to post video comments on your site by recording straight from webcam. You can also get creative and use Seesmic to host a Web 2.0 version of the classic man-on-the-street type of interview — just record your question as the conversation starter and upload your gathered clips as responses. Here’s an example of this in action.

Ideal for: Live webcasts, streaming events
File limits: 500kbps bit rate for streaming, 700MB for video uploads (Mogulus)

With broadband Internet access becoming more widespread, streaming live video over the Web at decent quality is now possible. Consider using live streams to host webcasts (with an expert panel, say) on your site, or to broadcast local events to an online audience.

At this point, two live streaming services are at the head of the pack: Mogulus and UStream. Robin Good at WebTVwire writes about which may be a better fit for you. The short version: Mogulus is good for professional-looking productions involving multiple cameras, titles and graphics, while UStream is the simpler option for rapid launches and impromptu events.

So there you have it: a diverse roundup of free to low-cost solutions you can start trying out immediately. And if you’re using online video in a creative way, let us know in the comments!

8 thoughts on “How to break into online video journalism

  1. Glenn,

    Thanks for visiting. Yes, Jackie did a great job. I learned a lot from her guest post.

    – Gina

  2. Pingback: Online Video:Getting Started « Outside the News Box

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  5. Thank you Gina, Jackie did a great job

    This post is very nice and useful for online videos i never heard and lacking before to promote for video journalism this is one of the best articles.

  6. I like what you guys are up too. Such intelligent work and reporting! Carry on the superb works guys I’ve incorporated you guys to my blogroll. I think it’ll improve the value of my web site :)

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