Archive for the 'Genius' Category

If you’re a (radio) journalist, Audioboo is dead exciting

Occasionally a service pops onto the internet that’s just brimming with potential for journalism (and the rest of the media). It doesn’t need any complicated explanations – you just plug and go and start having a lot of fun. Audioboo is one of those services.

Ostensibly it’s a very simple app for the iPhone that allows you to record a ‘boo’, which gets sent to the Audioboo website, where there are also the standard social networking functions. You can also embed it into your own website. This boo can literally be anything, but it’s normally short and snappy – rarely over two minutes. It’s a bit like an aural version of Seesmic or Twitter, although that’s not entirely accurate.

The Guardian used this to good effect on their liveblog during their coverage of the G20 summit and the accompanying protests. Mix with text and video, it gave you short, snappy reports from journalists on the ground.

This, to me, is exciting.

Let’s backtrack to when I was a radio reporter. It’s not a million miles away from what I would be doing for assorted news stories – often standing near a breaking news story (usually in a cold and/or wet place. Big news stories always seem to break when the elements are at their worst, just to torment news reporters) with a microphone in hand, describing what was going on for the benefit of our listeners.

Depending on what equipment was available on the day you’d either get a radio quality OB unit (although this would inevitably decide not to work or be in use when big stories broke), a mobile phone, or you’d just end up doing an ‘as live’ report into your recording equipment.

This is why Audioboo excites me. The quality, as far as I can tell, is decent – certainly better than using a mobile. Sure, it has limitations – you can’t do a two-way, for example. But the principle of just sending a quick report of where you are and what you’re doing… hell, that’s no different from standard radio journalism and opens up a wealth of possibilities.

If I were still in radio, I’d be getting onto our technical and website bods to make sure we could send Boos direct to the newsroom. How liberating would it be if you can send an immediate report back in decent quality without having to do a pre-record or even take up precious time from the journalist at the other end who’ll be recording your call.

And if a radio journalist found themselves somewhere without any recording equipment (maybe during off-duty time), it’d be easy to get a report back to the office.

But Audioboo goes way beyond that. Citizen journalism is usually, these days, a fairly vague term that’s just used to lump ‘the internet’ together but in this case it suits Audioboo perfectly. If newsrooms encourage listeners to send in their ‘boos’ from news stories, there’s a whole wealth of material that can be collected freeing up precious time for the journalist (and please God, meaning that we have to do less vox pops. I’ve yet to met a journalist who enjoys vox popping. That said, there is a time and a place and they do make for good radio).

Then there’s the radio shows themselves. Audioboo can add another easy, interactive aspect to any DJ’s show, or any podcast as well (it’s certainly something I’d like to play with in the future for the twofootedtackle podcast when I get a moment). Given how simple it is, there are so many possibilities.

Of course, it’s not just radio journalists this can be useful for. It should be reasonably easy to work them into TV news (I’d imagine), and the Guardian have already shown how any news website can work them into coverage. Again, any newspaper – be it national, regional or local – should be looking to work this into their site.

Inviting ‘boos’ from the public is essentially opening up audio is the same way camera phones and the like did for pictures, and that’s now a staple part of any news coverage.

The only downside. I don’t yet have an iPhone so can’t Audioboo myself. But it’s a concept that really excites me and it’s been a long time since I’ve said that about any web service, no matter how much I love or use them.

Gary expanding elsewhere

Not around my waist, although I have recently gone up a trouser size.

So, in addition to this week’s Soccerlens column, which is mainly on Burton Albion’s title wobbles and includes references to Wilde and an impotence joke, there’s exciting news on the assorted football stuff I do.

As from next Tuesday (hopefully), my good friend Chris Nee and I will be producing the Two Footed Tackle podcast. Which is essentially chat about football, but hopefully an entertaining chat about football.

It’s not like this was planned. We’d both chatted about various podcasts we liked, he happened to mention he may have access to a radio studio, I mentioned my broadcasting background, and at that point we thought “why the hell not”.

It’ll be fun to get behind a broadcast desk again and even more fun to chat football for 40-odd minutes.

It’s very much a communal effort and we’ll be reviewing the big stories on the blogs as well as the papers, plus we’re hoping to get some guests, bloggers and general football fans, in the studio to counterbalance our witterings. Should be fun.

At some point in time, I should also be contributing (hopefully) to the excellent Soccerlens podcast, which is a couple of episodes old and a very good listen indeed. It’s also different to the one I’ll be doing with Chris, so you don’t get football fatigue.

It also means that all three of you who missed my dulcet tones after left the newsreading business will be able to get, um, aural pleasure from it again.

Or something.

Three chairs for local news

Some days you just have to love it when the following come together.

1. A wonderful non-story that all local journalists will have filed at some point or another that gets posted up on a local newspaper website.

2. A comments facility.

3. People with a sense of humour.

The result: 75 comments on a story on the Westmorland Gazette about a chair being set on fire.

This may, quite possibly, be one of the bestest things I’ve found on the internet this week đŸ™‚

Please can somebody make this into a TV programme?

Pride and Prejudice. But with zombies.

zombies

If it’s successful, it could open up a whole series. There are very few classic novels I can think of that wouldn’t be improved by zombies.

(HT: Matthew)

PS If you’ve not guessed, I’m insanely busy at the moment with a few work projects. Sadly no zombies involved. Normal death-of-media-and-Twitter postings should be resumed next week at some point.

A few of my favourite odds and sods to round off the year

Otherwise known as the lazy blog post of cultural stuff I’ve quite liked in 2008, namely film, TV and music.

Film-wise, 2008’s film of the year should, by rights, be The Dark Knight, which was fantastic in every way. But an understated Pinteresque [1] comedy that starred both Colin Farrell and racist dwarves was also equally as good and, as such, I can’t pick between them.

In Bruges should have probably been discarded the moment you mentioned Colin Farrell’s name in conjunction with comedy and existentialism. But then it’s just possible writer/director Martin McDonagh saw Farrell’s performance in the sadly underrated and little-seen Intermission and decided he’d be perfect for the restless, foul-mouthed, hyperactive naive first-time hitman Ray. And the film world, it can safely be said, is all the better for this casting decision.

In Bruges’ joy lay in the characters and the script, while the plot took a back seat. Watching Farrell and Brendan Gleeson’s mismatched hitmen lay low and bicker in the boring but culturally rich city of Bruges while waiting for orders from their psycopathic boss (Ralph Fiennes) was one of the cinematic highlights of the year. It’s also not often you manage to get a film that has a very soft, sweet centre but such a hilariously profane script that manages to offend pretty much every minority and country, often in just one sentence.

On the flipside was Christopher Nolan’s brooding, intense masterpiece. Had this been a cop film, it would be a shoe-in for Oscars. As it is, it may still get one.

If Heath Ledger picks up posthumous awards then there’ll always be a suspicion that, well, the academy voted for him because he’s dead. But that takes nothing away from his performance as the Joker, which is thoroughly deserving of every accolade anybody wants to throw at him. While Christian Bale’s Batman takes a back seat, almost out of necessity, Ledger’s Joker steals the show completely to the point you’ll completely forget Jack Nicholson ever hammed it up under the facepaint.

Such a majestic graphic novel adaptation has been a long time coming (the first Hellboy probably got closest in the action stakes, with Ghost World leading the way elsewhere) and, with the Dark Knight, Nolan’s raised the bar so high that most other superhero films might as well give up now. Or at least wait a few years. Certainly it puts a lot of pressure on the forthcoming Watchmen film, as if there wasn’t enough already.

On the small screen, sports aside, there’s been one show that has stood head and shoulders above the rest. Britain may be a bit behind on getting Dexter, but it’s been worth the wait.

Michael C. Hall is perfect as the police blood splatter expert cum serial killer, while the scripts are gripping, tight and very playful indeed. It takes a lot to make you root for a serial killer, even one who only offs bad guys, but Dexter pitches the show exactly right – somewhere between extreme black comedy and taught police thriller. Season 2 has already been on FX but comes to terrestrial (ITV1) in the New Year. I’m halfway through it on DVD and it’s every bit as good as the first.

Finally, music wise, the album that’s rarely been off my iPod since I brought it: TV On The Radio’s Dear Science. A mixture of funk, downbeat, noodling experimental electronica and, finally after several albums that promised but never delivered, some tight, killer tunes. A masterpiece from start to finish. Here’s a quick clip of the band performing The Golden Age on Later…

[1] I’m not using this word just to show off I know about his stuff now that he’s dead (although I’ve studied a lot of Pinter in the past). Rather that the film really did remind me a lot of the Dumb Waiter.

Why I love the FA Cup

Last night non-league Blyth Spartans defeated Bournemouth 1-0 with an 89th minute winner from their 18-year-old substitute to set up a tie with Premier League side Blackburn Rovers.

It’s that kind of drama-you-couldn’t-make-up that makes me love the FA Cup (even if Exeter got knocked out to Curzon Ashton). It’s the chance for, cliched as it is, the postmen, the electricians, and the plumbers, the semi-professionals, to get their moment of glory.

And Blyth have pedigree, having reached the 5th round of the FA Cup back in 1978, and coming close to become the only non-league team to ever make it to the quarter-finals. You can read my Soccerlens piece on it here.

Also, Droyslden and Chesterfield are doing their best to revive the spirit of endless replays (them from the days before penalty shoot outs).

Having seen their original match abandoned due to fog, the teams then drew two-all in a bizarre game that saw Chesterfield allow their non-league opponents to equalise after Jack Lester scored a controversial goal. Then, last night, the floodlights failed at Droylsden [1] with the Spireites leading 2-0, so another replay is required.

Add Histon knocking out Leeds in the last round, and Barrow facing Middlesborough in the third round, and it’s clear just why the FA Cup is one of the greatest competitions in the world.

My favourite cup final is the 1990 three-all draw between Manchester United and Crystal Palace. Not because I have any great love for either of these teams, but because it was a pulsating affair that had you on the edge of your seats.

United went on to win the replay 1-0, with a rare goal from defender Lee Martin.

And no matter what people may have thought about last season’s cup final, it was great to see Portsmouth and Cardiff battle it out rather than any of the usual suspects. It’s why I can’t wait for January 3rd.

[1] There’s a lot of this kind of thing around at this time I year. I was at Dagenham on Saturday when the floodlights failed at half time. Frustrating, yes, as it was a good game of football. But given that Exeter were losing 1-0, it was absolutely freezing cold, there was driving rain, and the away end is uncovered, you’ll understand why I wasn’t horrendously upset to have to leave early.

A wafer-thin slice of the future of TV

For a bunch of aging comedians, the Monty Python crew have always been a bit ahead of many of their younger contemporaries when it comes to the internet. Now they’ve gone where many other TV shows would fear to go – uploading their content for free onto YouTube.

As the Guardian reports, they’ve used the site’s Video ID system to identify their material that’s been uploaded (without their permission), replacing it with better quality footage on their own YouTube channel and attaching adverts to the clips urging watchers to buy their DVDs. That immediately appears to have paid off:

“And there is method in the Pythonesque madness of giving away valuable content for free – Monty Python’s DVD sales are up more than 1,000% following the launch of their YouTube channel, and that’s on Amazon alone. Fans must have been listening to the Python message: “We want you to click on links and buy our movies and TV shows. Only this will soften our pain and disgust at being ripped off all these years …””

As a fan, it’s a great idea – high quality clips for free, while there’s no better way to get you in the frame of mind to buy some classic Python. The quality of the clips is definitely a key hook – why trawl through poor-quality stuff when you’ve got the official stuff in all its glory?

Would this approach work for other shows? Well, the Python team are in a pretty privileged position as they’ve got an established brand and a very large fanbase – not to mention (I’d imagine) hundreds of people searching for clips on YouTube every day.

Whether it’d work for a smaller show trying to make a name for itself or a lengthy drama is an interesting one – but it certainly couldn’t hurt to try.

YouTube is a massive player in online video, so it makes sense to try and utilise it – and if the content’s officially sanctioned, it does give the show’s owner some degree of control. And, as the Python team have already shown, it can have a positive effect on sales.

It’s all part of the more social experience that viewers come to expect online today, and shows that YouTube is hear to stay and should be considered in any promotional strategy. Quite how you then drive traffic from there to your own website, and then ensure you make money from it, is another question entirely. But if you’re not engaging in some way with these sites, there’s always a risk of becoming a dead parrot.


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Yes, this is my name. And my email. Use it wisely or you're not getting a biscuit with your tea: garyllewellynandrews [at] gmail [dot] com