Broadcasting Bits: News Broadcasts Built With UGC

News.Broadcast News. Three simple words. And yet, just what do they mean? What's "news" today? And what are the vehicles by which we consume our news? Newspapers? Broadcast television? The Internet? The manner in which people watch news is clearly undergoing transformation. Broadcast television news viewers certainly have alternatives -- and Internet-based news programming may also provide more immediate access to news instead of waiting for that news to be prioritized (if appear at all) over "normal" broadcasting airwaves.

Several technologies are combining to change the news gathering and viewing experience. Internet and mobile transmission protocols are enabling people to consume news content on a variety of devices. 3+ megapixel still and full-motion-video-capture cell phones are enabling anyone to acquire and transmit images. Web portals that foster and promote users to generate stories have provided the opportunity and outlet for anyone to be a provider of newsworthy content.

Various terms are now applied to individuals who are not professional broadcast journalists or videographers. Whether the term is "citizen journalist," iReporter, or the worldwide community represented by Current TV, more people are acquiring images, more are editing stories, and more are making content for the world to consume. Some are struggling at this and others are thriving.

The net result of all these factors is that individuals around the world can see and hear "news" happening in other countries and continents. Today, we have, of course, become accustomed to 24-hour news networks such as CNN, but never before have we been able to see unfolding news regardless of where we are (notwithstanding institutional or governmental barring of Internet/Mobile access).

Amidst this revolutionary access to "news" is the reality of news broadcasts that either include some excerpts of user-generated content (UGC), or are completely assembled from UGC.

With the former, "normal" news broadcasts are augmented with footage -- still or motion -- taken by members of the public. With the latter, entire news stories and entire news broadcasts consist entirely of UGC.

And, interestingly enough, devices that further enable content acquisition and transmission are appearing from manufacturers who are not the traditional companies that make video cameras. For example, take the Motorola MOTO Z10, which was introduced at this year's CES show. This is a phone, right? Well, yes it is. But it is also a 3.2 megapixel camera that captures and displays 30 frame- per-second video capture with MPEG-4 encoding. And it also has editing capabilities so that video clips can be ordered and sequenced.

And if that wasn't enough, the camera -- or is it phone? it gets confusing -- even provides canned transitions such as pattern wipes; even a voiceover can be added. When the story is finished, you use the phone -- or is it editing system? it gets confusing -- to upload the content to a Web portal (without connecting to a computer) for worldwide consumption.

What are the implications when powerful, ubiquitous content acquisition and distribution systems such as this "phone" -- and the inevitable clones -- create more than one billion video-capable phones in the not-so-distant future? How will the traditional broadcast entities reach out to their viewers -- that vast number of potential citizen journalists -- in their viewing community?

Today, to be sure, there are an enormous number of digital video cameras that record to mini-DV videotape. But, increasingly, acquisition will be via solid state, and digital files will be sent to the news station or to the news portal over IP networks.

The business of news is in red-hot transition, and the benefit to us all is more "news" generated from varying points of view, and from around the world. Our collective knowledge of, exposure to, and experience of what is happening around the world -- and our ability to react to it -- will only grow considerably.

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