Saturday, 2 May 2015

New media and the 2nd Royal baby- Periscope onto a centuries old story

As a Moscow based television correspondent (@TomBartonJourno) it was fascinating to watch the reports coming from outside the hospital where Kate and Will’s royal baby number two arrived.

Twitter, Instagram and Facebook have all been big in the coverage of course. But the relatively new app Periscope, a live video feed app via your phone owned by Twitter (there are other such apps like Meerkat), has been raising some interesting possibilities.

- Reporters have been able to show their contextual knowledge and provide up-to-the-second updates as things happen. They have more time to report and are live constantly.

- These updates have been between their live ‘hits’, the times they are actually on the main channel screen for their respective broadcasters.

- Periscope users watching their streams have been asking questions in real time. Some of the correspondents have been variously,
- taking their viewers on little tours of the area outside the hospital
- having dedicated sessions answering audience questions

- It showed more of the usually hidden workings of television news. Reporters found themselves revealing on air on the app (for they are no less ‘on-air’ there than on the television channel) things like,
-what times their producers wanted them to go live
-how parts of their broadcast equipment worked and some of its technical difficulties
-details like the fact that on a British story British media are more likely to get to ask questions first (that little known broadcast etiquette applying in many countries for domestic broadcasters)

- They revealed more of themselves and their lives rather than just the story like,
-how tired they were and how long they had been working
-thanking viewers for compliments or answering them back for criticisms
-joking about their clothes and hairstyles
-using their own families as a comparison to the royals, perhaps revealing for the first time that they have children of their own and that as a result they would understand why Kate would be tired.

This throwing back the curtain and chatting about personal details is raising new questions. Does this turn reporters into celebrities themselves? Does it allow them to build their personal brand as an authority on the subject? But at this experimental stage it is fascinating to see both correspondent and audience experimenting with what is informative and entertaining.

On a media saturated event like this the correspondents are having to leave the app video every hour/30 minutes to go live on their actual television channels. Much of the rest of the time they were using their phone live streams with gusto.

I couldn’t help thinking that despite the obvious differences in quality, it’s not inconceivable that before long it will be app live streams that have become the main event and the live ‘hits’ on the television become more of an appendage.

Let me take this all the way to a theoretical conclusion. For the first time I could see more clearly than ever how technology like this may change how traditional media looks and runs. 

- Instead of separate TV channels and newspapers, news organisations would run online ‘streams’ or ‘feeds’ (we’re already learning a new jargon) 

- Some will be at the scene for events or developing stories like this 

- Others will be in a studio or newsroom and will aggregate reporting for stories that aren’t being covered constantly.

- One central reporter will be at the centre of each stream and will interview both guests and other of their own colleagues who have been finding the latest details on the phone, on social media or on the street. These reporters will come and ‘feed’ new information into the news stream. It won’t have to wait for the next news bulletin or edition. Everyone will be working in real time. On one level that may be more intense for everyone but on another it may free up more reporters to actually be finding out about the story. Newsrooms may become less busy as more reporters can simply check in to the stream via mobile technology when they find out something new.


British Royal families have been having babies for centuries. To some extent this trend too has already been taking shape in broadcast newsrooms. But outside that hospital I saw, through a periscope, a possible new world of news.

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