MEDIA | With Al Arabiya news channel asking its viewers to submit their own video clips, the age of user generated video has dawned in Arabia too, Ahmad Humeid reports.
When the London Underground was bombed a year ago, the first images and video coming out of the tunnels originated from the videophones of people who were trapped down there. This content made its way to the front pages of papers and global TV networks.
This example is often cited when talking about the rising trends of citizen journalism and user generated content. With many of us armed with digital cameras and video-capable phones, the age of “citizen media” is upon us. The rise of blogs, photo and video sharing sites, are all signs that media is in for a big shift.
In the past year, we’ve witnessed the arrival of services like YouTube and Vimeo, which allow users to easily publish video clips. Google is also present in the online video arena with its own service.
Usage of such services is surging. Traditional TV networks are taking note, even in the Arab region. The Arab news channel Al-Arabiya is calling on its viewers to submit amateur-made documentaries and clips to be shown on TV and the channel’s website. Aljazeera is known to be planning programming that depends on user-generated videos.
“Funniest home videos” have always been a popular TV format for decades. So is there anything new in the current trend of “user-generated” video content making its way to mainstream audiences?
Definitely. The main difference comes from the existence of the net. Everyone can publish. And while a lot of what out there is only of interest to the person who shot it, or their close family (how many clips of some strangers cat can we endure?), some material that catches the attention of more people is propelled to the top of the pile and gets disseminated in a ‘viral’ fashion (people sending it to loads of other people and so on).
The difference from the ‘Funniest Home Videos’ model is also in the amount and nature of the material being shown.
A recent article in Wired magazine focused on what is being termed ‘crowd sourcing’: depending on legions of amateurs to produce stuff. Channels like VH1 and Al Gore’s new channel Current, are starting to depend on video generated by ordinary folks in their programming, In Current’s case, 30% of its content is audience generated.
And its not just funny stuff. People are capable of producing more meaningful media than clips of people bumping into stuff. Amateur video is making its way into sporting coverage and music concert DVDs.
The technical quality of video cameras in the hand of consumers is rivaling that produced by the pros. Some consumer cameras can even shoot High Definition video today. And if the content is powerful enough, the technical quality might not even matter.
In the Arab world, the effects of user generated content can be profound. While western societies have been accustomed to media freedom for decades (if not centuries), Arabia’s bloggers and video shooters are working in a media environment that is still in its infancy. So take your video camera or phone camera out and shoot something that is affecting you, your family, your neighborhood or your country. Then put it online. Who knows, you might just make it to millions of screens around the region and beyond.
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