• InstaGram Makes A Big Splash with Sandy

    October 31st, 2012

    The numbers are staggering, 10,000 photos per second during the height of the storm. Never before have this many photos been snapped and shared during a news event.

    Call it the adoption of technology meets the power of social media. Hurricane Sandy has set the standard for social media and how a major event is covered by the mobile population.

    Not familiar with InstaGram, ask your teenager. This mobile app has exploded in social circles, with the ability to share, like and comment on photos. In fact in August, comScore reported that Instagram passed Twitter in the amount of daily active users in during the month, as well as blowing past the tweet app in total time spent online.

    comScore also reports Instagram has increased tenfold since March, now with nearly 8 million daily mobile users, Twitter has 6.9 million. To Twitter’s credit it did still win out in total unique viewers  (29 million vs. 21 million), but fewer of them returned on a daily basis and spent less time on the app.

    Some of the first pictures from Hurricane Sandy were being shared by users in Instagram, and because the app is hashtag searchable, pulling in pictures was a breeze. As of this writing there are 618,108 with the #sandy hashtag, 381,751 with the #hurricanesandy hashtag and 44,037 with the #frankenstorm hashtag. That’s over a million pictures.


    As Sandy approached the northeast shoreline, mobile cameras were everywhere.

    Here is one (photo right) of the first pictures snapped of the damaged crane above the New York skyline. Shared socially before hitting the local and network airwaves.

    Since the storm, websites have popped up dedicated to Hurricane Sandy photos.

    Instacane is billed as “the story of Hurricane Sandy told through Instagram pictures.” Made possible via Instagrams API offered free online.

    If Instagram sounds familar to you, it should. Earlier this year Facebook bought the photo sharing service for $1 billion, beginning its meteoric rise.

    Instagram has proven it deserves to be in a station’s social media arsenal. The app allows sharing to Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Flickr and Foursquare accounts. Your viewers and users are already there.

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  • The Face of Social

    November 16th, 2011

    “People have really gotten comfortable not only sharing more information and different kinds, but more openly and with more people – and that social norm is just something that has evolved over time. “
    Mark Zuckerberg

    Truer words have never been spoken.
    Pew Research, the organization that studies most of the things we do online, has new information about how we behave when it comes to using social media.

    Granted it is tough to find anyone who isn’t on Facebook these days, including most businesses and organizations. Pew says in a study released this week that 66% of all adults online are using some form of social media.

    An overwhelming majority of those say staying in touch with friends and family are the key drivers for using sites like Facebook, My Space, Twitter or Linkedin. Women (72%) tend to cite this reason more than men (55%).

    According to the study, men (56%) tend to favor sites that connect with a particular hobby or interest. Women weigh in at (44%)

    The study also shows us what social media is not, a means of keeping up with notables – like politicians, celebrities or athletes, a mere 5% check-in there. Twitter is the preferred platform here ranking highest among the African Americans  and Latinos.

    If you had to pick one, Twitter would be the platform to connect with public figures. Among Twitter users 1 in 10 say they read their comments and is a major reason for being online.

    As journalists I think it is important to understand how the audience uses social. Social is personal. Social goes against the grain of being broadcasters, one message to all people. Simply posting a story for a viewer doesn’t get you credit on a personal level.

    Starting a conversation with your followers does, it is then shared among their friends and family. Suddenly you have connected on a emotional level and become a part of their inner circle.

    Social is friends and family. Not a bad brand for a media company.

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  • Battling Irene with Facebook and Skype

    August 30th, 2011

    When Hurricane Irene began to roar ashore the east coast of North Carolina last weekend, it marked the culmination of planning and preparation by the staff at WNCT in Greenville. As Irene barreled through the Atlantic it became apparent the Greenville market was destined to be ground zero for landfall sometime Saturday morning.

    Marty Van Housen, Director of Content for WNCT, had spent the better part of a week planning for the storm. He placed crews strategically along the coast, assigned his SNG and ENG resources and waited for Irene’s approach. But this hurricane season was a little different. This year he supplemented his coverage with social media and Skype, adopting mobile as a critical news gathering platform.

    Marty quickly learned the value of Skype and social media as Irene moved onshore, blocking satellite signals and disabling his microwave receive dishes. Any other time WNCT would have been dead in the water, but with the power of social media and Skype WNCT’s coverage excelled, he explains.

    “We had three Skype setups for the hurricane, designed as a fallback position if our ENG and SNG efforts failed or were unusable at the height of the storm, Sure enough they failed. We were set up with a camera wired into Skype on the balcony of our hotel room at Kill Devil Hills. The first shots ahead of the storm the reporter was in front of the camera. As the storm intensified, he reported from the room as the Skype shot looked out on the heavy surf and wind”, said Van Housen.

    WNCT also put into action mobile phones from their digital journalists, when using laptops just didn’t make sense. “We used the Skype live video and he reported over his cell phone from North Topsail Beach, where at one point our reporter was in 70 mile per hour winds. We shot him using an iPhone4. The storm was too powerful at that point for either an ENG or SNG shot, but the Skype signal held steady, with only occasional video freezes.

    Probably one of the best examples of the power of Skype was driving through the storm, a live perspective rarely seen in local television news.
    Van Housen explains, “We taped a web cam to the windshield of one of our live trucks and using a wireless broadband card kept a strong Skype video picture up as we drove through the storm. It was similar to what we did chasing tornadoes in April. The video provided an eerie, ominous feeling of being in the storm as it moved in. The truck operator drove, as our reporter detailed what conditions were like driving between New Bern and Morehead City. They arrived at their location in Morehead City, where all power was out and continued Skype reporting using the generator off the live truck to keep everything powered up.”

    Obviously, WNCT’s use of Skype gave them a huge competitive advantage covering this deadly storm, but as Van Housen tells me they took it a step further and called their entire Facebook fan base into action, delivering critical information and crowd sharing important pictures and video.

    “We used Facebook in a very big way. At one point, when all ENG and SNG shots were down, we did about three hours of hurricane coverage using just Skype, social media, and emergency response phoners. Facebook once again became a network of people providing and seeking information, and we once again receive tons of photos on the air in just a matter of minutes. We also received about a dozen great viewer videos of the hurricane raging through their neighborhoods. We streamed our live coverage on Facebook, which turned out to be the key source of information for many of our viewers who had lost their cable, or power, but could still monitor us through Facebook online.

    The outpouring of help and calls for assistance still crowd the WNCT Facebook page today. They increased their Facebook population by 7,000 people since before the storm and that number continues to climb.

    WNCT’s example of use of social media and Skype should be a lesson to all those that follow. Marty VanHousen and his team realized it was the information that was important and channeled that content directly to the people of eastern North Carolina.

    Well done!

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  • Tools of the Trade: Teleprompt+ for iPad

    August 24th, 2011

    You knew someone was going to eventually figure this one out. Teleprompter for iPad.
    I received a Facebook message this week from friend and former News Director Gina Katzmark  touting the new Teleprompter+ app for iPad. Gina now works as a Associate Director of Communications at the Wake Forest University Schools of Business. She was in need a field teleprompter for a recent shoot. Enter the iPad.

    It use to be that field teleprompters were expensive and cumbersome, but a necessary evil. Today, with the portability of tablets, teleprompters in the field are seamless.

    “It’s a very economical solution when a TelePrompTer is needed in the field,” says Katzmark . “If you already have an iPad, you can spend less than $100 for the App and accessories to create one versus hundreds of dollars for a rental or more than a thousand to purchase a traditional one.”

    She added, “you have the option to just prop the iPad right above the camera and use it directly, or get reflective glass and mount the iPad flat and allow the glass to reflect the text over the camera lens. It works best to set a comfortable speed and let it go. We used an iPod touch to remotely control it via Bluetooth. The remote tended to cause the iPad (Prompter) screen to glitch when slowing down or speeding up, and I noticed that the iPod was slightly behind the iPad.”

    “The App works on an iPhone or iPod touch as well, so theoretically, a reporter could put his or her script into it and use their mobile device as a scrolling notepad, versus the traditional paper reporters’ notebook,” she recommends.

    Teleprompter+ allows you to write your scripts directly into the program or by copying and pasting from any other. In the latest version teleprompter+ will also record your presentation with the from facing camera, which you can then save and share as you like.

    The app is the creation of Bombing Brain Interactive which also sells a host of support gear for the iPad, including an iPad stand, and mirrored glass adapter.

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  • A Lesson from Weather Channel Social

    August 24th, 2011

    Launched about two weeks ago, Weather Channel Social is bringing personal weather conversations and observations to its website. The 24 hour cable channel launched a social page integrated with Twitter tweets that is searchable by location. What this means is the Weather Channel has figured out a way to further ingrain its brand into to local markets, direct competition for your weather team. Consider it the social version of “Weather on the 8’s” launched years ago on local cable systems around the country.

    The idea is to bring Twitter posts from a particular area into one place for all to see. More importantly, it allows us to listen to what people in that community are saying about the latest weather events.

    Tapping into this treasure trove of conversation was actually not that difficult. The tweets were already there, the Weather Channel simply found a way to bring them into one place, creating a social conduit for 220 cities around the nation. In it’s release of the product The Weather Channel touted the power of Twitter and the number of weather conversations taking place each day.

    • On an average day, U.S. users send approximately 200 weather-related Tweets per minute
    • On an active weather day, U.S. users send between 300 to 500 weather-related Tweets per minute
    • Significant weather events can generate more than two million Tweets per day
    • “Twitter gives voice and context to the topics people are most interested in, and everyone is interested in the weather,” said Chloe Sladden, Twitter’s director of content and programming. “We’re excited to make Tweets an integral part of weather reports on television, online and mobile. By surfacing these conversations and providing human context around factual weather information, The Weather Channel Social brings weather alive.”

      I think this idea from the Weather Channel is brilliant, so brilliant it is worth borrowing for local stations. In research, weather consistently tests as one of the most relevant topics for local news viewers, owning weather in the local social universe is just as important.

      Take yesterday for instance, while Hurricane Irene was beginning to slip up the East coast, an earthquake rocked the eastern seaboard and like most breaking stories Twitter lit up! Twitter sent out this tweet, “Within a minute of today’s #earthquake, there were more than 40,000 earthquake-related Tweets.” Not just national tweets, but local tweets, people reacting and reporting what was happening at that very minute an how they were impacted. Breaking News coverage doesn’t get any better than that. Here is a sample of what was being said in the Roanoke, VA market even after the main quake and aftershocks rumbled into the night.

      Hundred’s of tweets poured in and continued to update through the night. Local stations should also be part of this conversation with local information that can be linked to your website and retweeted with the local Twitter universe.

      Today would be a great day to begin adding local based weather related tweets to your online weather page. Twitter makes it easy with the ability to search for weather related terms and cities with a certain number of miles of a metro area. From there your web producer should be able to display this ongoing weather stream into your web page.

      We always heard is important to listen in this social world we live in, it is also important to participate and share in the local conversation.

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  • Tools of the Trade – Twitter Adds Pics

    August 10th, 2011

    This is one that you could see coming from a mile away. Overnight Twitter added the ability to include pictures with tweets for all users. In the past users might have relied on third party services like Twitpic, which Twitter offered to buy back in 2009.

    The new photo option is displayed when users log into the web version of Twitter. A prompt will send you to a new camera icon that sits underneath the message box. You can upload images up to 3MB in size, and once uploaded automatically appears as a thumbnail as you compose your tweet. Now if you don’t like the image you are getting ready to send there is an option to delete as well.

    Twitter partnered with Photobucket to host the uploaded photos.

    Other cool options include the ability to include pictures in a Twitter search, just by including a hashtag.

    Today’s update is the first of several expected from Twitter in the coming months. Twitter has no official mobile app for pictures upload, though Apple is expected to add that option to the next iPhone update. Video uploads are the obvious next upgrade, which many believe is already in the works.

    Wikipedia, the internet encyclopedia, lists Twitter with 200 million users and 1.6 billion searches per day. Now that potentially is a lot of pictures.


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  • Tools of the Trade – Get a Charge out of AViiQ

    August 3rd, 2011

    If you are a road warrior with your daily job, or just spend a lot of time packing and unpacking chargers for all of your portable devices, then listen up.

    AViiQ, the mobile device accessory company has come up with a way to manage all of those charging cables. They have developed the an all-in-one case for all of your mobile devices using a USB charger.

    The AViiQ Portable charing station can charge up to four devices at once, and also includes data pass-through port for synching and charging at the same time. The kit is made up of a low profile 1″ thick travel case, packed with one wall charger and a four port hub.

    The company says even larger 10V chargers for tablets are compatible. This pack of goodies will set you back $79.99 and you can purchase online. All in all its less to pack whether you are a digital journalists on the go each day or a traveling exec.

    Here is a link to there online video, check it out.

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  • Why Cloud Computing Makes Sense

    August 3rd, 2011

    Cloud computing has been a buzz word for a number of years. You may not realize it, but if you use email, you have been using a form of cloud computing.

    The concept is this. Clouds allow all users, large and small, to use shared software and send and store information. Any web based email and those like Gmail, Hotmail, and Yahoo is a clear example of cloud computing. You access stored information via the web.

    This week Apple opened up its latest treasure chest and gave developers access to iCloud. iCloud is Apple’s foray into cloud computing and one that will make a lot of noise in the weeks and months to come.

    iCloud will transform access to your iTunes, stored documents, and client side programs to web based computing. In the bigger picture I think cloud computing is last piece needed to cut the cord from desktop computers. When this happens those that have adopted tablets and smartphones will be exposed to a new world of access to online storage and programs.

    Cloud computing isn’t new to the corporate world. IT departments use forms of cloud computing to share information across vast networks. Big players like Microsoft, Unisys, IBM and AT&T have been cloud hosting to corporations for years. The difference here is that cloud computing will soon be open to everyone with web access.

    Each day more and more apps are developed to run on mobile devices. Unfortunately there is a downside. Just like a computer, your smartphone or tablet ultimately runs out of space and the device speed is noticeably slower. Cloud technology solves that issue, storing all of your programs and files securely somewhere on a server far, far away. To the naked eye, there is no difference other than being able to use programs from any desktop or mobile device from anywhere in the world.

    Given access to others on your cloud, or to specific files, ends the hassle of sending them back and forth. Just text or email a link and you are there.

    Clouds will increase the capacity and capabilities in real-time without having to sink big bucks into new software, computers, training or license fees. The workload is shifted from your personal computer to online.

    There will be some obvious uses in store for digital journalists with iCloud. iCloud will allow you to take a photo or shoot video on yoursmartphone or iPad, and it automatically sends it to your cloud. Snap… Send.. Snap… Send… Photos are then accessible for posting online or on-air instantly.

    This is the big difference between current online storage, like Dropbox for instance. Dropbox and others, is simply a virtual thumb drive. Real time synching of photos, videos, files, contacts and calendars to all of your devices doesn’t occur.

    I think with cloud computing will come the obvious “pay-to-play” price structure. Instead of buying apps, you will purchase online access to word processing, and spreadsheets. Apps will ultimately become desktop links, with the user being to pick and choose from available online programs, at much reduced rate.

    Apple has already released a price structure for its online iCloud service. While low end storage is free, 10GB will cost $20 per year, 20GB – $40 and 50GB – $100. You can bet as developers kick the tires on the new service, a flood of online programs will be available for purchase.

    Stay tuned, this is going to get interesting.

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  • Tools of the Trade – My Weather

    July 27th, 2011

    Search the respective app stores and you can find a host of weather apps, each that give you different levels of weather information. Most pull data from the National Weather Service feeds and repurpose it.

    There is a new app out this morning that is worth a closer look and it is being introduced from one of the leaders in broadcast weather technology, Weather Central.

    Weather Central is offering the “My Weather” in the Itunes and Android app stores, at no charge. My weather uses location services for instant conditions where ever you may be. The instant info includes: currents, an interactive radar, local weather news, hourly and 10 day forecasts.

    Radar levels include not only rain, but ice and snow accumulations.

    Also built in are tropical weather maps for hurricane tracking and review.There are three views of Atlantic storms and a view from the Pacific coast. Here’s a list of options offered for the app website.

    View the hourly forecast on an easy-to-understand graph, and instantly see the weather trend for your location. Turn your iPhone sideways and the graph fills your screen. Touch any point along the graph to see that hour’s forecasted sky condition and temperature.
    A full-color radar map centers in on your selected location. Turn your iPhone sideways for a full-screen, interactive map. Choose a display mode (road map or terrain view) and see lightning, storm cells, temperatures, wind speed and more. Zoom in and view the weather over your favorite golf course, sports arena, or beach.
    Want to read about the weather? The News tab gives you national forecast summaries, weather safety tips, and other helpful information.
    You also can choose to send weather alerts for any of your saved locations to your iPhone. Select the exact type of alerts you’d like to receive, and turn them on and off any time you’d like.

    This app is simple and straight forward and always up-to-date, regardless of where you are in the world. This app is a good one to keep on your smartphone deck.

    Here is a link to the app in the Itunes store and Android market.

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  • Are PCs the New Dinosaur?

    July 20th, 2011

    One doesn’t have to look far to see the disruption taking place in the personal computer industry. Smartphones and tablet device sales are at al time highs, while PC’s struggle to hold market share.

    Personal computers have had a pretty good run. Since the 1970’s advances in memory and speed have kept desktops adorned with monitors, keyboards and mice. Technology has a way of changing things, and once we are comfortable with new technologies, we change too.

    International Data Corporation (IDC) reports last week that PC’s sales have declined more than 4% in the US since last year. Earlier in the year IDC reported, for the first time ever, smartphone sales outnumbered PC’s sales worldwide by more than 10 million, selling 92 million in the last quarter of 2010. That is not counting the huge rise in sales of tablet devices.

    Rajani Singh is a  research analyst for United States Quarterly PC Tracker,  “The U.S. PC market continued to contract in 2Q11, largely as a result of three factors. The first is an ongoing contraction in the Mini Notebook (Netbook) market and related inventories. The second is the impact of 2Q10’s difficult-to-sustain 12% growth. And third, demand has softened as corporate buyers continue to focus on increasing share of their IT budget in new IT solutions such as cloud and virtualization, and consumer interest shifts to media tablets.”

    Globally there is some growth in the PC market, about 2% according to IDC, but no where near the explosive growth of tablets and smartphones, 67%. IDC doesn’t count tablets in its PC reporting, if they did the iPad alone would account for nearly 10% of all PC sales in the last quarter. Imagine what that number would look like if we included all of the Android and Windows tablet devices.

    We have become a society of portability. We can retrieve and share information an instant, and watch live streaming events and video. We can store any of that information on a cloud or in our portable devices and retrieve it anytime we want. It is estimated that more than 50 million tablets will be sold globally this year, with estimates of doubling in 2012. Granted still small compared to the 362 million PC’s sold, but then tablets on hit the market a little over a year ago.

    Wall Street sees the shift occurring too. Goldman Sachs told the Associated Press tablets are “one of the most disruptive forces in computing in nearly three decades.” It predicts that as many as 21 million people will buy tablets instead of laptops this year, jumping to 26.5 million next year.

    What I see occurring is the not the replacement of personal computers, but the evolution of desktop and mobile devices. Just today Apple released its latest operating system Lion OS. Steve Jobs, Apple CEO, is making no bones about it, quoted as saying “we have entered the post-PC era”. Lion OS blurs the lines between the iPad and the PC, adding mobile like features including touch-scrolling and “Facetime”.

    Walt Mossberg of All Things Digital wrote that the the new operating system is the “most radical new MacIntosh operating system in years,” Mossberg calls it a  “giant step in the merger of the personal computer and post-PC devices like tablets and smartphones.”

    Granted, the switch to all portable will not take place in the next couple of years, but without a doubt the tide is heading out on desktop computing.

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