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April 1, 2011 / Rob Carragher

Podcasting to promote business

Back in the 90s, Heather Gorringe set up a worm composting kit business out of her family farm and turned it into a £2.5million turnover business.  All incredibly impressive, but most importantly to us, she felt that the podcast could be one of the keys to making her business even bigger…

The Wiggly Podcast, that comes with the description ‘Like the Archers, but real’ was set up by Heather and her family in 2005 and to date they’ve produced almost 250 episodes.  The series is based around family life on the Wiggly farm in Herefordshire and includes interviews, seasonal tips, product updates and general chit chat from the family aimed at entertaining their customers and of course attracting new ones.

Heather says the project was borne both out of a long-standing ambition to broadcast and a desire to improve the reach of her business, in her own words: “When I saw the chance to make my own radio show without license fees and with global appeal, it was irresistible.

“We do things that the BBC just couldn’t do.  We put our views across and people engage with that”.

And despite its casual tone, the podcast has not simply remained a side-project to the main business, but has actually boosted sales and the company’s global appeal, according to Heather:

“It hugely helped our business commercially – we get orders because of the podcast and I’m pretty sure today 40 people will download the first ever episode”.

So to find out more about how podcasting has proved a moneyspinner for a small business and to hear what the future holds for The Wiggly Podcast, just click on the play button below.

March 31, 2011 / Vanessa Baffoe

The beautiful world of audio slideshows

During my research I have come across many audio slideshows, some good and some, well, not so good. But let’s focus and celebrate the one great ones, which helps to boost the reputation of audio slideshows, and as a result really speak volumes for the potential of the industry.

I have my personal favourites and I just couldn’t resist, but share them with everyone. So here is a compilation of my top five audio slideshow stories. There are many more that I like and I’m certain my list will keep on growing, but for now, these are my favourites.

Take a look:

1. Joseph Cotton: The Grandfather, from The New York Times

2. Mishoka’s Story, from Duckrabbit

3. ‘Gimme Shelter’, from Los Angeles Times

4. The Cinemas of Cuba, from World Hum

5. Frozen land, forgotten people, from Los Angeles Times

March 31, 2011 / Vanessa Baffoe

Who’s policing the internet?

The online world presents a rather grey area when it comes to authorities who are supposed to be policing it. But the general principle really boils down to the fact online content should warrant the same level of media law practices applied to television, radio and print media.

Essentially the method of communication may have changed, but the principle law remains firmly. So, areas of media law such as Copyright, Libel and Contempt of Court should be at the forefront of anybody operating online as this will help avoid any pitfalls.

In broadcasting, Ofcom (The Office of Communications) is the communications regulator. It regulates the television and radio industries, as well as other technologies such as fixed line telecoms and mobiles. Ofcom’s role involves advising, implementing and enforcing the law.

In print, the PCC (Press Complaints Commission) is an independent body, which self regulates the press. It’s duties involve dealing with complaints within the terms of the Editors’ Code of Practice, about editorial content of newspapers and magazines, as well as the conduct of journalists. The PCC also deals with the editorial audio-visual material for newspapers and magazines.

So, who’s in charge of the Online world? Here, we have ATVOD, which is an independent co-regulator for the editorial content of UK video on demand services. Ofcom delegated certain of its functions and powers relating to the regulation of On Demand Programme Services to ATVOD in March 2010. But here we are talking about the programmes in television format or which resembles a television format, which are put on websites by media organisations.

In an exclusive interview with Professor Stewart Purvis, former Ofcom partner and ITN CEO, who also lectures in the Journalism department at City University, talks about the functions of ATVOD. But as Stuart points out, the criteria for ATVOD is sometimes unclear and hence presents a rather grey area when it comes to online. Stewart says when it comes to other content online, such as podcasts or indeed audio slideshows,  and exercising media law practises, it is often individuals who monitor their works closely and take up legal action against other individuals or companies, who may be breaking laws such as copyright, for example.

But just when you thought there was nobody monitoring the internet stringently, you might want to stop and think again. Because, as Prof. Purvis explains here, media law practices must always be exercised online. This is because ‘Big Brother’ is always watching.

Listen here to Prof. Purvis giving us a breakdown of the different organisations monitoring the various different forms of media.

Please note: I spoke to Stewart after talk with guest speaker Catherine Powell, Senior Vice-President of the Walt Disney Company’s Media Distribution businesses in Europe, Middle East and Africa, hence you will hear references to Catherine and her content in the online market.

March 31, 2011 / Vanessa Baffoe

Will audio slideshows ever become as popular as video?

Before my journey into the world of audio slideshows, I was rather pessimistic and somewhat judgemental of this method of communication. But I have come out of the other side and have grown rather fond of audio slide shows. But there is still a major question with other people, which is, will audio slideshows ever become as popular as video?

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March 31, 2011 / Philip Allen

Photojournalist Antonin Kratochvil – using audio-slideshows to tell it like it is..

Time now to pick-up our earlier interview with award winning photojournalist Antonin Kratochvil.

Last time we talked about a piece of docudrama he produced which took the form of an audio-slideshow.

Antonin Kratochvil

This time, we’re looking at something firmly grounded in reality – his audio-slideshow entitled ‘Renegade Warriors: Lebanon’. It discards conventional narrative, and instead seeks to communicate the sense, the feel of Lebanon in the midst of sectarian strife and ongoing military activity, as witnessed by the photographer and his colleagues.  Take a look here and then find out what Antonin had to say…

Kratochvil says he wanted to “bring to the public what really goes on, what is the real experience with my friends, with my fixers , my drivers….I saw that this was like real cinema verite, and that excites me, these possibilities.”

“A lot of people are stuck on this media storm, sort of the CNN way of doing these narratives. I wanted to make it all as real as possible, as what it is, not polished…”

So how did he go about shooting it?

“I shoot digital, and I record on my D5 Canon. (which also has great video; high definition) And also it can record sound, and I also (can record) outside sounds from a handheld digital recorder.”

So is Kratochvil still a photojournalist or is he now a multi-media producer?

“I consider myself a photojournalist but I’m also…we can put these things on our website and communicate to a large body of people. And i think that multimedia is really incredible for that sort of message to come through. So it’s not only about magazines an stuff..now you can make it so much richer and so much more complex”

Not all photojournalists and photographers have relished the digital revolution that’s taken place since the late 90s –  how optimistic does he feel about the future of photojournalism?

“It’s a media in transformation…this multimedia actually it makes it even better for you, because you can communicate even better and in more depth. But of course I think it should be always based on a great image. That’s what I really believe in, that if you have great images, and then you add this on, it makes it more powerful.”

Speaking to Kratochvil and looking at his work has been an eye-opener.  Audio slideshows like these communicate human experience in a way that perhaps video or audio don’t always manage.

Narrative isn’t necessarily paramount – equally crucial are really great images and audio that adds something the picture alone can’t provide.

Finally, as explored in the earlier post about Kratochvil’s work, audio-slideshows can work really well in drama/fiction..how long before Marvel Comics releases a graphic novel purely for the i-Pad, or a traditional novelist gives their work a visual dimension?

You can hear the whole interview with Antonin Kratochvil here:

March 31, 2011 / Philip Allen

World Press Photo awards – narrative and user interaction in the digital era

Want to see some of the newest and best multimedia work by the planet’s best documentary filmmakers, photographers and journalists?

The annual World Press Photo awards are taking place in Amsterdam on the 7th May. The awards, organised by a not-for-profit foundation, aim to showcase the best in photojournalism from around the planet.

For the first time ever, there’s a category for multimedia works. The shortlist of pieces up for awards was announced last week, and Visvox has been having a look round the offerings.

The multimedia awards are split into two categories, Linear and Interactive.

The linear pieces are akin to film and audio-slideshows. For example,  ‘Blanco’ is the result of a four year oddysey around the globe by photographer Stefano Di Luigi, exploring the lives of visually impaired people.  There is little or no sense of narrative. Instead it blends music and beautifully shot stills for to create an atmosphere and mood . In terms of production, it superimposes pictures, makes much use of transition effects like dissolves, and uses ‘moves’ on the stills to focus the viewer’s eyes. It’s compelling and elegantly made, but is art, or documentary, or journalism?

The ‘Home Front’ meanwhile takes a more traditional documentary style approach. It tells the story of two boys in the USA whose soldier father is away in Afghanistan. They and their family are filmed at home, and interviewed talking about the effect of the father’s absence. Through stills, video and audio – both interview and natural sound – their story is told. A fairly conventional narrative ties the piece together – boys miss their dad, dad is coming home to visit, they meet him at the airport, they spend time together, dad has to go back to war, and then something else happens (you’ll have to watch it yourself to find out!)……

Powering the Nation

The interactive pieces are more broad;  encompassing films, animation, text, games etc, and are orientated towards engaging online audiences. ‘Powering a Nation’ is a website, campaign, ‘interactive destination’, call it what you want – I think it’s hard to define as any one form. It’s produced by journalism students from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. In their words, the aim of ‘Powering a Nation’ is to

“investigate the political, economic, and scientific tensions behind US energy through advanced reporting to engage citizens and inspire informed decision-making.”

Elsewhere in the Interactive category, ‘ A Year at War’ is an interactive feature on the New York Times website. The NYT describes in the following terms:

“Here are the stories of the men and women of the First Battalion, 87th Infantry of the 10th Mountain Division. Over their yearlong deployment, The New York Times follows their journey”

It’s a rich user experience with multimedia elements like text, film and maps. Visitors can browse material produced by journalists and also submitted by the soldiers themselves. The best way I can think of describing is ‘360° journalism’.

So how significant is the differentiation between ‘interactive’ and ‘linear’ content?

One of the judges for the Multimedia awards is is Ed Kashi, himself a photojournalist. Kashi works with the likes of National Geographic and the New York Times.  Interviewed before the announcement of the shortlist, he said:

“We spent a lot of time talking about definitions and criteria, because it’s such an evolving medium. So it’s critical for us to figure out what are the criteria, even though they may change over time. Because one thing about this medium, it’s very dependent, or it’s very influenced by the tools , the new tools that we’re being given to utilise…”

“What’s different about the interactive category, is that you’re not so much looking for narrative, or storyline – that might be an element, but you’re really looking for the user experience, the navigation. , how fluidly, how easily can I understand this site and go through it and get to the information….”

“(interactive content can be) a  great way to raise awareness of an issue, where you can have that narrative tug on someone’s heart or emotions, but you can also you can have…all this almost encyclopaedic information”

I get the feeling as interactive content is more about creating a buzz around an issue, while the linear content is more about traditional storytelling.

As interactive content establish itself, newer forms like audio slideshows will increasingly become part of the visual landscape.

But do audio-slideshows still need a more catchy name? I’m sure any suggestions would be most welcomed by storytellers everywhere.

March 31, 2011 / Vanessa Baffoe

Ghana football fans audio slideshow

What can I say, my love for audio slideshows has blossomed. I have come to understand and appreciate this form of communication. So much so that when I was invited to a friendly football match between England and Ghana at Wembley Stadium on March 29, all I could think of was “how can I get an audio slideshow out of this?”

While most people will just think of grabbing the minimal with them to a football match, I went along with my camera and my dictaphone too. Actions speak louder than words, and so here I present an audio slideshow of the celebrations on the day. I knew I could get some very engaging pictures out of this experience, as Ghanaian football fans are renowned for their amazing upbeat carnival-style celebrations.

I found the only drawback was having to lug around two pieces of equipment, i.e. a dictaphone and a camera. Although small, it was very difficult to juggle the two, especially in the middle of celebrating a goal! 

Experience the colourful celebrations for your self here:

March 31, 2011 / Philip Allen

Antonin Kratochvil – a photojournalist telling stories in new ways

Antonin Kratochvil is a top photojournalist and co-founder of the VII Photo Agency. He recently spoke to Visvox over the phone whilst on assignment in Barcelona, and told us about his enthusiasm for new ways of telling stories via multimedia like audio-slideshows.

Antonin’s list of awards is impressive- 1st places at the World Press Photo Awards on two occasions, a Lucie Award in 2005 for Outstanding Achievement in Photojournalism and the Leica Medal of Excellence in 1994, to name just a few.

In a career spanning over 30 years, he’s travelled the world on assignments for leading publications like Fortune. His large portfolio includes the war in Iraq, conflict and strife in Lebanon, the upheaval in Western Sudan and the War on Terror in the Phillipines.

Children of Belarus, by Antonin Kratochvil

He’s photographed the fallout of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster on the children of Belarus, the effects of the cocaine trade on the small African state of Guinea-Bissau and he’s also worked on assignments and campaigns with the likes of Bono, David Bowie, Harvey Keitel and George Clooney.

In recent years, he’s worked on a number of projects which utitilise audio-slideshows. I spoke to him about two in particular, both of which seek to tell stories in a vividly experiential way. The first is a docudrama-style piece called ‘Road Work’, made as part of a 2007 documentary about US soldiers’ experiences called ‘Operation Homecoming’.

It’s based around the traumatic recollections of a US Army soldier in Iraq. The soldier is recounting a bloody and confusing incident in which a car containing an Iraqi father and son has been destroyed by US fire, leaving the son dead and the father distraught.

The actual soldier – Staff Sergeant Jack Lewis – introduces himself at the start. His story is then narrated in the first-person by an actor. It’s pure docudrama – everything you see and hear is acted and staged.  Sound effects like helicopter and radio noises create an immersive effect on the viewer.

The images present little snapshots in time of the soldier’s experience, as seen from his perspective. The confusion and disorientation of a violent incident, and the fear and uncertainty of the night-time are powerfully communicated.

Somehow, it’s far more effective than a piece of conventional TV/film, forms which always struggle to communicate darkness honestly and effectively – news/ documentary footage usually features the glare of a lamp mounted on the top of the camera, while cinema resorts to mystery sources of light which somehow ensure the scene is rendered in semi-twilight.

Operation Homecoming: Road Work

Kratochvil explained how the entire piece was shot on location in a desert in California – a ‘controlled environment, we had gaffers, lights – it was all..directed, I just walked in there, I prepared everything, put the lights up, walked in there and made it look real…I shot loads of pictures, loads of film then we put it together”

So, a movie-style set, complete with actors, lighting and all the kit associated with film making. It’s certainly not photo journalism as we traditionally know it, but as a work that communicates the individual impressions of a young soldier I think it’s incredibly effective. Take a look and let us know what you think – and make sure to read our forthcoming follow-up piece with Kratochvil, in which he discusses another audio-slideshow, but this time more conventionally journalistic…

March 31, 2011 / Rob Carragher

Finance and the audio slideshow

Such is the power of some of the stills we’ve seen in the audio slideshow world, you may think that creating an interesting and emotive slideshow is not really too difficult.

And in many ways I’d be tempted to agree. As we see every night on the BBC or ITV, news stories tend to lend themselves to great imagery and these pictures can do a lot of the hard work for you.

But what do you do if your stories aren’t so vivid in imagery? Well, this is the problem that publications like the Financial Times have to face – how to translate the world of office workers, number crunching and graphs into gripping audio slideshows.

So take a quick look and judge for yourself whether they succeed or not.

Personally, I would argue that they don’t quite cut the mustard. If we take Sudan and Detroit as an example, the FT seems to be using the audio slideshow as a way of corresponding from across the world. Both narrations are delivered through phone interviews and a lot of the production quality is lost. They seem to have missed some of the essence of storytelling in the slideshow and it feels more like an explanation of what the current slide is showing rather than transporting you into the pictures.

So immediately we can see the hurdles that audio slideshow-making presents to publications like the FT. It’s tough to bring the stories to life and it’s arguable that they haven’t quite found the right way to go about it just yet.

But all is not lost. Their most recent project is a slideshow with a little bit more interest and imagination to it. It takes a look at how the financial crisis has been explored in music and uses an interviewee instead of the somewhat stilted narration of the other slideshows.

And I think this may be the way that the FT should go in the future – using first hand accounts to make their shows more personal. When the composer talks of his thought process and we see his manuscripts and hear the music, it gives a sense of us picking his brains in a one-on-one conversation. We hear a lot of personal quotes in ‘Sudan’, but hearing their own words would be so much livelier.

My first-quarter report then? A steady performance in the market, but the FT could profit from placing more capital in personal accounts.

March 30, 2011 / Vanessa Baffoe

Audio slideshows: Show me the Money

Throughout my journey I have come to realise audio slideshows are indeed highly popular on the online market. There are large numbers of media organisations tapping into the market and it’s proving to be an area on an upward trend, according to industry experts, such as Duckrabbit.

So it is worth dedicating your time and resources into audio slideshows? The key question really is, can anybody make money from audio slideshows? In the last leg in the series with Duckrabbit, Dave White, Photography Director, talks about the all important money making opportunities in audio slideshows. Dave says says there are major commercial opportunities in this area.

He says anybody with an online presence has something to say or something to sell, but he underlines that patience, is a key ingredient required in this field, if you want to make money. He says anybody seeking to profit from this area needs to be patient and build up a reputable portfolio, which you can then take forward to potential clients, for them to commission you. This is where any commercial opportunities may come knocking.

Here are some tips from Dave on the steps to take to help you profit from audio slideshows.

Making money from audio slideshows – part one:

Making money from audio slideshows – part two:

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