Interactive Media smorgasbord

18 09 2009

Rapid exposure to informational bursts of interactivity was the name of the game today. You maybe asking, “Why is that?” I shall share with you some insights from our class’ first Face-2-Face Fridays experience. Basically, what this entails, is that each one of my peers has to come prepared to briefly, yet intelligently, highlight an intriguing take on interactivity. That means there are sooooo many options to choose from. Topics today included wireless electricity, phone call capabilities through Twitter, Web 2.0’s security vulnerabilities and haptic technology among many others. Each one contributed its own “ohhhhhh” and “ahhhhhhh” factors to the exciting directions that new media is taking us. However, one topic that I found interesting in terms of the immediate influence it poses on an existing system was the use of Skype by television news stations.

I will be the first to admit I have never paired Skype with television news from a field reporting perspective. The potential for it to dramatically change the modus operandi among television stations is huge! It does not take a rocket scientist to notice that television news stations are suffering from lesser quality productions, dwindling viewership and shrinking budgets. In turn, underlying practically every action at a station is a price tag. With that dark cloud –called cost cutting– looming over everything, Skype is positioned to be a ray of sunshine. This is because Skype works off of an infrastructure that already is used by television stations at relatively low costs. Furthermore, Skype is versatile in its usability. This is fundamentally important to remote, live broadcasts. Let me present a hypothetical scenario of a traditional, breaking news report of an apartment building fire:

Personnel: reporter, camera person, satellite truck engineer (possibly)
Equipment: heavy shoulder mount video camera, sound kit, lighting kit among other items

Now, using Skype to report on the breaking news of the apartment building going up in flames might require:

Personnel: reporter
Equipment: laptop computer with webcam, Internet connection

Much of the expensive, cumbersome equipment associated with field reporting becomes obsolete when using Skype. Right there, immediate cost savings can be utilized. Also, these savings may allow the coverage of stories that otherwise never would be told on air because there is not enough money, personnel or satellite trucks to go around through the traditional operations.

The bottom line is this, I do not have a crystal ball, let alone one to figure out all the television news industry’s problems at the moment. However, I am pretty confident that Skype is positioned to play an increasingly prominent role in reinvigorating television station news operations farther into the future. Is this simply buying extra time before their demise? Perhaps, but ignoring Skype, I suspect, would represent a missed opportunity for a vulnerable industry.

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