Paper Chase

Atlanta newspaper adds video to a reporter's toolbox
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When racing to the scene for hot footage, Atlanta TV stations face a new competitor: the Atlanta Journal-Constitution
(AJC). The newspaper has devised a novel way to reach broadband users: It has added four high-end consumer-grade camcorders to its Web unit so reporters can shoot exclusive footage for the paper's Web site.

"We're going to redesign our Web site to give [streaming video] more visibility," says Hyde Post, editorial director for AJC's Web effort. The site is currently streaming about 70,000 sessions a week. Visitors can find exclusive content and local-news reports from WSB (co-owned by Cox Communications). In addition, the site posts national reports from the Associated Press.

Gary Gannaway, president and CEO of World Now, which handles the technical demands of video content, says that, with more than 2 million registered users, the newspaper shows the powerful mix of print and streaming media.

"As broadband usage explodes, newspapers must integrate a video component into their news and classified products in order to remain competitive," Gannaway says. "The AJC
was visionary enough to see this."

The site is handled by the newspaper's editorial team. The camcorders are provided to reporters or editors. "This is an effort to provide video content that wouldn't make the evening news," Post says. "Things like interviews with people lining up for reality-show tryouts or man-on-the-street material."

Why is the AJC
focusing on the lighter side of things? It doesn't have live-transmission capabilities from the field. That means site visitors looking for footage related to an ongoing fire will either turn to WSB or wait for the station to make it available to AJC.

WSB Director of Creative Services Steve Riley says it has been easy for the two organizations to work together.

The newspaper has a device that records the WSB newscasts and gets stories ready for the Internet. The TV station has software that provides access to an area of AJC.com.

On one hand, you can see it as competition," says Riley. "But so far, what they've been shooting is a long way from the type of editorial a TV station would air."

That could change.

"We're still at the beginning stages," says Post of the service, which was added in late June. "Things are still experimental."

Besides cameras, the Web gear includes a laptop nonlinear editing system, on which the video is edited into story packages. Once completed, the video is sent to World Now.

Despite the Web site's visibility and usefulness to AJC, cost is an issue. It still needs to see a return on investment. After all, there is a significant fixed bandwidth cost to the service. "The reason other streaming services charge money is, you can't pay those costs and give it away forever," Post says.

Currently, visitors to the site watch a quick ad before the story starts playing.

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