I enjoyed greatly listening to the Senior Anchor of CNN en Espanol, Patricia Janiot - who is also Advisor tot he Sr VP - present at Andicom last week in Cartagena Colombia. She spoke right after my presentation on the 7th Mass Media and her presentation seemed to echo lots of familiar themes, but from a fresh viewpoint of that of a global news broadcaster. Very interesting and insightful presentation with themes very familiar to our readership.
Some of the highlights of Patricia's presentation included that for a 24 hour news broadcaster, the biggest cost element is (or used to be) satellite time. The second most expensive cost is life insurance (as news happens regularly in very dangerous locations). You would think that travel costs are huge and the salaries of the journalists and tech staff but no. Satellite costs number one and life insurance number two. Fascinating. And to illustrate how new technology is changing those things, the Boxing Day Tsunami in the Pacific a few years ago, was the first time CNN used broadband internet connectivity to provide video footage. For full broadcast quality video, their system packs the data stream, and it takes 3 minutes to transmit from the field a video clip that will run 1 minute on the air. But this is at a tiny fraction of the cost of satellite time, and is near real time. Because of this innovation, CNN could afford to keep several teams in the Pacific, and keep them on location for a week at a time, where rival networks - who needed very expensive satellite time, could not afford to keep a team at one location for long..
Patricia talked of course about citizen journalism and viewer participation. As we've often mentioned here at our blog, the CNN i-Report concept is a good case of how this is used. Patricia gave some numbers - in the past two years, CNN has received over 100,000 i-Report video clips from 189 countries. Patricia also pointed out that with citizen journalism a key element is credibility. That is what for example CNN provides when it broadcasts videos provided by its viewers, that credibility, that this is CNN, even if that video was shot by an amateur.
I loved the comment "A cellphone camera is a good ally in difficult times."
She also pointed out that the pervasiveness of cameraphones helps reassure us of reality. For example the gruesome videos of Saddam Hussein being hanged, went a very long way to reassure in particular the Iraq population, that Saddam Hussein was indeed dead. There were many conspiracy theorists suggesting that Hussein would not be killed, perhaps he would be moved to a witness protection programme with the CIA and pumped for evidence about weapons of mass destruction and all sorts of info about Iraq, terrorism, etc. But those rumours were effectively ended when Saddam was shown to be hanged.
Patricia Janiot also gave interesting numbers on viewership. I am sorry I don't know if these are global CNN numbers or CNN en Espanol but the scale is revealing. On a "normal" news day ie not major news, at the peak hour, CNN is watched in 1 million homes (it is a cable news service, after all) but they receive 5 million viewers in those homes. For contrast, the CNN news pages on the internet get 30 million viewers. Puts it into context. And yes, obviously, CNN knows that the internet is a powerful ally for a news broadcaster.
She also gave a good glimpse to the 6th and 7th mass media - CNN.com had 144 million viewings of their videos on the internet in September 2008. And CNN.com mobile had 88 million viewings. Mobile is a powerful media for news, and even as the total worldwide population of phones that make viewing news easy (say an Apple iPhone or Nokia N-Series) is small, this is very rapidly approaching the usage levels of the equivalent service on the internet. 7th Mass Media is coming... Patricia echoed so many others recently in media, saying Mobile is a revolution. (and we of course agree)
And a last thought from the newsmedia side to our readership, very particular sentiment that many readers probably can identify with - Patricia said of the news media that "we are judged by the last news, not how good we were last month."