How useful could Seesmic be for journalists?
I’ve recently been playing with Seesmic once again, having briefly dabbled with an alpha invite a few months ago and stupidly written it off as a vague video blogging platform.
And I think that’s very important.
Seesmic is, for me, a symptom of how media is changing. It is a symptom of how video has become as inexpensive and disposable as email. It is a symptom of a generation of people who are completely comfortable with visual media, and how they are rewriting that grammar.
It is also a new and important part of the personal distributed media ecosystem that we are gathering around us, and which stretches from a person’s Facebook profile to their Twitter account, their blog, and Flickr and YouTube accounts. Just as not everyone is on Flickr, not everyone will end up on Seesmic, but many will, and you’ll need to know how to talk to them.
But don’t mistake Seesmic for another YouTube. Seesmic is to YouTube what Twitter is to blogging. Key to this is the fact that Seesmic works with your Twitter account – so that new Seesmic posts are cross-posted on Twitter, and video replies are even cross-posted @ the other person’s name (allowing you to discover them on Twitter). And I wouldn’t be surprised to see it integrated with other social media platforms in the future.
Finally, it is an expression of the intimate, personal nature of web video, and how that is a world apart from the impersonal, broadcast nature of television. If you’re involved in communicating the news in any way, you need to learn the language of web video, and Seesmic provides a perfect space to do so.
And it’s for all of these reasons that journalists should try it out.
But this recommendation comes with a number of caveats:
- Firstly, Seesmic is very much in the early adopter phase. For this reason it is good for social networking if you’re in the technology field, but not great if you want opinions or feedback from anyone else, so don’t expect amazing results, and I wouldn’t recommend spending huge amounts of time on it. But the user base will change, and being there now will make a difference as it grows. Just ask people who’ve been blogging or twittering for longer.
- Secondly, being video, Seesmic as a whole is not searchable – and the user search is pretty poor, as it only searches usernames and not profiles (I’m onlinejournalist, by the way). Phil Campbell has created this website which allows you to search titles and authors. This means you can’t scan-read it, it means search engines will not index it as well as text, and it means accessibility issues. But video search is improving all the time, so again expect this to change.
- Thirdly, Seesmic currently lacks the sort of support enjoyed by bigger players such as YouTube. So whereas WordPress.com-hosted blogs will allow you to embed YouTube video, most WordPress bloggers will not be able to embed Seesmic video (there is, however, a plugin for WordPress.org hosted blogs). It’s for this reason that I’ve recorded my video blog about Seesmic on… YouTube. Ouch.
- Likewise, your video is normally recorded straight to Seesmic, so you have no backup copy and no way of getting one unless you use an FLV ripper.
- And the site doesn’t appear to tell you how many views you’ve had, which isn’t great for persuading people that this is a valuable way of, for example, distributing news. And it doesn’t allow for responses from non-Seesmic users, which reduces its interactivity (although you could tweet the person that’s not intuitive).
- Finally, it’s worth noting the usual blurring of public-private boundaries. Journalists using material on Seesmic should bear in mind the lessons of Virginia Tech etc. – just because it’s public doesn’t mean it’s yours.
These are still early days, though. Crunchbase’s entry on Seesmic promises that:
“In the future, seesmic users will be able to record skype conversations, video and chat. seesmic will incorporate RSS feeds for individual users similar to Facebook’s newsfeed. Finally, [founder] Lemur sees seesmic partially becoming a crowdsourced Online TV with the most popular producers receiving revenue share.”
What do you think? Do you see other potential? Have you found it useful yourself? Come on, give us a comment. (or respond on Seesmic)
UPDATE: Alison Gow posted a video response on Seesmic, making the excellent point that Seesmic allows for a better interview experience – using the analogy of how face-to-face interviews are always better than telephone interviews. It’s a great point. She also suggests that it might work well for debates and conversation alongside news articles and issues.
The great thing about Seesmic is the way it breaks down barriers – people seem to feel more comfortable and confident, somehow, sending a stranger a video reply based on their video post than they would sending an @reply in Twitter, I would say because of the implicit intimacy of web video.