Friday, June 06, 2008

Live News Cameras

Andrew Finlayson, maestro of the newsroom at Fox News Chicago, says a new, improved, beefed-up version of livenewscameras.com is online.

(If you haven't read my previous posts, it's an aggregator, sort of like the old Feedroom, of live web feeds from around the world. It's damn addicting. Finlayson & Co. have tricked it up with live chat and a webcam on a producer in the WFLD newsroom (not at all times) who trolls the Net looking for good stuff. Some people might find it annoying, but I just find it so engaging. I think a site like this needs that human touch (if for no other reason than it's a video site, and you want to SEE something when you arrive there even before you figure out which feed you want to sample).

It's not just domestic. Tune in to al-Jazeera or Sky News or a French 24/7 channel, for example. There are many more.

I took it for a spin today and really like it. He asked me and some other people to pound away at it to see if it would hold up under load, and I didn't see any real problems. Finlayson says his team coded the site itself except for the Mogulus player and the chat box.

As Finlayson said earlier this year, it's time for some newspapers to look at getting in on this action, too.

My note to him:

I do like the bar a top that gives you a better idea of what is live. Many of the station windows aren't very good at that. Example: AZ3, even though it had a newscast, still just had its splash logo up on the thumbnail.

I think your idea of having a webcam on a producer inside the newsroom giving a running on what is going on is brilliant. The chat was occasionally mildly interesting. Its auto-refresh was the one thing that occasionally brought up the Apple beachball of death, but it generally cleared up. And it only really happened if you were clicking on a video stream at the same time the chat decided to refresh.

The most annoying thing, of course, is clicking on some of the channels and getting nothing, not even a splash screen. You can't be sure, then, if things are working or not.

I also love watching KNBC. They really have an idea of how to use the new medium, don't they?* Wish more operations saw it as an additional programming channel. I sit there fascinated by how KNBC is using it.

(Also was fascinated by watching Milwaukee shoot its 9 and 10p teases. Brings back memories from my days on the desk in Fort Wayne.)

The search is good, but might be enhanced if one could search by state and call up all of a state's feeds.

While to some extent it's still "all weather and traffic cams all the time," I think you've taken a big step here. Now that there is a central place, maybe the stations will begin to realize the value of actually programming the channel.

One thing I forgot to tell him that did just occur to me: While you can mute the live producer, it might be better if there were an auto mute that kicked in when a stream actually came up.

(Another of WFLD's projects is Air Fox, which lets you watch its news copter in action.)

**KNBC sort of gets it. Go direct to its News Raw site on a Mac using Firefox (or Seamonkey), and you get nothing. You have to use Safari (with Fip4Mac installed - another awful instance of a Windows Media stream). But at least that works. But viewing it through Livenewscameras is so much better because the player works across platforms.

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