Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Heads Up, Journalists! Craigslist is Drinking Your Milkshake... Again!

Newspapers had plenty of opportunity to spiff up their clunky classified advertising sections and customize them for streamlined Web use. They had access to a marvelous new technology, a whole new medium, but they chose to ignore it. They failed to invest talent and resources. They were comfortable and entrenched in doing things the same old way. And while they sat back, while their advertising sections withered and died, Craigslist came along and ate their lunch.

Now the same thing is happening again, in another arena. Over the past couple years, newspapers have had the opportunity to double down on relatively inexpensive technology to shoot and edit video. Most dipped their toes in that river, but failing to see instant financial returns, they fell into that vicious cycle of blaming their disinterest in producing professional quality video stories on the audience's apparent disinterest in viewing them.

In reality, newspapers hid their video so well on their own Websites, that their own producers couldn't find them -- so how could they expect readers to locate them? And even then, newspapers were so reluctant to invest time and money in an unproven medium -- especially as budget cuts mandated staff reductions -- that the videos themselves were often slipshod affairs. They were not only aesthetically inferior, but frequently fell short of basic journalism standards.

Realistically, neither print reporters nor still photographers should be expected to magically master video storytelling -- and "training" a staff or department in how to use a Flip vidcam is hardly sufficient to create professional quality results. It's like grooming someone to be a reporter by teaching him how to use Microsoft Word.

This past year, Craigslist -- now synonymous with online classified and personal ads -- has gotten into the videojournalism business with Craigslist TV. Who knows why -- other than that founder Craig Newmark thought it would be a cool idea. Unquestionable it's a brilliant marketing and brand-promotion concept. Essentially, each 8- to 10-minute episode follows the ins-and-outs, and ups-and-downs, of one offbeat Craigslist transaction. As with all human interactions, the stories are often fun, quirky, and even poignant.

But here's the point. Are you listening, newspaper publishers? All you beleaguered journalists out there better wake up -- Craigslist is once again drinking your milkshake.

We already showed you the premiere episode of the second season of Craigslist TV : "Accordion Idol."

Since then there have been three more stories (one of them a two-part episode). They have strong and interesting protagonists, compelling story lines, and illuminate or put a bigger issue in context. And there's not one that any newspaper in America, with ambition and resourcefulness, could not have produced on their own. It's a matter of dedication to the tenets and principles of non-fiction video storytelling -- investing in hiring and/or training staffers not just in using cameras, mics and editing software, but also in the principles of visual nonfiction storytelling.

Here they are (below). "Drinking Buddy" is the funniest; "Getting Married" is the most poignant.

Superheroes Strike Back! (Part One)

"Superman" uses craigslist to unite all the costumed characters recently kicked off of Hollywood Boulevard by the Los Angeles police. His "Town Hall of In-Justice" attracts an interesting crowd and leads to unexpected consequences.


Superheroes Strike Back! (Part Two)

"Superman" and the other costumed characters were recently kicked off of Hollywood Boulevard by the Los Angeles police. After their "Town Hall of In-justice" became a shouting match, a dejected "Superman" decides to risk arrest by going to Hollywood Blvd. in full costume. And later, he and other characters stage what may be an even riskier public protest.


Drinking Buddy For Hire!

Daniel offers his services as a drinking buddy on Craigslist. The surprising folks who respond to his ad are more in need of cheap therapy than free drinks.


Getting Married

In 2008, Rev. Lorelei Starbuck married over 600 same-sex couples before Prop. 8 restricted marriage to only "a man and a woman." But in 2010, a federal judge concluded Prop. 8 was unconstitutional, so Lorelei again posts on craigslist offering her services to gay couples looking to wed.


And in case you missed Season One, here are some of the loglines:

Rent My Couch! - Must Love Dogs:) (6:30) Megan is strapped for cash and lists her couch for rent on craigslist. Folks soon learn that Megan already has a full house.

Wanna Join My 80's Cover Band? (9:51) Meg uses craigslist to assemble the most kick-ass 80's cover band in history.

Hip Hop Jaysin Wants a Hype Man (9:52) As Jaysin's big showcase approaches, tensions rise. Can Jaysin keep his cool and impress promoters? Jaysin, an aspiring hip hop artist, uses craigslist to find his very own Flava Flav - a "hype man" to whip up the crowds at his big show.

Ninja for Hire! (9:12) Ninja Nick offers his services as a ninja for hire on craigslist. Dog walking, car washing, pool cleaning and massage - all for free!

Michael Mullen & Sandra Bullock's Dress (6:45) Aspiring fashion designer, Michael Mullen, uses craigslist to reach Sandra Bullock in hopes of dressing her for the 2010 Oscars.

Trista and Tara's Missed Connection with a Hottie (8:11) BFF's Trista and Tara post an ad in Missed Connections on craigslist after spying a hottie at Subway. Will it lead to Trista finding her Mr. Right?

Charity's Casting Call for a Husband (9:00) Spunky and vivacious Charity is fed up with the dating scene and posts on craigslist

The series' mandate is to "follow weird and wild postings on craigslist in real time." New episodes of Craigslist TV appear every Thursday.

No comments: