Streaming media is an ever-evolving machine and journalists interested in the medium need to stay on the edge.
Here’s a list of five streaming-media trends to look out for in 2014.
1) 4K: Video in High Definition Just Got Higher
High definition video will go even higher, from 1,080p (1,920 by 1,080 pixels tall) to 4k (4,096 by 2,160 pixels tall).
This means that users will now have access ultra-high definition TV, a crisp picture that streams through the Internet.
The proof that this indeed, is a trend? Let’s start with Las Vegas. This month, the latest showcase of new technology for 2014 was on display at the annual Consumer Electronics show. This year, the big news was 4k.
4k means that the new 60-inch HDTV you bought last year is out of date (or will be soon). The electronics show was all about UHDTV, or, Ultra High Definition Television. Your TV is 1,080p (1,080 pixels tall, but the p actually stands for progressive scan). The ultra-high definition version is 4,000p (4k).
Already, it’s catching on. Netflix is shooting the new “House of Cards” in 4k. Sony, Panasonic and Blackmagic all have announced 4k cameras for $3,000 or less.
(Note: To watch videos in 4k on YouTube, you have to select the 4k option. After you press play on the video, you’ll notice a gear icon in the lower right-hand corner of the video. Click the gear and select the highest resolution available).
YouTube is also blazing a 4k trail. The video-hosting service just started streaming ultra-high definition. A MacBook Pro retina display isn’t 4k. It’s still larger than 1,080 (the 13-inch retina screen is 2,560 pixels tall), so while it won’t be full resolution, it’ll look better than 1,080.
Although everyone won’t have a 4k TV or monitor in 2014, expect to see it start to trickle down into more types of media.
2) More Longform Video
Longform journalism is making a comeback.
In the past several years, websites touting longform, such as Narrative.ly, Grantland and the Atavist have grown into popular sources for news.
The longform trend isn’t limited to the written word; YouTube has grown from cats playing piano to a network news monolith, with commercialized, professional content producers developing top-notch-journalism, such as the iFiles, which highlights investigative pieces from around the web and is produced by the Center for Investigative Reporting.
With more connected TVs, more tablets and more higher-level journalism, more people are likely to watch longer videos. According to media blog Gigaom, “more than a third of all video viewing time on YouTube can be attributed to videos that are 20 minutes or longer”.
Vice also does amazing, 30-minute documentaries that rack up millions of views, such as this in-depth look at 3-d printed guns.
The New York Times also has some videos topping out at more than 10 minutes, like this 13-minute documentary on J. Edgar Hoover, FBI surveillance activities under his leadership and whistleblowers from that time period.
This trend isn’t limited to YouTube. Stateless Media, a production company startup, is making some incredibly powerful web documentaries that they sell to larger media companies like The New Yorker. Its documentaries include one that follows a man as he searches for justice in Sri Lanka and another that follows the Anthony Weiner campaign.
Most of these web videos are more like documentaries than traditional television news, and it will be an experimental field that will be an exciting trend to watch in 2014.
3) More Shortform Video, Really Short
In 2013 we saw the birth of Vine and the expansion of Instagram into video. In 2014, expect to see journalism grow in these mini-media. Vine gives you six seconds to tell your story, and Instagram gives you 15. It doesn’t seem like a lot, but news organizations are starting to embrace the shortform apps.
Many news organizations now use Vine and Instagram as a way to tease stories. They shoot mini-videos and encourage viewers to click through to their sites or pick up their traditional news products. USA Today highlights its front page and teases its content on Vine and entices readers to pick up the newspaper.
Now This News has another approach. It shoots full, 15-second Instagram news stories (instead of just teases). Through these micro-clips, Now ThisNews is able to get a few points across in a very short amount of time. The news organization also does longer, vlog-style mini-newscasts on its website.
4) Vice Jumps into the Mainstream
Vice has big plans for 2014. The web documentarians dipped their toes into the mainstream in 2013 with their debut series on HBO. In the series, they made big waves by getting into North Korea by way of former NBA star Dennis Rodman.
The organization also shot stories all over the world, from Afghanistan to Chicago, filming in some of the world’s most dangerous areas. Although it’s not available on YouTube, you can stream the Vice channel on HBOGo.
This year Vice plans to take on the big boys of news — CNN, MSNBC and Fox News — beefing up its news operation with what it calls Vice News. The company just released a behind-the-scenes look, in which CEO and co-founder Shane Smith talks about the weekly shows the company is producing and how it’s opening bureaus all over the world.
It’ll be interesting to see how Vice crafts its network and how the traditional media respond. CNN started showing more longform content, such as the Blackfish documentary that tells the story behind the death of a SeaWorld trainer, and Anthony Bourdain’s “Parts Unknown,” which is closer to what you’d see on Vice than traditional television news.
5) More First-Person Video
You probably don’t know it, but you’ve watched video shot by a GoPro. It’s a small camera in a waterproof case that can attach to various body parts or mount on a bike or surfboard with ease. It was first marketed to the action sports crowd, but now it’s been used in everything from movies to nightly news. It’s an inexpensive camera in a small package that is able to achieve incredibly high quality video, which means journalists can get incredibly creative camera angles.
60 Minutes recently did a great profile on the inventor.
GoPro footage will be everywhere this year, but GoPro is just the beginning. Google Glass is set to launch to the masses in 2014, and that’s going to add a whole new angle (pun intended) to first-person video. While the video quality (currently) isn’t as high as GoPro, Google Glass is less bulky and obtrusive. Google Glass owners will probably have their glasses on them more often than a GoPro owner. To shoot with your GoPro, you have to make a conscious decision to bring it with you; you’ll already be wearing your Google Glass.
On the other hand, Googles Glass could be facing competition. The Consumer Electronics Show this year saw alternatives for the tech giant with a company called Lumus, which won rave reviews from sites like CNET, which praised the optics on the device and said it “definitely has the best vision.”
A company called GlassUp also debuted its prototype glass competitor, also gaining high marks from the critics.
Josh Davidsburg is a faculty member at the University of Maryland, where he teaches broadcast journalism. For AJR.org, he has covered a niche weekly newspaper’s success with publishing video online as well as the importance of video thumbnails.