firstpost-youspeakYesterday, FirstPost.com, the online news portal from the Network18 group, launched YouSpeak, a platform which allows users to share their views via video. The approach to encouraging videos is interesting: FirstPost is taking almost a discussion forum approach to videos: Firstly, it is allowing its users to start discussions on issues via video, and just in case that doesn’t happen (although there isn’t such a thing as commenting fatigue, video can be tedious) it is enabling its own writers/staff to share views, with the purpose of seeding a discussion on issues – for example, this on the Yahoo’s telecommuting ban.

How it works

Durga Raghunath, VP Product and Executive News, Firstpost, told MediaNama that they tried to focus a lot on the ease of uploading “The commenting tech has been around so long and well thought out, that we were ready to make this far richer, and let people speak on video.

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– Requirements: There’s a rather large record button below videos which allows viewers to respond to these via videos, and a users Desktop/laptop needs to be enabled with a webcam. There isn’t a mobile app for publishing videos, but Raghunath says FirstPost plans to launch an android application next week.

– Not anonymous? FirstPost is ensuring that users at least use facebook or twitter logins to post videos, and follow that up with an email registration. FirstPost says this will prevent anonymous commenting, but that is unlikely – it’s easy to create an

anonymous twitter account and an email address. However, all uploads are moderated, and Raghunath says that they’ve published 14-15 views over the last two days. “Everything is moderated. We’re not saying that this can be anonymous. The capacity for offensive content is so much higher on video.”

Time limit: each user is limited to a 30 second response. While no one wants to be subjected to verbal diarrhea, what if someone has a multiple points to make? Multiple videos, I guess. Raghunath says that they thought that 30 seconds would be manageable for a response, and “in some cases, it turned out to be too long. We’ll give people an option, but i don’t want it to be an over-the-top filesize.”

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– Rerecording: Users can preview their response, fix their hair, record the response again and then submit it for publishing. Raghunath says that people are rerecording often: “It takes a lot for someone to see themselves on video, and you’re more careful. You’ll keep rerecording before submitting, and people are picky. We got a lot of submissions. users are going to need help, because some of it is just bad audio,” she adds.

– Copyright content in videos: Interestingly, since a camera is used to record views live, the chances of someone uploading copyright protected videos is negligible, although FirstPost would do well to warn those submitting videos to ensure that there is no background music, just in case nutty music label lawyers decide to go after them. Update: on hindsight, this is not an issue since all videos are screened.

– A bit of a lag: I’m on a data card connection (albeit a 3G data card), and noticed a lag between the audio and video, which was disconcerting.

Things That First Post Can Do With YouSpeak

There are two parts to content: first is creating, and the second is discovery. If it gets large number of video views, we wonder how FirstPost intends to surface these videos. A few suggestions:

1. Combine selected views around specific topics, and create a single sequence of user views on a topic of relevance. Helps in discovery.

2. Integration within site news content: Keep a listing of videos with relevant, editorially selected viewpoints together, and integrate those into news stories. This is particularly useful if there are multiple stories on a compelling, current topic.

3. TV Integration within news bulletins: As we’d mentioned earlier, FirstPost should replace IBNLive.com as Network18’s primary English News portal. Users who submit video comments should be asked to allow sharing of views on TV (this will help improve uploads of views for FirstPost), and user views should be surfaced along with specific news items

4. TV integration with a separate YouSpeak show: A separate TV show which takes into account video views uploaded, alongwith experts responding to or discussing user views would be an interesting watch.

On TV integration, Raghunath said that the idea is that, once your comment gets published, FirstPost will send an email informing users that it has been published, and the next step is to ask people to participate in a hangout on this topic.”We’re not yet thinking of TV. We feel we have some learning curve, and we won’t get into pushing TV.”