Iraq war heralds a new age of web-based news coverage
Daily Times Monitor
SAN FRANCISCO: Radio had World War II. Television had Vietnam. Cable TV had the Gulf War. Now, the Internet may have the U.S. war with Iraq, reported USA Today.
CNN, ABC and other TV networks have ambitious online plans to bring viewers to the front lines after a trial attempt last year in Afghanistan. The Taliban’s ban of the Internet made it difficult then for reporters to file online, forcing many to use satellite phones.
This time, reporters and producers with wireless laptops and handheld digital cameras will file reports from battlefields and military installations. Cameras are at key locations for live feeds 24 hours a day. Interactive, 3-D maps will update troop movements, casualties and weapons used.
“You’re combining the speed of television with the depth of print,’’ says Mitch Gelman, executive producer of CNN.com. ‘’This could define how future wars are covered.’’
And, perhaps, determine whether consumers are willing to pay for war coverage. CNN.com and ABCNews.com have both started selling enhanced services such as TV-quality video on broadband by monthly subscription.
Whether surfers will pay for online news is a growing debate within the broadcast industry. So far, few have signed up for content that’s often available elsewhere for free. “ I’m skeptical of people paying for video news at work when they can watch it on TV later,’’ says analyst David Card of market researcher Jupiter Research. ‘’But because it’s war and on-demand video, some might try it out.’’
Even without fees, there are benefits for broadcasters. With high-speed Net use spreading in offices and homes — bringing TV-quality video to personal computers — networks see an opportunity to reach millions of viewers who don’t have daytime TV access. Larger Web audiences, as in TV, translate to more ad revenue.
There are some 28.2 million broadband connections in U.S. offices and 36.2 million in homes, says Nielsen//NetRatings Meanwhile, the percentage of Americans who use Net video or audio has nearly doubled, to 44%, since 2000, says Arbitron’s MeasureCast.
CNN.com. A War Tracker page will continuously feature live and taped video reports from the front line. CNN Radio will be available live on the site the first 48 hours of a potential conflict. Two-minute video updates every hour, which cost extra, will be produced exclusively for the Web.
To put it all in context, CNN.com will unveil 3-D charts that track bombs dropped, Iraqi defections and casualties. Battlefield maps will depict military strikes, troop movements and terrain. ‘’At any time, you’ll be able to click on an interactive map and see how the war is going,’’ Gelman says.
ABCNews.com. Correspondents and producers will file streamlined live and taped reports. That will be a staple of ABC News Live, a paid service for broadband Internet users. Fixed TV cameras will be trained on locations in Kuwait and Qatar 24 hours.
A virtual control room on the site lets viewers toggle between four screens at once to view coverage, says general manager Bernard Gershon.
MSNBC.com. Chat rooms will let viewers ask correspondents questions. New, more portable (140 lbs. vs. 550 in Afghanistan) satellite video transmitters that run off car cigarette lighters will be used. ‘’It’s not a stretch to say our reporters in Iraq can file almost as easily as they can (in New York),’’ says editor-in-chief Dean Wright.
CBSNews.com. Besides free video, the site is rich with maps and backgrounders on weaponry and political history that put the conflict into context. Correspondents are ‘’multitasking’’ with online notebooks and video feeds in addition to their network chores, says Betsy Morgan, who oversees CBSNews.com.
FoxNews.com. The War on Terror page includes a correspondent tracker with video clips from the front, a War At Home section with features on how the war affects Americans and videos on key weapons.