News gathering for the iPod generation - Press Gazette

News gathering for the iPod generation

Paparazzi screams rise to a crescendo like football fans cheering on a team that's about to score and the flicker of flashing camera bulbs bounces off the glass doors at the Royal Opera House.

Moments later supermodel Naomi Campbell sashays through the door resplendent in a silver number with designer John Galliano on her arm.

Welcome to the world of ITN Multimedia's showbiz journalists — reporters who are charged with providing footage to an audience increasingly keen to consume their news as it happens via mobile phones.

Pictures from the GQ Man of the Year Awards, tonight's event, are like gold dust for the ITN crew and according to showbiz editor Natalie Pirks, there should be enough news here to be stretched out over a week's worth of bulletins — and then some.

Last week Virgin Mobile announced that it is to launch the first live mobile TV service in the UK on 1 October.

It will allow mobile phone users to watch real-time programming on ITV1, Channel 4 and E4, broadcast via the existing national commercial DAB digital radio network on a trial basis for 12 months.

Yet for the past three years, ITN's Multimedia division has been creating content specifically for mobile phones.

It was the first company in Europe to make video news specifically for mobile, and in May 2005 launched a made-formobile 24-hour news channel on MobiTV.

So how does the approach to news gathering of the showbiz team, the only journalists in the multimedia division who film their own footage, differ from the traditional celebrity-focused shows such as GMTV's Entertainment Today?

"The content gained by ITN is going to end up on mobile phones and that market is quite young so we have to go with a certain angle as well that GMTV wouldn't necessarily be interested in," says Pirks.

Salacious gossip The result is that a lot of ITN multimedia's content focuses on who's sleeping with who and other more salacious gossip, while GMTV has a less tabloidy approach.

"If you think about it, if you have two things offered on your mobile phone — Lilly Allen slags off Paris Hilton or Rod Stewart and Penny Lancaster are going to have another baby — one thing is going to make you more money and at the end of the day we are a revenuedriven service and we have to think about which things are going to appeal," Pirks says.

Six million users download ITN showbiz content each month.

The showbiz team consists of three reporters who cover events on rotation.

Working with one cameraman, they are constantly looking for footage that can be slotted into different genres — ITV mobile produces news, sport, business and showbiz bulletins which are rotated every 15 minutes.

For example an interview with Jamie and Louise Redknapp provides material for both sport — Jamie on England's start under Steve McClaren — and showbiz, as Louise gives her tip for GQ Man of the Year.

Long after the other crews have disappeared, Pirks and cameraman Jay are still working the beat, waiting for the star of the night, Justin Timberlake, to appear. They are the only TV crew with backstage access, which means hanging around for yet more juicy gossip.

"It's taken us ages to get to this point," says Pirks. "A couple of years ago we would have been stuck down the end of the queue with everyone else."

ITN Multimedia managing director, Nicholas Wheeler, says that while Pirks has done a brilliant job in promoting the showbiz side of what the mobile news team does, there is still a long way to go in convincing organisations that mobile news matters.

"A PR person needs to be able to evaluate where her product — whether that's a star or anything else — has gone. We think they need to take more reconnaissance of what mobile and broadband can deliver," he says.

"Young people are looking at mobile. A lot of this showbiz stuff is targeted at young people. It is absolutely vital that they [PRs and advertisers] make use of that."

Wheeler is dismissive of any suggestion that the world of celebrity is any less "newsworthy" than home affairs or international politics.

"Showbusiness is still news. The thing about showbiz news is that it is more transportable," he says. "UK news isn't necessarily of any great interest in other countries, but Madonna breaking her arm or Tom Cruise having a baby are international stories, which makes them more transportable. There is a continuing interest in all media in what stars do, what they're up to and what they wear."

According to Wheeler the growth in popularity of sites such as YouTube and MySpace has meant the company has had to look at the type of content that it produces and the way in which it is packaged.

Yet he remains optimistic that ITN Multimedia will withstand any challenges that the Web 2.0 will throw up.

"In the past three years our speciality is five stories in 90 seconds. It's short, sharp and bright," he says. "It's a utility information that gives people what they want, when they want it. This concept of the iPod generation taking control of their media is very interesting."