Animoto impressions

Animoto describes itself as a video slideshow maker with music. The idea behind this application is that a user can take pictures or video that they have on his or her computer or phone and use Animoto’s graphic templates and music to create a quick and easy slideshow.

I primarily looked at Animoto’s web application (there is one for phones too) and found that, even for someone as technically impaired as myself, I could easily create a basic slideshow. The menus and templates are easy to navigate and swap on the fly. From signing up to completing my first 30-second video (using sample images and video), I only spent about 10 minutes.

However, the editing options feel pretty limited. The slideshow I made featured photos that glided in and out of view in stylized ways, but I had no control over which direction they moved to and fro. Animoto’s templates do a lot of filling in for you, that is to say a lot of style will be decided for you according to which template you utilize. The result is, the video looked a little generic, and I think people viewing it will immediately tell it came from a free online program. That may be okay for certain uses like sharing with friends, but if you are looking for something professional, investment in a program with more options might be the way to go.

Also, if you are merely a free subscriber, you will get a fewer amount of templates to choose from and you are limited to making a video 30 seconds long. If you want more options, you can sign up for monthly payments.

Overall, I’d say Animoto is worth the free download. Depending on your needs, a generic video might be all right; they are certainly quick and easy to create. The phone app might be a simple way to create content from your computer or phone into a fast video. However, if you desire more control over your project, you might want to look elsewhere since options to put a personal touch on the videos seem limited.

Revisiting the viability of paywalls

Much has already been written about the fiscal future of newspapers and the business models that will ultimately prevail. But in light of a report from the Audit Bureau of Circulations, Steve Myers wrote an article on the Poynter website that re-examines the viability of paywalls (the charging for online content).

Myers points out that three of the top five papers in the last six months, in terms of highest increase in Sunday circulation, utilize some form of paywall. In contrast, the five papers that saw the biggest drop in daily circulation offer their online content for free.

While some papers like The New York Times have used a paywall for some time now, other notable publications are beginning to follow suit — The Los Angeles Times put up a paywall a few months ago and The Chicago Tribune plans to do the same. Myers doesn’t necessarily propose that paywalls are the solution to the industry’s woes, but an interesting question is raised: are readers increasingly willing to pay for the news they get from the web?

A post by Brent Lang on The Wrap website takes the position that paywalls will become a bigger trend among papers, but that the figures from the Audit Bureau of Circulations can be misleading:

“The rise in circulation may be partly attributable to a complicated new set of rules by the Audit Bureau of Circulations that may allow newspapers to count the same subscriber multiple times if they pay to access articles over more than one device.”

Although there are exceptions, I used to be of the mind that paywalls will largely fail as long as readers could easily travel to other sites that didn’t charge for online content.

Are paywalls still a model that only a few papers can utilize successfully? Or are they more viable to a broader range of publications now? Would you be willing to open your wallet for access to online news?