Color’s coverage of the Royal Wedding shows the need for a photo editor

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In my blog yesterday about the new proximity sharing photo app Color,  I mentioned that the first big test would be in the partnership between the Daily Telegraph and the company in social media coverage of the Royal Wedding. 

With the now Duke and Duchess of Cambridge driving off toward their (at the moment secret) honeymoon and with Prince Harry hosting the wee small hours party, the site for the Color sharing photos is up.

Problem one.  It is on the Color.com website Royal Wedding page .   That appears to show that The Telegraph, even though its logo is on the site, has ceded editorial control to the app company. That is never a good idea, news media companies have tried letting software companies run their sites for 30 years, since the first days of  videotex and it has never worked due to the clash of cultures. The news media almost always yank back control as quickly as possible.

  Also the site appears to be a raw feed and so who knows what photos could be posted and sent to the server and to nearby users’ phones?

The Telegraph does say that the “best” of the Color  social media photos will  appear in the paper and on The Telegraph site.    So what’s the difference  (apart from lens quality and resolution) from the photos are being sent to the social  media sections of  news sites all over the world by the public, using everything from smart phones to high end DSLRs?

As far as I can tell, there is no difference.

As a news app, Color needs a photo editor.  And given current budget restraints, and potential  legal problems with news sites using raw, unmoderated feeds,  unlikely to be used except in exceptional circumstances.

A great app for sharing photos with friends at a wild party.  (Now if Color was at Harry’s party, that would be a different story!!)

As I mentioned in the earlier blog, an app like Color might be useful in reconstructing the events of a disaster or an attack, but  for the royal wedding there is a lot of chaff and straw and few viable seeds, a high noise to signal ratio.

My verdict:  Not a miracle.  Not ready for prime time.   Certainly at the moment, not the next Twitter, at least as as a news app and everyone concerned with the future of news knows who critical Twitter has become to news coverage.

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Is “Color” the next big social app? And what about photojournalism?

For those who follow  #futureofnews on Twitter, and similar groups, there has been a lot of buzz in the past couple of weeks since the launch  on March 24, of a new (so far Apple only??) app called Color.  It’s called a proximity photo sharing social media app, and allows people close to each  other to share photos.

358-color_1881983a.jpgA combination of photo crowd sourcing and social  networking.

Most of the chatter is among the younger folks who tweet, follow and discuss the future of news, those who are digital natives, the true early adopters,  the indicator of new trends.

So much chatter that I decided to check it out.

While it is available as an Iphone app, the news release says it is available for the Android, but I couldn’t find it in the Android store and the front page of their website says new Android version coming soon.

So without an Android app I could find, I am going to have to go by the buzz.

My first impression at the  Apple App Store was that  was  that creators are  a kind of arrogant bunch.  On the App store and their press releases  it is “Color™  ”  

Really?

 Imagine trademarking the word “color?”  The company is based in Palo Alto, California, so one has to wonder how and why the US Patent and Trademark Office allowed it? I wonder how long that  trademark will last?  The trolls are probably already calling  their lawyers with everyone else not too far  behind.

The news release calls the program

Color™ is a miraculous, free application for iPhones and Android devices that allows people in close proximity to capture and have real-time access to photos, videos, and text simultaneously from multiple smartphones. Color is the best way of sharing an experience without the hassle of passing cameras around, emailing or uploading images and videos online.

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And goes on to say

Every photo, video, and text captured by each smartphone through Color is instantly shared with surrounding phones also using Color. There are no attachments, uploading or post-production work required.  For the first time with Multi-lens, you will finally get to see and keep all photos from everyone at a shared moment, including ones that you are actually in.

One tech site has been calling Color™  the “next Twitter.

So back to the future of news. One has to immediately wonder if this yet another nail in the coffin of professional photography?  And what does this do for copyright? Are copyrighted photographs finally  dead and buried?

Well this his how the process  is explained by readwriteweb.com

What Happens to the Content?
There has been confusion about where the content generated by Color goes and how is it shared. Are the photos taken using Color archived? [ Color chief scientist D. J] Patil  [formerly of Linked In] explained that if you participate in a Color group, that content is not only shared in real-time with others in proximity to you, it also appears in the ‘History’ section of the app as an album. You can share albums, photos and videos using Twitter, Facebook, email or SMS.

So far, Color has no search or archiving mechanism on its website. So the only way that people who weren’t at an event are likely to see albums is if they’re been shared via the likes of Twitter and Facebook.

It’s just been a couple of weeks, so who knows?  And with a program being described as “miraculous” that is a lot to live up to.  The company also has $41 million in venture capital and the app (for now) is free, so where’s the return on the VC investment?

As for photojournalism, let’s wait and see.  

The company had its first real time use at a movie premiere.

The big test comes in a couple of days, when the Daily Telegraph uses it to cover the Royal Wedding. The Daily Telegraph and all the other British papers and wire services will have their best shooters covering the wedding, so the color crowd sourcing photo sharing will be a fascinating addition.

A couple of thoughts:

Color™  has been promoting at events like concerts, premieres, tech conferences (of course) and family events.

It’s not the best PR, but it looks like Color™  will enhance the social coverage of breaking news.

What if  Color™  had been available during the G20 disturbances in Toronto? During the G20  everyone had a camera or smart phone camera.  All those pictures of both the black hooded rioters and the subsequent police misconduct could have been shared with the participants, the onlookers, the journalists and probably the police photo units from multiple angles in real time,

Or the more recent student demonstrations in London?

What happens if there are people with Color™  equipped cameras during the next major disaster or a terrorist attack?  Or folks in Syria and Libya are right now downloading Color? 

There will be a lot of amazing photos produced on the breaking event. The pros, however, will still be needed to take the iconic images (that is, of course, it anyone wants to use and pay for them).

The one group that is going to be hit hard by Color™  are the paparazzi, already suffering and seeing their income drop now that everyone has a camera. Imagine the big star walks down the street and instead of being stalked by one pap, fifty cameras shoot and share the images.

Who knows. Stay tuned.

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