What Instagram Video Means for News Coverage

PHOTO: A Facebook Inc. employee demonstrates the new video feature with Instagram during an event at the companys headquarters in Menlo Park, Calif., June 20, 2013.
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Up to 15 seconds of video, 13 custom filters, and a "cinema mode" for stabilization. Those were some of the features added to Instagram last week, instantly turning the popular photo-sharing app used by 130 million people into a video-sharing service. Within the first 24 hours of the announcement, over 5 million videos had been uploaded.

Sure, some were of frothy lattes and the Miami Heat winning the NBA finals, but the new features have wider appeal than to just casual users. As newsrooms are now relying on social media as a platform to discover and deliver the news, Instagram's new video features will add another piece of content into the mix for organizations: short, solid-looking video clips.

Beth Bennett, assistant professor at The Medill School of Journalism, Media, Integrated Marketing Communications at Northwestern University, believes this will be the next big thing for news organizations.

Bennett told ABC News that audiences have already shown an appetite for six-second video clips that have been made using Twitter's Vine app, a competing with Android and iPhone app that allows users to create six-second clips. "It requires very little commitment in terms of time and focus, which is part of the attraction," she says.

Bennett also says it has potential to act as a tool for "telling breaking news stories, especially when the audience is following certain hashtags for down-to-the minute news."

During the Boston Marathon bombings, Doug Lorman captured a video of the explosion via a video feed using Vine. Because of Vine's integration with Twitter and it's short length, it spread at lighting speed. Within 55 minutes it had over 15,000 re-tweets.

The new video services can also help news organizations, especially broadcast networks, in getting word out about the news and in getting additional content from viewers.

More About How Instagram Video Works

Abc27News in Harrisburg, Pa., has used Instagram Video to promote its 5 p.m. newscast and NBC News' KSDK-TV affiliate in St. Louis has been using Vine to share behind the scenes looks at how everything works in the newsroom as a promotional tool to increase viewership of the station. But beyond that, the station has started to look at it as a source of video from its viewers.

"A lot of people think it's a really lighthearted, fun thing, but you can get serious content from it," Meaghan Anselm, KSDK's return path producer, told ABC News.

And that's something Instagram has already done. During Hurricane Sandy, Time Magazine sent five photographers to capture photos of the storm and the damage it caused, not with professional equipment but with iPhones and access to its Instagram feed. The photographers shared the photos via the service and one photo even graced that week's print magazine cover. The service has also been used to capture other major world events, including the recent protests in Brazil and the tornado in Oklahoma.

One of the things that has made those images good enough to be used on a magazine cover is that they don't look like they were taken with a smartphone. Thanks to Instagram's editing and filter tools, photos can be brightened or adjusted, turning everyone into a professional photographer. With the video features, Instagram has taken a similar approach, turning once shaky and unclean cellphone video into something much more polished.

Brian Solis, principal analyst at Altimeter Group, says Instagram Video's Cinema feature in particular, which stabilizes shaky video, will lead the way for that.

"With video, it takes more than filters," Solis told ABC News. "It takes realizing that to make everyday people look like incredible videographers or cinematographers, they needed something to solve video's biggest barrier to watchability and shareability -- giving users a digital tripod to dramatically improve the video experience."

While the founder of Instagram Kevin Systrom's first videos on the service might have been of a sushi dinner or Facebook's adorable fox, the new capabilities, he believes, will have far reaching impact whether it be for people who get their news through media organizations or through Instagram's timeline.

"Instagram not only is about lattes, babies, cute dogs," he told ABC News in an exclusive interview prior to the launch of the new video features. "It's also about these moments in the world that let you peer in to understand different cultures, different political situations. It allows for a transparency that hasn't been there before."

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