Tsunami Videos

The following article was published in the Wall Street Journal and covered the news surrounding my participation in the video blogging of the huge Tsunami that hit southeast Asia in December of 2005. If you’re looking for the videos, scroll down to the bottom and click the link.

Video Blogs Break Out With Tsunami Scenes

By *ANTONIO REGALADO* and *JESSICA MINTZ*
January 3, 2005;

When twenty-one-year-old Jordan Golson launched his Web diary, or blog, in early December, his conservative views on news and politics weren’t exactly in demand, attracting about 10 surfers a day. But by last Thursday, he was struggling to keep his site named “Cheese and Crackers” up and running as it racked up 640,000 hits.

The difference: tsunami videos.

Mr. Golson’s site — at jlgolson.blogspot.com — is just one of dozens of locations on the Internet hosting amateur videos of the Indian Ocean disaster. Many have been deluged with visitors eager to see more of the gripping footage than TV offers, or to watch videos over and over again on their own time. Some of these “video blogs,” like Mr. Golson’s, are pre-existing text blogs, which typically include commentary and views on current events.

Others have just sprung up in the last week. WaveofDestruction.org, created by an Australian blogger to host tsunami videos, logged 682,366 unique visitors from last Wednesday through Sunday morning, and has more than 25 amateur videos of the impact so far.

“The ease of putting something online is pretty much instant,” says Geoffrey Huntley, the founder of Wave of Destruction. “At a media company, I’m sure there are channels you have to go through — copyright, legal, editorial, etc. Blogging is instant.”

Even before the tsunami, media watchers had predicted that 2005 would be a big year for video blogging, also known as vlogging. Jay Rosen, chair of the Department of Journalism at New York University and a media blogger himself, says the unique videos of the waves hitting shore could be a “breakthrough” event for the Web.

Last year, video bloggers already showed their muscle by rapidly distributing a clip of singer Ashlee Simpson caught lip synching on “Saturday Night Live,” and another of the Daily Show’s Jon Stewart clashing with the hosts of CNN’s “Crossfire.” According to Andreas Wacker, founder of blogsnow.com, a site that ranks blogs, the Crossfire video was downloaded by more people on the Internet than saw it on TV. “When the Internet wants to see something, it sees it,” he says.

Even so, the genre is still in its infancy — and like much on the Web, its protocols are still evolving.

To obtain the videos, many bloggers linked to TV Web sites, pulled them from Internet bulletin boards or snatched them from each other, in a chaotic rush to make the unedited scenes available to curious surfers. There’s a big premium for dramatic videos showing the moment the waves hit land.

Some TV networks, in turn, were alerted to amateur videos first by bloggers.

A tourist in Thailand tries to help two others escape the tsunami in an amateur video found on a blog.

Bloggers don’t charge for access, but they haven’t been paying for copyrighted footage, either. And bloggers seldom ask each other for permission. “The law really hasn’t caught up,” says Mr. Golson. “The rule of thumb is you can take stuff as long as you say where you got it from,” and as long as you don’t sell it, he adds.

The story of one particularly vivid video, labeled “Tsunami hitting Phuket Beach” by Mr. Golson, is a case in point.

The video, which shows an elderly couple overpowered by a wave, was filmed at the Kamala Beach Hotel near Phuket on Sunday morning by a 31-year-old factory worker from Sweden named Tommy Lorentsen.

Reached in Thailand, Mr. Lorentsen said he salvaged the tape from his camera after it was soaked and gave a copy to Fredrik Bornesand, a Stockholm police detective who appears in the footage trying to rescue the couple. Mr. Bornesand handed a CD of the clip to journalists with Norway’s Dagbladet newspaper who then uploaded to their Web site on Monday.

“It wasn’t too steady a shot, but we thought it would be good to show what happened,” says Det. Bornesand.

The Phuket video has since been one of the most widely aired on television networks, but only after bloggers spread the word. Mr. Golson heard about it from other bloggers and posted it on his site on Tuesday at 3:45 p.m. in Boston.

Dagbladet editor Oliver Orskaug says once the clip began circulating on Web blogs and forums “suddenly the networks were calling from Japan, Spain and France and everywhere to buy the video.” He says within 12 hours he sold rights to CNN, ABC News, and others for a total of about $20,000. Mr. Orskaug was not surprised bloggers grabbed the video without paying. “That’s the Internet. We expect that would happen,” he says.

The networks typically seem to ignore competition from news blogs that post videos, although that may change as video-blogging expands. Bill Wheatley, Vice President of NBC News, says during the last six months the network has begun adding a digital watermark to its video “so electronically we can determine if it’s our video.” He says the marking is mostly to know if other TV stations are using its video, rather than keeping tabs on the Internet. “But the day may come when we may need to deal with that,” he says.

Beyond copyright issues, videoblogs are facing another challenge brought on by their sudden popularity: too little bandwidth, or the amount of data they are able to transmit over a period of time.

For Mr. Golson, the rush came when the Drudge Report, a popular online news site, posted a link to his tsunami videos on Tuesday afternoon, just half an hour after he’d posted the films. Later that night, *Apple Computer* Inc., which hosted his site, took them down. The video files were so large, and so many people had tried to see them, that Mr. Golson exceeded the limits Apple set on his account for the amount of data his site was allowed to send. But offers to help store the files poured in from other bloggers, and Mr. Golson spent the rest of the week shuffling video files between about 20 different computers — or “mirror” sites — that are now sharing the load.

Another blogger, known as “Pundit Guy,” wasn’t so lucky; the rush on the tsunami videos on his site cost him $1,000 in additional fees when his service provider charged him for the extra activity bandwidth fees, according to his Web site, www.punditguy.com.

Blogsnow’s Mr. Wacker says the Internet has handled other popular videos in a similarly ad hoc fashion, in which bloggers put out a call for help storing big, popular files when their own servers crash. But new file sharing programs are likely to make distribution more efficient, and will make video blogging more commonplace.

The tsunami films may be a break-out moment for video blogs, but observers say its still unclear where the phenomenon is headed. Jeff Jarvis, a blogger at buzzmachine.com and the creator of Entertainment Weekly magazine, predicts video blogging will evolve into “the new definition of a TV show,” especially as bloggers start to add their own content and commentary to news footage.

He thinks producing a professional-looking TV-like program would cost little, and suggests that advertisers, who are now just starting to experiment with blog ads, could jump at the chance to run commercials targeted to specific interest groups. “It’s going to take a while to get decent video content, and to get a critical mass coming in to discover that content,” says Mr. Jarvis. Most bloggers see posting the videos as a pastime and a public service, with exposure on the Web as recompense.

Kevin Aylward, who runs Wizbangblog.org, says blogs fulfilled an important role in letting people experience the tragedy. “When you see it, and you see how it’s happening to just ordinary people, it brings home the enormity of it. That is the fascination with the videos.”

Tsunami Videos

Comments

  1. Tsunami Video

    There’s an amazing video of the Tsunami over at PunditGuy….

  2. unmediated says:

    A world of witnesses, a world of reporters

    Following up on yesterday’s post about finding photos and video and the tsunami, Brian TVNewser Stelter sends this good quote from David Carr’s NY Times story: Bob Calo, an associate professor at the graduate school of journalism at the University of C…

  3. Tsunami Coverage

    Pardon me for not being more timely in posting this, but I don’t have a lot to say that hasn’t been already said everywhere else. Yeah, this is huge news, and I’ve been watching it closely like everyone else. 60,000 killed? Tragic.

    I did find a c…

  4. Tim Haines says:

    Search Blogs vs Websites

  5. Screenshots... says:

    Tsunami: A tragedy within within a tragedy

    A tragedy can’t be more morbid than this – it didn’t even make it to the headlines: The train with call-sign Samudradevi, or Queen of the Sea, left Colombo Fort station shortly after 9am on Sunday for its regular run…

  6. Tsunami Videos

    Pundit Guy has some links to Tsunami home videos.

    He describes them as horfying. I myself have an odd reaction to watching them: theyhave very littl…

  7. Deathwave: Videos Document Tsunami’s Destructive Force

    Hosted by PunditGuy. He’s asking for donations to help pay for the extra bandwidth that hosting these videos will cost him, but he vows he’ll donate 50% of every donation to the American Red Cross’ tsunami relief fund….

  8. Iggy Uncensored says:

    Tsunami Pictures

    It seems multiple users are coming here from Google. Looking for Tsunami pictures and videos. So I’ll link a few sites I found using Google here.  Photo Gallery News….

  9. Video of the Tsunami

    Pundit Guy is hosting several “home videos” of the tsunami. There is no gore, but more than enough horror. Some videos even show tourists on the beach who have no idea what is about to happen to them. If someone…

  10. Amateur video footage of tsunami on blogs, torrents

    Waxy.org has been collecting amateur video footage, here’s a roundup post: Link. Punditguy has more: Link Chris Holland says, I’ve used prodigem to create torrents for the South Asia tsunami videos. The more people use this torrent, the faster everyone…

  11. Videos of the Tsunami

    Pundit Guy posted these videos of the Tsunami.

    Video 11 megs Windows Media Format
    Video from Sri Lanka (8 MB Windows Media Format)
    Video from Patong Beach (6.2 MB Windows Media Format)
    Video news wrap up from the BBC (9…

  12. Boing Boing says:

    NYT, Fox News, others on blogs and tsunami disaster

    John Schwartz wrote an insightful piece for the New York Times this week about the role blogs play in covering and responding to the tsunami disaster. I was interviewed for the piece, but the people who really have something interesting and valuable t…

  13. seanbonner says:

    Tsunami Videos

    In case you’ve been in a hole and haven’t seen these yet PunditGuy is hosting a bunch of clips of…

  14. Watcher of Weasels says:

    Holiday Hell

    First, there was the Christmas Eve mishap in Virginia, where an American Airlines jet went off the runway during takeoff and delayed at least 100 other flights…  then there was the horrendous computer system meltdown that caused Comair to cancel…

  15. Silflay Hraka says:

    Tsunami News

    Some of the devastation caused by the earthquake-spawned tsunami in Patong, Phuket, Thailand. Photo via the Soi Easy Picture Gallery More post-tsunami pictures here, via the Command Post. A world map of the latest earthquakes, including the 8.4 quake a…

  16. Videos of Tsunami

    In some sick pun, the best way to fetch amateur videos of first-person encounters of the tsunami is via a torrent from

  17. Amateur video footage of tsunami on blogs, torrents

    Waxy.org has been collecting amateur video footage, here’s a roundup post: Link. Punditguy has more: Link Chris Holland says, I’ve used prodigem to create torrents for the South Asia tsunami videos. The more people use this torrent, the faster everyone…

  18. Screenshots... says:

    Tsunami: Blogs and such

    Two Malaysian bloggers who came face-to-face with tsunami were mentioned by The Guardian yesterday: apapaje.blogspot.com and Ronnie Tan. TV Smith has set up Malaysia & Regional Tsunami Disaster Information & Resource Page at Malaysia Central. Oon Yeoh …

  19. Millions Of People Are Searching For Tsunami Videos

    It seems that there are millions of people out there searching for videos of the SE Asia tsunami. I have noticed a big increase in traffic (today looks like it will be my busiest day). So far I’ve had 6,500

  20. Tsunami Video

    After watching a bunch of the tsunami videos, a few thoughts occur to me. The wave was not nearly as tall as I thought it’d be. I mean, Hawaii and Australia get waves like this for surf competitions, don’t they?…

  21. Tim Haines says:

    Search Blogs vs Websites

  22. Michelle Malkin says:

    THE VIDEOBLOGGING REVOLUTION, PT II

    The Wall Streeet Journal notices Jordon Golson of Cheese and Crackers–now ranked #1 in traffic at the Truth Laid Bear’s ecosystem for those who use Sitemeter. Other tsunami bloggers mentioned: PunditGuy , who was saddled with big bandwidth transfer fe…

  23. Slant Point says:

    Tsunami Video Lesson

    Back in June 2003 I decided to host a single video of the Nick Berg beheading on my server, mainly because I found the act atrocious and simply did not see anyone, anywhere making this available to the public. I went away for the weekend,…

  24. How Now, Brownpau? says:

    Tsunami Coverage

    International cable news here in Manila is pretty much 24/7 Tsunami News, though I see that one of my primary DC news haunts, NBC4, at…

  25. Media Bloggers Association says:

    Tsunami Video Hosting Initiative – 1.5 MM Streams Served

    The Media Bloggers Association’s Tsunami Video Hosting Initiative passed the one week mark earlier today having served up 1.27 mm video streams served across all donor/hosts as of noon today. These steams were served up at an average data transfer…