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Q&A with Next Media Animation's Michael Logan

Above, featuring Berlusconi in group sex allegations, the latest Next Media animated news video. Below, Q&A with Michael Logan, who is in charge of content and business development for Next Media Animation, publisher of Apple Daily in Hong Kong and Taiwan.

When did Apple Daily / Next start doing news animations?
The first animations were published online September 2009, as part of Apple Daily video coverage in Hong Kong and Taiwan. Next Media Animation is a unit of Next Media and supplies animated news content to Apple Daily in Hong Kong and Taiwan, Next TV in Taiwan and external clients such as the BBC, Cartoon Network, etc.

Do the animations make money? How?
The animations are monetized through advertising.

Are other news organizations syndicating the animations?
We do some work for Reuters. We did a series of satirical pieces for the BBC during the parliamentary elections. We are about to launch an online service that will distribute animated cuts to online and broadcast news editors around the world. These animated cuts can be used as a part of their news packages.

Can you reveal any numbers? (Views / viewers etc.)
In Hong Kong, the Apple Daily website is getting 4 million views daily across all of its video content (including pieces with animation). Since the launch of animated news, viewership is up by 40%.

Is it correct that the Tiger Woods animation was the first one to get a lot of international attention? Has the international attention to these videos changed the focus of the subject matter?
Yes, the Tiger Woods piece made us known to an international audience. And yes, we are making an effort to build a global audience and part of that effort includes either English-subtitled or English-voiced pieces.

However, for an animated story to work, the piece needs to stand on the strength of the visuals alone and a lot of the feedback from the international audience is they prefer the Mandarin version. For a recent satirical piece we did on the problems with the iPhone 4, about 40% of the audience was from the United States.

We are still exploring here. For international stories, we are exploring giving the international audience the option of viewing either a Mandarin or English language version. But I think it remains to be seen whether a news market like the United States wants a “localized” version of animated news content. I think they prefer the Taiwan version.

How would you respond to criticism that these animations are a form of dumbed-down news that may distort the stories they tell?
To critics who describe these animations as a form of “dumbed-down news”, I would say that is a great insult to our audience and viewers.
Our audience is intelligent and discriminating. They have multiple sources of news from which to choose. Likewise, the people who work for Next Media are some of the brightest and most talented in our industry.

As for the comment that animation “distorts the story”, I would disagree. We are not changing the rules of journalism with animation. Stories still have to be reported and sourced. These animations rely on sources, eyewitness accounts, documentation, etc. All of the reporting that goes into a written news piece or broadcast news piece – we apply the same principles to animation.

How many people work on these animations? Do they have a connection with the cartoons and other graphics that appear in the print newspapers?
There are 200 people working for Next Media Animation. We do not have a direct connection with the cartoons and other graphics that appear in the print newspapers. However, I would say that animated news is the evolution of a style of visual story telling that the Apple Daily is known for.

There are currently 2 Comments for Q&A with Next Media Animation's Michael Logan.

Comments on Q&A with Next Media Animation's Michael Logan

On dumbing down...I presume he said all of this with a straight face?

see Internet Safe From Armageddon video

As far as journalistic integrity, “fake news,” is just that.
It is impossible to accurately presume to know the movements and actions of incidents from hearsay and speculation, or by "extrapolating from facts."
It’s crackpot “news” – misleading at best, misreporting at worst.
Moreover, as another of Logan’s former newsroom coworkers said, “I have no doubt that this kind of crap might attract big money lawsuits in advanced countries – selling it as satire is one thing but selling it as "news" is quite another.”
Of course Logan knows all this; he’s just sniggering all the way to the bank. So much for the ethics part of J-school....

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