Tag Archives: Vlog

TVA renews Vlog for third season

Dominic Arpin

If Dominic Arpin looks happy here, it’s because I’ve taken a file photo and used it out of context as filler art to tell you that TVA has renewed his weekly web video clips show Vlog for a third season, days after it aired its second season finale. Arpin says he’s got a deal for 10 episodes so far, not including the four special-topic episodes that will air over the next few weeks.

Vlog premiered in 2007 as a half-hour show with Arpin and Geneviève Borne that screened 30-second clips from popular videos online. It took me a while to warm up to it, especially because it seemed to leech off other people’s creative content without offering much in return (the show still isn’t downloadable or streamable after it airs). Its erratic schedule following Occupation Double (and against RadCan’s powerhouse Tout le monde en parle) didn’t help its ratings, which eventually led to its cancellation.

But Arpin refused to give in. He launched his own website and began work on an online video guide, and eight months after it was cancelled, TVA brought Vlog back to life in a retooled form. Gone were his co-host and the all-white sets and giant flat-screen TVs. Instead, he’d introduce the videos webcam-style from his fake apartment. The show was also moved to Thursday nights (and eventually Friday nights) at a fixed time.

Apparently that was enough. Vlog is here to stay, and Arpin doesn’t have to worry about going back to reporting.

En primeur: TVA to resurrect Vlog

Those of you who follow Dominic Arpin via Facebook already know this, but for the benefit of the less-connected: TVA is bringing back Vlog, its weekly roundup of hot web videos, more than nine months after it aired its last episode, supposedly for good

Vlog was cancelled due to disappointing ratings, though it got screwed by the network and was never really given a chance over its handful of episodes. Not only was it slotted against Tout le monde en parle, but it followed Occupation double, which would almost always run long and push the show back. That wouldn’t have been a problem if the audiences for the two shows were the same, but they weren’t, and people tuning in at 9:30 to watch a show about Internet videos instead saw some stupid reality show about sexy people living together, with no clue when their show would come on.

When it was cancelled, there was talk about an online-only version coming earlier this year to Quebecor’s new Canoe.tv website. But for reasons that Arpin promises to explain on his blog by next week when the fall schedule comes out, the network decided to try again to put it back on the air.

Arpin says they’re working on a new format (perhaps going into more depth about featured videos, to deal with some criticism that they’re exploiting them almost to the level of copyright infringement). Details will come about the new format, but the main difference is that Arpin is going solo. Former cohost Geneviève Borne already has a new gig at Belle et Bum on Télé-Québec.

Vlog Season 2 premieres Thursday, Sept. 28 at 9:30 p.m. on TVA.

I hate it already.

UPDATE: Arpin gives some details in a video on his blog. He mentions something about the format being more like a YouTube video blog, with him looking into a camera.

The vlogolution will not be televised

As promised, my first opinion/analysis piece appears in today’s business section as part of the new Business Observer weekly page, which includes other pieces from academics and a small glossary of bizl33t from Roberto Rocha.

The crux of the argument is this: YouTube wonders and other amateur producers are being exploited by big media companies who want to reduce costs. Instead of being offered a freelance fee for their work, they’re offered give-us-all-your-rights contracts and no monetary compensation in exchange for the opportunity to have one’s video put on TV.

Some of you might remember a column from Casey McKinnon in the Guardian last year that was along similar lines, and my article is a blatant rip-off an homage and expansion of that idea. I talked to her and to Dominic Arpin, who hosted TVA’s Vlog show during its brief run in the fall. Vlog, as a news show, relied on fair dealing provisions to side-step copyright. They didn’t ask permission before screening 30-second clips of popular videos online.

Though the article focuses on video, the situation is analogous for audio and text. Media organizations seek “user-generated content” because it’s free. That’s fine for letters to the editor and small comments attached to articles, but what about photos and stories? The line between freelancers and free content is blurring.

Casey’s advice is useful for all independent content producers:

Start thinking like businesspeople and stand up for their rights. Demand fair contracts and proper compensation, and ignore fast-talking TV executives when they say “you don’t need a lawyer.”

If you have any comments about this issue, you can of course add them here (I won’t pay you either, suckers). The Gazette is also soliciting responses to the idea: send them to businessobserver (at) thegazette.canwest.com

(I’ll refrain from pointing out the irony of big media soliciting free content on an article denouncing big media’s exploitation of free content. But at least here you’re doing so willingly.)

UPDATE: Digg it?

Vlog cancelled

The rumours are true. TVA confirmed this morning that Vlog, Dominic Arpin’s web video show, will be aired for the last time on Dec. 2.

The network hasn’t shut the door completely on having an overhauled version come back in the new year, although that glimmer of hope sounds a lot like what your ex-girlfriend tells you about the possibility of getting back together someday, to soften the blow when she dumps your ass on the curb.

Arpin, who has stayed mostly silent since he heard the news on Friday, opened up on the show’s Facebook group. He’ll be technically unemployed by the end of the year after leaving both journalism and his blog to focus all his energies on this project which has now slipped through his fingers. He still hasn’t decided what to do with his future (welcome to the club), but he isn’t too keen on going back to his old job.

His text is reposted here for those who don’t have Facebook:

Désolé pour le silence-radio des derniers jours, les amis. Par respect pour TVA, il était préférable que le département des communications se charge d’annoncer le sort de Vlog plutôt que moi ou un membre de l’équipe. Ça explique notre discrétion ici depuis que le début des rumeurs. Ainsi donc, Vlog cessera d’être diffusé à compter du 2 décembre prochain. Nous l’avons appris vendredi dernier, sur l’heure du dîner. Déçu? C’est certain. J’ai dû me mordre l’intérieur de la bouche pour ne pas pleurer devant les producteurs lors de l’annonce. J’ai tellement investi de temps et d’espoir dans cette émission que je me suis senti anéanti, l’espace de quelques heures. Et puis j’ai réfléchi. J’ai réfléchi au bonheur que ce projet m’a procuré, à tout ce que j’ai appris durant les derniers mois, à ces nouveaux amis qu’il a mis sur ma route, au privilège que j’ai eu d’animer une émission novatrice en prime time à TVA. Ça, personne ne pourra me l’enlever.

Bien sûr, il y a ce sentiment d’échec qui me tourne autour, qui tente de m’écraser de tout son poids. Il a bien failli réussir, d’ailleurs. Mais savez quoi? Il n’arrive pas à la hauteur de la fierté que j’ai d’avoir participé à ce projet. Je suis fier de ce que je vois en ondes, fier de notre petite équipe qui travaille comme des malades depuis septembre, fier d’avoir créé la première émission du genre au Québec. Tant pis si elle ne revient pas en janvier, on en aura toujours bien fait une dizaine. Et TVA dit ne pas fermer la porte à un retour futur de l’émission.

Que va-t-il m’arriver maintenant? Honnêtement, je n’en sais rien. Techniquement, je peux retourner travailler dans la salle des nouvelles de TVA, mais je dois réfléchir avant de prendre ma décision.

En terminant, merci de votre support, merci pour le groupe Sauvons Vlog sur Facebook, merci de vos messages de sympathies, vous m’avez fait un bien immense durant la tempête des derniers jours. Presque autant que ma collection de scotch single malt ;-)

There was also a note from director Jean-François Desmarais:

Ce qu’est Vlog?

Vlog se veut être une représentation de la communauté web à l’antenne d’un généraliste. Avec Vlog on peut faire une intégration parfaite de la famille Québecor tout en donnant une voix à la masse. Enfin l’empire peut être en lien avec sa base. Enfin, le public peut participer de façon active au fonctionnement d’une émission. Enfin, le spectateur peut influencer un contenu et enfin le web rejoint entièrement la télé.

Vlog se veut être le porte voix des phénomènes hétéroclytes que l’on peut retrouver sur la toile.

Partir un nouveau show demande réflexion et énergie de la part de bon nombres d’intervenants. Partir un nouveau concept exige une dose de courage et de persévérance.

Pour moi, Vlog fut l’occasion de travailler avec une équipe qui voulait apporter un vent de fraîcheur ;)avec un nouveau look et un nouveau contenu.

Mais avant tout Vlog fut une porte qui nous a mis un lien directe avec ce qui est le plus important en TV: notre téléspectateur.

En terminant, ce fut un réel plaisir de travailler avec toi, Dominic, et je me dois de le mentionner publiquement. Merci pour cette expérience!

PS. En mon nom, je vous remercie sincèrement, membre du groupe Vlog et l’autre (comment y s’appelle encore;)))) pour votre support et vos commentaires.

Maintenant, moi, j’opte pour un rhume on the rock!

Réalisateur Vlog

The Facebook group to save the show, meanwhile, already has 172 members and is growing. (The official Facebook group is at over 1,200.)

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have an article to rewrite.

Vlog in danger of cancellation

UPDATE (Nov. 13): It’s official: the show has been cancelled. See the latest post for more details.

Vlog, the TVA viral video show that airs after Occupation Double on Sundays, is apparently in danger of cancellation. Within hours of the rumour starting there’s already a Facebook group to save the show and suggestions for what host Dominic Arpin should do now. (He’s already shut down his blog, despite my objections.)

According to a funny-looking, funky-dancing, hairline-receding source at the show who I won’t name (at least not in this paragraph), the rumours have some truth to them. Director Jean-François Desmarais mentions on the Facebook page that “sad news” is coming tomorrow (Monday).

If the show is cancelled (and rumours like this tend not to propagate until after the decision has been made), that would be a shame. Despite its popular lead-in show, the start-up series has been a victim of horrible scheduling (it always starts late, and it’s on against Tout le monde en parle), insufficient advertising and a general lack of effort on the part of TVA to give it a chance to succeed.

But there’s a more important issue here: How this affects me. You see, I interviewed Arpin for an article I wrote about Vlog, which probably won’t be published for a week or two. If the show is cancelled by then, the article will be dated before it’s even printed. It’s not like I could just add a line that says “oh yeah and the show was cancelled”. So please, TVA, for my sake, don’t cancel the show (at least not until next month).

Vlog airs Sunday nights at an entirely unpredictable time between 9:30 and 10:30 on TVA. Let’s hope tonight’s episode won’t be the series finale.

DOA on permanent hiatus

Dominic Arpin is no more.

Despite promising in July, when he left journalism to create this new show Vlog, that his blog would continu despite the career change, he’s come to realize, only a month after the show’s launch, that he doesn’t have enough time to keep it updated and he’s calling it quits.

Put aside for a moment his broken promise, as well as how much these kinds of posts annoy me. I think it’s a mistake.

Arpin’s blog is one of the most popular in this city, perhaps second only to Patrick Lagacé, who mourns his friend’s passing. Other media outlets would kill for blogs with that kind of traffic (especially since most media have no idea what blogs are for or how to make money off of them).

Vlog, though promising, is entirely untested. It’s only been a month, and the show is still working to build an audience. (And their website is still unworkable, its developpers having ignored all of my suggestions to fix it.)

Here’s hoping that the Domster reconsiders, like so many other bloggers have before.

Vlog: Getting better

I just finished the third episode of TVA’s Vlog, which I’ve been following since its debut with a critical eye.

I find myself liking the show a bit more this time around, partly because of subtle changes made to it, and partly because I think I might have been a bit harsh in my original analysis.

The show is showing more videos I haven’t seen before, and is showing more of them. The hosts also seem a bit more comfortable in their roles, and their banter seems a bit less fake. The fact that host Dominic Arpin is listening to his audience is also worthy of praise.

Nevertheless, there’s still some issues with the show, and I hope Arpin & Co. will take this criticism constructively:

  • A fantastic video of George W. Bush singing Sunday Bloody Sunday was shown with subtitles explaining the lyrics. I’ve always gotten annoyed by Quebec media (and especially Montreal media) who seem to ignore the fact that 40% of Quebecers are bilingual (in Montreal, the percentage is even higher, around 50%). But even if you ignore the statistic, what’s important isn’t so much the lyrics as the editing that made the words match. (Or am I on the wrong track here? Francophones who can’t understand English can respond below)
  • Can we be done with the Occupation Double Top 3 videos please? They’re not funny, they’re not interesting, and for some strange reason they’re not even of very good quality. Due to how fast they go through them, it seems the Vlog people are being ordered by TVA to plug the show in this way, which would be a shame. It serves no useful purpose.
  • Any chance you could start on time once in a blue moon? I’m sure there’s a valid reason why the show is always delayed by up to half an hour. But this is not the way to gain viewership to a new show. The few who remembered to tune in an hour later than “usual” this week saw some woman being interviewed on a terrace. If you don’t care about anyone but those who watch Occupation Double and want to stick around, that’s fine, but some of us don’t want to watch that crap on Sunday night.
  • When asking people to submit videos of themselves doing things, don’t relegate them to a tiny corner of an otherwise blank screen showing the credits while an announcer promos upcoming shows. Give them at least a bit of spotlight, or they’ll stop producing.
  • And Dominic, as for your dancing…

One thing I’ll stop criticizing the show for, however, is using old videos. The Sunday Bloody Sunday video referenced above is good, and many people haven’t seen it. I don’t see any reason it shouldn’t be showcased on the show. (If anything, an old video that’s out of the spotlight will have been seen by fewer viewers than one that’s burning up YouTube.) Unless it’s tied to some dated news event, go ahead and show it.

Your website still sucks

I’m debating putting that subhead in bright orange just so the powers that be at Canoe figure it out. As far as I can tell, not a single improvement has been made to the website for the show since its launch, despite some very serious problems with it:

  • The URL (tva.canoe.com/emissions/vlog/) is way, way too long
  • The homepage automatically plays a video with audio without asking permission
  • Navigation is done using Flash instead of HTML links (overuse of Flash and Web 2.0-ish bad design is a problem all over the site)
  • There’s a button to watch the show live, but it only works when the show is on TV. This goes against the entire point of the Web.
  • Links to videos featured on the site force new windows to pop up instead of just being HTML links that people can control based on their browsing preferences
  • Clicking on the link for “Blogue” still brings you to a page that’s devoid of content and is missing the navigation buttons related to the show.
  • Doing anything on the website requires going through the 17,000-step Canoe registration process.

All these things need to be dealt with before we can even get to suggestions to improve it (like having an RSS feed with links to all the videos seen in the show).

More suggestions for Vlog

After the Domster asked me to hold my judgment about his new show Vlog, I promised to take a look at their second episode and report back.

The second episode was pretty well identical to the first in format and style. Still, I’m noticing more things about the show worthy of improvement.

The show’s format seems to be pretty simple. Borne and Arpin stand in an all-white room with TV screens and a couch, banter among each other like a cheesy infomercial and show clips (between 5 and 15 seconds) of videos that are popular online, including:

  • Corporate “viral” advertising campaigns: The first video that played for more than a few seconds was the latest video of Dove’s Campaign for Real Beauty, which features a young girl bombarded by images from the media presenting unrealistic ideas of the ideal female form. Ironically, it was introduced by Geneviève Borne, who while I’m sure isn’t a bimbo in real life, was clearly hired to do this show because she looks like one.
  • Game shows in other countries: This week, it was other-language versions of Deal or No Deal (or Le Banquier, which amazingly enough is a TVA show). There’s also more Japanese game show videos, which look like they’re going to become a weekly feature here.
  • YouTube’s top 10: Clips we’ve seen before but maybe TVA’s grandmother demographic hasn’t, like ol’ Miss U.S. Americans and the Swiss firefighters. The argument, and I suppose it makes sense, is that their target audience isn’t us web geeks but normals who aren’t browsing the YouTube or the blogs. I think that audience will be shrinking.
  • Blatantly transparent cross-promotion: In this case, their “top 3” videos from Occupation Double, the reality show that precedes it (for those unfamiliar, it’s like porn, only the plots aren’t as interesting, the makeup is more caked on and the sex isn’t as graphic). As bad as it is to feature clips from your own network’s show as if they were the most popular videos on YouTube, what’s worse is that the clips are meaningless and entirely uninteresting to people like me who avoid such crap programming.

In the spirit of constructive criticism, allow me to make some additional suggestions on how to improve the show:

  • Kill the silly banter and lame jokes. You’re not actors, and it comes across as fake. It’s bad enough I have to endure that on the local news, but at least they can make the excuse that it’s live TV. (For that matter, why does this show have two hosts anyway?) Dominic, you don’t have to pretend to be hip and cool, because you’re already hip and cool.
  • Find some unsung heroes. Look at videos that haven’t yet become popular and give them some mainstream attention.
  • Forget the Occupation Double videos. Your viewers aren’t idiots, and you’ll lose what little respect you have if you start giving special treatment to everything TVA/Canoe/Quebecor.

I wish I had some more suggestions, but you’re really going through uncharted territory here. In the U.S., ABC’s iCaught seems to focus on interviewing video creators and discussing issues related to online video. I’m not sure if that’s the way to go, but it’s an option. And it feels less weird than just profiting off other people’s creativity.

That said, my criticism’s of the show’s website still stand. It’s nice that it shows the videos you use, but it’s still far too hard to navigate. Fix that and you’ll earn more respect from me.

Vlog can get better if they try

Dominic Arpin, whose new TVA show Vlog premiered last week, wants us bloggers to take a chill pill about criticizing the show. He points to posts by me and MédiaBiz’s Michel Dumais which were highly critical.

My regular readers know I’m somewhat … critical of things, especially the mainstream media. But while I make jokes and use sarcasm and I highlight the negatives instead of the positives, I always try to make my criticisms constructive. I don’t say something sucks unless I have a reason to back it up. And when organizations improve, I try to make it a point to highlight that and offer praise.

Just to be clear: I don’t dislike the show. I have no wish to see it cancelled. If anything, I would like Mr. Arpin and the producers of the show (and its website) to read my post and make improvements.

But I’m also not going to hold judgment just because it’s the premiere, as Arpin asks. People watch the premiere, it’s what gives them a first impression. If you don’t put your best foot forward from the get-go, you’ll have a hard time winning back audiences. (Even then, I cut the show some slack for showing old videos, since they haven’t had the chance to talk about them before.)

I stand by what I wrote in the original post: The show is a slightly better version of a similar concept ABC launched this summer called iCaught. And obviously done on a much smaller budget. I think it has the potential to be very good or very bad depending on what habits they settle into. But the website is still atrocious and needs fixing.

Anyway, the show’s first attempt at user-generated content, having people lip-sync to Mes Aieux’s Dégénération, seems to be moderately successful with six videos submitted so far. That, at the very least, shows people are watching and engaged.

Vlog’s second episode airs Sunday at 9:30 on TVA. If they improve on their mistakes, you’ll definitely hear it from me.

TVA’s Vlog: Not horrible, but not fantastic either

I just finished watching the last few minutes of the long-awaited first episode of Dominic Arpin‘s new show Vlog (auto-play video warning) on TVA. (Forgive me, I was watching a lot of Family Guy and American Dad on Fox and forgot all about it.)

The point of the show is simple: Arpin and co-host Geneviève Borne (who makes a rather unconvincing web geek if you ask me) present clips from videos they find online.

You’ll remember a few months back when ABC launched iCaught, a similar show which was supposed to find the “stories behind the videos“. I was highly critical of the show for various reasons (mainly because it sucked). Most of the mistakes are repeated in Vlog, but thankfully to a much lesser degree:

  • The inclusion of commercials, clips of network TV shows, or marketing experiments which seem to be the antithesis of the YouTube revolution of anybody-made videos. Fortunately in Vlog’s case, their only infraction so far in this area is a series of crazy Japanese game show videos, for which there appears to be an infinite supply. But if I wanted to see that, I’d switch the channel to Spike and watch MXC.
  • Showing only a few seconds of each video. iCaught would brag about how “this song will get stuck in your head”, but then show only three seconds of it. Showing only clips from these videos only serves to remind us of the time constraints of network television, combined with its frustrating lack of interactivity.
  • Being weeks or months behind the times. I’ll cut Vlog some slack for their first episode, but OK Go and Will it Blend are ancient.
  • Having the hosts stand in front of an all-white screen. What’s with this? Does nobody have a better idea for a set? At least Arpin and Borne don’t “click” things with their fingers which are obviously not there.

Website disappoints

As you can imagine, a show like this should have a very involved website. In visiting it, I got nothing but frustration (and since most people will visit the website right after the first show, first impressions are everything):

  • The URL is way too long: tva.canoe.com/emissions/vlog. It took me quite a while to copy it down off the TV screen. “vlog.canoe.com” or something similar would be much better (or even getting its own domain).
  • As mentioned above, the homepage automatically plays a video with sound. Arpin should know better. It replays every single time you go to the homepage.
  • There’s a “blog“. I’m not sure if it’s a community blog or something. Either way, it was blank half an hour after the show ended.
  • Navigation is very confusing. Clicking on the “blog” link (which isn’t actually a link but a Flash animation which interferes with my browsing habits) leads to a “community” page that has a big logo for the show up top but no link back to the show’s homepage. Instead, clicking on what looks like a “home” link brings you back to the Espace Canoë homepage and you’re lost forever.
  • Their page of videos interestingly links to YouTube pages and official websites (this is good). But clicking on those links forces these pages into pop-up windows. The prevalence of target=_blank is bad enough, but this is just stupid.
  • The big-media-website navigation:

Vlog website

Viewer-generated content

Like iCaught, Vlog isn’t content (pun!) taking its material from YouTube’s most viewed videos list. It also wants you, the viewer, to provide them with content. In their first episode, they ask viewers to submit their best lip-sync to Mes Aieux’s Dégenération (I’ll spare you the English subtitles). Is it just me, or is this the lamest type of video people can produce? On very rare occasions such videos can be downright entertaining, but most people make fun of it unless you put in a lot of effort.

But feel free to do so, send them your videos. Oh, according to their giant give-us-all-your-rights contract, they can then use the video, free of charge, in any media over and over again forever and ever throughout the universe. And if it’s shown that the video contains copyrighted material (say, including audio of a complete pop song without the artist’s permission first), then you agree to pay any damages.

You’ve been warned.

So that’s what I think of Vlog. What about you?

Elsewhere in the blogosphere: