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Catching up with David Hague on the Australian Videocamera journey

By Seamus Byrne in Media News on

 

David Hague is an industry stalwart and has been carving his own path with his Australian Videocamera website and e-magazine for a good long time now. We asked him a few questions to help catch us up on his approach and how the efforts have been going.
 
How long have you been running in this format now? How often has it been tweaked along the way?
About 7 years now. Major tweak was going from web only to jointly with an interactive approximately monthly PDF once I discovered how to embed video into a PDF as a streaming file (NOT an easy task!). Adobe tell me they have made this easier in the latest updates of InDesign and I am investigating this now.
 
We have also changed from the original monthly magazine template designed web hosting system to a flexible WordsPress one (3 years ago). We did a brief flirt with a name change to Film Video and Virtual Reality (and the website still reflects this behind the scenes) but it didn’t have the right “ring” to it and reverted to Australian Videocamera 6 months back. Only other major change was the interactive PDF going from portrait to landscape design.
 
Who's the target reader? The pros, the enthusiasts, or some other clear picture of who you write for?
The magazine is lightly segmented into 3 sections, ostensibly for Beginner, Intermediate and Professional, but we brand them more as “Social”, “Enthusiast” and “Professional”. But there is huge crossover. For example, using an analogy, you might never be able to own a Lamborghini, but you might still buy Wheels magazine or watch Top Gear to read / watch about them. And the basics of filming and editing are the same whether on an iPhone or Blackmagic URSA 12K.
 
Any shout outs to other folks who help you produce the mag, the site and the content?
95% of the content is me. Dr David Smith (imaginaction.net.au) in Melbourne is my “pro” person for the broadcast stuff as he has decades with the ABC as a camera operator, writer, director, producer and presenter. My brother Graeme (graemehague.com.au) is my go to for audio as he is an accomplished audio engineer over many years and has built audio / visual systems for major theatres and entertainment centres, etc.  My partner Jacqui Verhaar does anything to do with music (ex Tassie conservatory and music teacher and composer), Stephen Turner (ex Ch 7 and 9 in Adelaide) does higher end reviews of cameras and editing and finally Denby Smith is our 3D modelling and animations / graphics whizzbang.
 
Occasionally we have a guest spot from overseas (and locally) but that’s rare.
 
What other digital formats do you share content through and how do you find the digital channels feeding into your digital mag?
Every story is also promoted through Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIN. Facebook is interesting as we are privileged to be able to post directly to specific related newsgroups eg Adobe Premiere Pro Professional Users, Panasonic LUMIX users and so on as we are not seen to actually sell anything so not spamming and merely passing on information the members may not actually get but IS aimed at them from the PRs and the vendors. As such, any single post – say a new plug in for Adobe  Premiere Pro that also has a generic OFX version for the “rest” of the editors out there can reach up to 160,000 readers in one hit. Ditto for a story on a new camera can get to 100,000+. And that does not include those who are subscribed to the e-mag or the weekly newsletter which number in the thousands
 
As for digital channels feeding back, we get some responses from Twitter and Insta, a lot via Facebook but oddly the comments section for stories on the website get bugger all and I have never worked out why. It’s not as if it’s too hard.
 
How does the mag format sit alongside the website and how do they complement each other?
There is a lot of duplication admittedly due to many people preferring the e-mag to keeping up with the website. Survey after survey over the 7 years tells us that in the main, the “old school” FAR prefer a magazine style. And by “old school” I am not denigrating anyone; these are the readers / subscribers that started with us in 2007 and were with me when I was editing Videocamera magazine. In other words, those who have generated from tape to DV to SD to streaming over the years. Some specific stuff is e-mag only but it’s rare.
 
What's the biggest challenge running a digital mag like this? And what do you love about it?
Like most, no matter the platform you use, it’s revenue. It’s particularly frustrating as often – and they know it but their hands are tied at the level we deal with – we are doing the PRs jobs for them! But unable to get paid for the process due to the very process we work under.
 
It is almost impossible to convince the purse string holders at the PR companies that we are as important to them as we are to the vendors. Oddly, the current climate with its massive changes to home working seems to have flipped that at least a bit as things at the mid level are picking up. The big vendors all claim they are hurting badly (the Sonys, Canons and Panasonics of the world) and I do not doubt that. But mid tier vendors who are supplying the streaming and home based worker are reaping huge rewards and competing with each other for technologies.
 
A major example of this is Aussie company Blackmagic Design who cannot get their networking and switching gear out of the door fast enough. For 4 months + now, our top ten stories each day have had at least 5 Blackmagic reviews / tutorials in there (especially the Blackmagic Design ATEM Mini Pro  which is an Aussie development  bloody triumph no-one else in the world can touch for the price and ANYONE who wants to stream or even VLOG can use.)
 
What I love is the ability to play with new toys and do something that has always appealed to me which is learn new things whether it be how an Access SQL search works for my home built accounting system, creating a custom Vegas Profile for a Loupedeck CT surface controller or putting together a 20 minute video tutorial on the basics of video editing if all you have to shoot with is a smartphone.
 
How has the reader community evolved over the years you've been doing it?
Obviously there is more video out there (and stills for that matter which is still “media”) due to the rise of the smartphone. And people are finding out to leap above the noise, they have to be better than the rest so want to learn about the art itself as against point and shoot.
 
Additionally, vlogging and home based business and therefore streaming due to COVID 19 has convinced many they need a “proper” camera which a smartphone – despite the many people who keep saying they are – will never be a real camera due to technology limitations of lenses and sensors etc. We did a comparison between an iPhone and a basic camcorder last year after Apple pronounced the iPhone would make you a “professional” and it was one of our most read stories. And ‘bigly’ proved the point technically.
 
How can the PR community best work with you?
Sigh. Again like most say, understanding what we do. On any one day, from people I think should know better and have known me and what I do for years (I have been in this biz now as an publisher, editor and freelancer full time for over 35 years believe it or not) I still get emails asking do I want to interview the Minister for whatever about what his favourite lunch sandwich is, or rates of energy usage in Botswana are switching due to renewables and other nonsense. I’d also like them – especially the hierarchy in PR land to understand that we – not just me but all publishers – cannot do this stuff for nothing. That just does not work for anyone. Either they have to bite the bullet and realise some revenue has to flow or they have to convince their clients of the same.
 
And as always, don’t send emails asking if I got the first one the day before or worse, ring and ask the same question. And, if you say you are going to do something, do it. Finally, don’t lie to cover up cock ups. They all come out in the wash and this industry is too small.
 
Oh and one more. Whilst it might look nice for their “numbers” to have a review product be seen on Sunrise or Today or in the Sydney Morning Herald, realise that this is throwing mud at a wall marketing when the product – a video camera, dSLR, mirrorless, ActionCam or even accessory such as a drone. It is far better to target via a niche publication / website like myself (and another I put in this sphere include Lee S with Pickr). Smaller numbers yes, but everyone who reads / subscribes is absolutely committed to the genre / industry. It’s better to have 10 people out of a hundred actually buy something than 2 people out of 50,000.
 
PRs particularly need to know that there is more to Australia than Sydney and Melbourne particularly in my area. Major films / TV shows (with their supporting industries) are made in QLD and WA (look at the “blockbusters” made on the Gold Coast and TV shows like Mystery Road made in WA or Pine Gap made in SA / NT. ABCs “The Heights” is shot and produced in Perth and a whole bunch of stuff is shot in the SW around Margaret River and Albany. Not to mention heaps of short films and docos for Amazon, etc. And Tassie is alive and well too in this area.
 
So yes, please cast your net wider than North Sydney or St Kilda. And while you are at it, there ARE other time zones to consider for live webinars and so on as a result. And just to confirm as I was asked at one point by a PR (admittedly a junior) we do use Aussie currency in WA and share the same Prime Minister (although at times like this many of us Sandgropers wish we didn’t).

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