A Connecticut newspaper group is mourning the demise of the venerable Flip camera, a small, low-cost video camera that was discontinued by parent company Cisco last week.

As ubiquitous as cheap portable video cameras may be to consumers, the print news media only recently caught onto the trend but has quickly worked to monetize the simple-to-use devices. The Journal Register Co., owner of several Connecticut papers including the New Haven Register and the Torrington Register Citizen, provided more than 1,000 of the pocket-sized video recorders to reporters in early 2010 and added a video requirement to their weekly tasks.

“Making the Flip camera standard issue for JRC staff helped our journalists understand that there’s a range of multimedia and digital tools that should accompany the reporter’s notebook in order to improve local journalism,” said Matt DeRienzo, publisher of the Journal Register’s Central Connecticut properties.

Videos shot with the cameras can be quickly incorporated into a reporter’s written story, with the company posting about 1,000 videos a week to its papers located in 10 states. 

DeRienzo says video is enhancing the company’s bottom line, too.

“It paid for itself in a matter of weeks, unlocking a new revenue stream in video pre-roll advertising — an important step in the digital-first transformation of a traditional print newspaper company,” DiRienzo said.

Part of the Flip’s popularity was its simplicity: simply turn it on and push the big red button to record. The camera’s solid state memory holds two hours of video.  A built-in USB plug transfers data back to a computer and also charges the internal battery.

The Cisco Corporation, best known for its industrial-strength network routing equipment, acquired the company that makes the Flip Camera only two years ago for a whopping (and head-scratching) $590 million. That acquisition came just before high quality video recording and editing capabilities started appearing in handheld devices like the iPhone. 

“For Cisco, Flip was always somewhat of an oddity, never quite fitting with its core communications business and an odd match for even its consumer-oriented home networking products,” said Dan Hays, a telecommunications consultant with PRTM. 

The Flip division will be shuttered completely and its 550 employees will be laid off.  Fortunately for news organizations like the JRC, dozens of alternatives are available from big names like Kodak, Sony, and Samsung. 

“In some ways, Flip has been a one-hit wonder of the high-tech world, catching the wave of digital video as it rose dramatically, only to come crashing down when the fad became mainstream,” added Hays.