Big business spends millions of dollars on travel, training and communication. Its no longer unusual to turn to the latest technology to trim the corporate budget. Increasingly, companies are turning to streaming media both to save money and to improve its processes. Streaming media refers to how audio and video is compressed for easy delivery over the Internet.
It was recently reported at Streaming Media West, the industry trade show, that Hewlett-Packard reaches its entire company through streaming and streams 150,000 hours to 70,000 people.
Streaming Magazine, the monthly periodical reporting on the industry, focuses on the use of streaming in enterprise communication in its February issue and its cover story on Corporate Webcasting From A to Z.
Streaming Magazine Editor Doug Wyllie talked with me about the value of streaming media in business and the future of the industry.
Q: What is the history of Streaming Magazine?
Wyllie: Streamingmagazine.com receiv-es tens of thousands of visitors each week. The magazine was launched in May 2000. It remains the only magazine strictly focused on streaming media and the discussion of what streaming can do. Our vision is to explain the industry and the technology in an easy to understand way and provide the in-depth coverage that companies in this space really deserve so when they start talking to potential customers – CEOs, CTOs, and CFOs – they really see what kind of investment they are making. Its an informative industry trade magazine that’s really outwardly focused, not necessarily reporting to the streaming companies but reporting on streaming companies to the outside world.
Q: The hottest areas for streaming media are in the corporate environment. Are you seeing other areas start to develop and grow for streaming media?
Wyllie: I concur with you entirely that the corporate environment is hot. I talk about whole industry from the standpoint of the three Es: enterprise, education and entertainment. At the very outset of streaming, the entertainment piece got all the news. It was on the front page of The Wall Street Journal. Of course, CARP (Copyright Arbitration Royalty Panel) put a little bit of a stinger on Internet radio, and the struggles with MPAA and the threat against IFilms.com that have really stymied the growth of streaming media right now. I believe that will be ameliorated in 2003 and 2004.
Companies will start building business models around which they can profit and provide critical services for consumers.
I looked at the education and enterprise space as being interestingly parallel. The enterprise space has money to invest and is easiest to see an upside for that investment. For example, (companies are seeing a) reduction in cost for human resources or corporate communications or a better connection to your investors when you have your quarterly calls.
These are very easy light bulb moments – I get it, I want to buy it!
The thing is the folks in the education sector, who aren’t as well funded and cant necessarily snap their finger and make the investment, theyre the ones who get it a little bit better than the executives right now. Theres an array of very high profile colleges and K-12 environments that are leveraging the streaming technology to help educate students better. Of course, they don’t have the capital to go crazy, hog-wild and invest in it yet.
There is a great example of use in the corporate space that we covered for Streaming Magazine. For the Cisco Systems infrastructure, they threw down somewhere in the neighborhood of $8 million to create a very impressive studio in San Jose. It was an enormous outlay of cash. However, in the first 12 months of operation, they made it all back.
Q: Were they actually saving money or generating some sort of revenue?
Wyllie: Theyre saving money. They are moving forward with the strategy that anyone at Cisco who wants to leverage their studio can use it. Its not a profit center. If they want to do a training video or, for example, a competitive product comes out, Cisco can have one executive zip across the campus to the studio and record a video on demand instructional piece for the sales, marketing and technology people. This can be accessed anytime so when they have a conversation from the sales standpoint they have something to say in response to the new competitive product – very quick, very simple, very easy, and very, very smart.
Q: If you want to do something with streaming media on the consumer level, you dont have to make that kind of investment right?
Wyllie: For example, if you want to do a show for your family from your living room, there are a series of really nifty products priced in the range of a few hundred dollars. Youll have to have a video camera and some computer infrastructure, not included in that cost. The encoding software and equipment youll need to do this process can be very low cost. Since youre not streaming to hundreds of people at the same time, you wont have major server bandwidth issues.
It can be done very inexpensively for small businesses as well. For example, I talked with a guy last year that is a horse farmer. He breeds and sells horses. He created a video on demand for his Website showing his horses. You can describe a horse and show a picture of a horse all you like, but if you dont see the horse running around in circles and you cant fly to Kentucky or wherever the guy was, then youre less likely to be inclined to decide that is the animal you want to purchase. He had his own video camera and capture card. He assembled it in his home office and, from his ranch, hes got the ability to connect to more customers. Is not a worldwide enterprise, but someday maybe he could be. That is an example of a horse breeder who wants to go crazy and have full on, 24/7 videos of his stables.
Q: A misperception that may be holding back streaming media is broadband. But there are 20k streams that can go over a 28.8 connection, yet it still seems that people perceive streaming media as a broadband application. What are your thoughts on that?
Wyllie: It is a perception problem. Right now we have a great amount of broadband pipe that is being underutilized. Additionally, we have a lot of networks with which were leveraging peer to peer and that greatly reduces the constraints that are presented with bandwidth. Its public perception that if you have a lower connection like 56k, your dealing with only an AM-style sound as opposed to an FM sound. I think this will be solved pretty quickly with the growth of broadband. I saw a statistic recently that 50 percent of American homes have at least access to a broadband connection. There have been a lot of statistics about unhappy customers with broadband and DSL. These need to improve. But then again, so did wireless technology when cell phones first appeared. When the services became reliable and bulletproof and high quality, then cell phones took off. Well, guess what? Thats exactly what will happen with consumer adoption of things like satellite radio.
Q: Do you see countries outside of United States using streaming media?
Wyllie: Absolutely. Streaming development is increasing nicely in Japan and Hong Kong. In Australia and Europe, where you have the wireless environment further advanced than it is here, theres a lot of talk about streaming wireless devices. There are new telephones capable of receiving a really good quality streaming signal.
Q: Streaming magazine has just published its 2003 buyers guide. What is in it?
Wyllie: The buyers guide is essentially a reboot of the industry. The tech sector has had a rough couple of months as everyone is aware and some companies have gone by the wayside while some companies have increased their market position. We wanted to inform the buying executives what companies are out there and what they offer the streaming media industry as a whole: what it is, what value it provides, and what is the potential upside for enterprise or for entertainment. We compiled what amounts to a directory and instructional content that will help decision makers in 2003. We truly believe that 2003 will see the industry doing a lot better than last year and really increasing its position in the corporate environment, entertainment, distance learning and education.
The buyers guide is available from www.streamingmagazine.com for $9.95. A one-year subscription to Streaming Magazine is $59.
The full audio interview with Doug Wyllie can be heard Saturday, January 11, at 11am on KLAY 1180 AM or at www.webtalkguys.com.
Dana Greenlee is a Web designer and co-host of the WebTalkGuys Radio Show, a Tacoma-based talk show featuring technology news and interviews.