Monday, April 6, 2009

Webcasting versus Internet TV

President Obama's recent press conference on March 26 was available for online viewing.

According to an article written by Chris Lefkow on Yahoo, 67,000 watched the webcast live. Of course, millions if not tens of millions watched the press conference live on broadcast television so what is the big deal about another 60,000 or so watching on the web?

I wrote about the democratizing effect of using the internet to bypass the Washington press corps and taking questions from the people in my last post.

But there is at least one more point of interest. The Obama press conference exemplifies how video can be used to great effect in the enterprise.

The internet will never supplant television's ability to broadcast to tens of millions of people. Why pay for the bandwidth to replicate the scale and quality of a broadcast platform that already works very well?

But the internet does scale rather well to the needs of the enterprise: an audience of tens of thousands. And there are several "internet television" services that are emerging to deliver video across the corporate network to the employees.

But this begs the question: why should a corporation or organization invest in a network able to deliver video across its enterprise and then settle for pre-recorded video with no interactivity?

It was not the video feed that made the Obama press conference so noteworthy. It was the 104,129 questions that were submitted by the American people. Enterprise video is much more effective when it is combined with interactive rich media features like live questions and answers, live polling, surveys, testing and certification, synchronized PowerPoint, whiteboarding, registration and reporting, etc. Choosing to merely deliver the video - live or on-demand - is choosing to ignore the strengths of webcasting and get the least bang for your buck.

Why invest in servers and hubs and routers and content engines and then settle for a video platform that does not enable interactivity?

According to research done by Steve Vander Haar that he shared in a recent webcast, 68% of executives polled believe streaming video has measurable value only when it is combined with a registration system that enables reporting about who watched.

Registration and reporting adds accountability to internal communications and adds measurable results and lead generation to external communications. Internet television gives that capability away when it simply loops pre-recorded video in a window on one's website.

President Obama's press conference is a template for the effective use of internet video in the enterprise. Just as the televised Nixon vs. Kennedy debate serves as the defining example for understanding the difference between television and radio in politics, I believe this press conference will be regarded similarly for its effect on politics and on business communications.

There are plenty of corporations out there who are already doing a great job with rich media. Some of them are my clients. But the nature of corporate communications is that much of the content is for an internal audience, so there is not an obvious opportunity for organizations to learn from the successes of others. But the Obama press conference lays the formula bare for all to see.

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