Streaming Media Is Here to Stay

By now, you’ve undoubtedly heard that Icebox.com melted down in early February. If you wondered why the thawing out of Icebox.com commanded more attention than most dot-com closures, consider the nature of the site. With its stable of writers, it was an “incubator” for not-yet-ready-for-prime-time animation. And no matter how you felt about the off-color and always offensive Mr. Wong or the poster boy for irreverence, Hard-Drinkin’ Lincoln, you had to admit that the stuff was highly original content.

But Icebox.com’s demise does not forebode an end to original animation or streaming media on the Internet. According to a report by streamingmedia.com, Icebox.com’s high-flying aspirations were apparent in its cavernous office space and regular use of well-known Hollywood types (who usually don’t come cheap). You could say Icebox.com was a 9-cubic-foot Sears refrigerator model on a 25-cubic-foot subzero budget.

The fact is, streaming media is finally hitting its stride and will likely be an expected element of your Web site’s content. In fact, 42 percent of respondents to a NetMedia magazine poll predicted that it would take only a year for streaming media to become as common on most Web sites as graphics and text. Or, to put it another way, there are legions of “streamies” (streaming media fans, as written about by ClickZ’s Jim Meskauskas back in October) ready and waiting for you with their broadband connections.

So, how does a Webmaster satisfy the screaming streamie masses? Move full-steam ahead, of course! Here are a few basic tips to ensure your stream is packed with interesting content:

Be careful with the corporate video. No matter how brilliant your corporate video, consider the idiosyncrasies of streaming media. Even if your piece is up for Oscar. consideration, it may not hold up well under the bandwidth constraints often encountered on the Web. We’ve all seen those stop-and-start annoying video clips of people, mouths agape and completely out of sync with the audio. This is why you don’t see a lot of fancy MTV-style production on Web sites — the transitions are simply too fast and the jerkiness looks, well, jerky. Streaming media should have longer takes, more close-ups, and limited camera movement.

Get niche-y now. Streaming media also offers so much more than just another opportunity to run your television ad on the Internet. No matter how precise your ad placement, broadcast television still hits a very broad demographic. With streaming media, however, you can get a lot more niche-y and a lot more personal. How personal? Perhaps the best example is our hospitals’ partnership with BabyPressConference.com. (See Len Stein’s August 15 piece.) With BabyPressConference.com, new parents hold a Webcast of their one-day-old right from the hospital. Now do you think grandparents, other relatives, and friends are going to watch streaming video of the newborn? (It’s all password-protected, folks, so don’t freak out.) You bet your booties they’ll tune in to check out whether or not the baby has the family dimple and, of course, to see that glassy-eyed “we just had a baby and we’re in a daze” look on Mom and Dad.

Show something different. What was the most interesting streaming media from this summer’s Democratic and Republican conventions? It certainly wasn’t the yawn-a-thon posted by the major news networks. The prize for interesting content went to the sites streaming the more interesting activities going on outside the convention halls. Remember, streaming media content should be just like your written content — offering a new perspective, something interesting, and, of course, unique.

Try live Webcasts. Webcams weren’t exactly “the next big thing,” mainly because of the monotony of the image. (Remember the coffee pot?) But live events are a wonderful way to funnel people to your site. Experiment with a few live promotions, and test whether or not you have spillover into other areas of your site.

Look at things from different angles. Experiment with streaming slide shows, audio, and 360-degree pictures. At one of my hospitals, we wanted to show our souped-up labor and delivery rooms and let women browse around a bit. Instead of running video, we created a 360-degree photo of the room (from Mom’s perspective). It’s sort of like being there with a full-on “feel no pain” epidural.

Respect viewer differences. Take a look at Travelago. This travel site uses tons of clips and offers each one in resolutions of 28.8/56/100/300 Kbps for Real, QuickTime, and Windows Media. By providing for everyone, you send a message that there’s no elitism here — everyone should be able to experience the site.

Think visual, think visual. Those of us in public relations know that you can’t pitch a television story unless you have interesting visuals. The same goes for streaming media. Don’t even think of pointing that camera on anything that’s not intriguing to see. So, slap on that lens cap and rethink your filming the lecture on the importance of the central bank lowering interest rates by a point and a half… please.

Of course, you can purchase streaming media content for your site. (ScreamingMedia.com has newsfeeds from ABC News.) But where’s the fun in that? Now, go out and stream something interesting.

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