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It’s Feast or Famine for Online Video News Announcements
Most online video industry announcements are packed into one week in January and one week in September, a strategy that benefits no one.
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I’m writing this soon after IBC. It’s been a slow week for news. To keep the news section fresh on StreamingMedia.com, I’ve written up some reports that weren’t exactly jaw-dropping, rather than let the page go stale.

It was the same just before IBC, a desert of news. You know when it wasn’t slow? The week of IBC itself. Then we had about five or six times more worthwhile news announcements than our site could handle.

The situation is even worse during NAB, since that takes place in the U.S. Every streaming company, big or small, wants to get involved and make an announcement. Unfortunately, most of them drown in the noise.

I understand the allure of the big shows, but it’s obvious to me that companies would get more coverage if they looked for “news deserts” and planned their announcements accordingly.

To find out why so many announcements are released during the online video industry’s two big shows, I spoke to two industry press veterans: Janet Swift, marketing communications manager for Telestream, and Laura Barber, who works in media relations for Elemental Technologies.

PR and marketing people are well aware of the problem, I learned, but their bosses aren’t. Tech execs like to have something big to talk up during the show.

“Some messages may just fall through the cracks because publications such as yours can only cover so much news,” Swift says. “That’s always a challenge for us because everyone— different product managers and partners— wants to show their news. So it does make it difficult for all of us.”

For Swift, the way to beat the rush is to preview news a few months before a big show. Magazines sometimes need months of lead time before publication, and this gives them a chance to run timely coverage.

The ones that get hurt the most by the big show rush are small companies trying to break through. As Swift observes, Sony will always get coverage, but smaller companies get drowned out.

Barber believes big shows are useful for a lot of things, but breaking news isn’t always one of them.

“The show environment is a great one in which to network and in which to learn, whether from industry experts or from your colleagues across the industry,” Barber says. “But you have to be selective in terms of what you promote or announce, because frankly there are probably 1,700 or 1,800 other companies doing the same thing.”

Barber and Swift agree that companies need to focus on a few major stories when planning big show announcements. By doing more than that, a company dilutes its own message.

One strategy for creating those core messages, Barber says, is understanding where customers want to go next in IP video delivery. I get the importance, but it does lead to a certain sameness in PR announcements. I lost count of the number of cloud-based, end-to-end, comprehensive modular video workflows I saw at NAB this year. It’s somewhere around the number of 4K and HEVC announcements.

A few companies—I’m thinking of Kaltura, Brightcove, and AOL—create their own news events and put out messages without any competition. I think of this as the Apple strategy. It pays off, but not many companies have the resources or influence to do it.

I’m looking at this from my own small vantage point, of course. There’s much more to a big trade show than just press coverage. As both Swift and Barber pointed out, the shows are a chance to stand apart from competitors, attract customers, and demonstrate that the company is busy and successful. Feeding the press is only one small component.

That’s good to know, because as press opportunities, big shows aren’t great. When it comes to releasing news, I’d like to remind streaming video PR departments that any week besides those of NAB and IBC are probably better times to get your story told.

This article appears in the November/December 2014 issue of Streaming Media magazine as "It’s Feast or Famine for Online Video News."