Editor's Note: Hot Enough for Ya?
I used to work with a salesperson—let’s call him Bob—who peppered his speech with truisms, dropping them in what seemed like every other sentence. The result was neither hardboiled, like the pulp crime novels of Jim Thompson, nor ironic, like the Bruce Springsteen song "My Best Was Never Good Enough," which employed a litany of clichés like "the early bird gets the worm" and "a quitter never wins, and a winner never quits" in a middle-finger message to fans who kept wishing that he’d just remake "Born to Run" rather than explore new musical territory.
No, coming out of Bob’s mouth, the effect was just irritating, like . . . well, I would have written "fingernails on a blackboard," but then I’d hardly have the right to criticize, would I? That’s the problem, of course; as much as clichés might annoy us, we all use them, because they provide us with sort of a conversational shorthand, a way to quickly get our point across without having to search for our own metaphors.
Which is why I couldn’t keep from thinking, as I walked the floor at Streaming Media East in May, that the streaming media industry is kind of like the weather in [your state here]. Don’t like it? Hang around 15 minutes; it’ll change.
Maybe the changes don’t happen quite that quickly, but every Streaming Media show I’ve attended since 2004 has been utterly distinctive from the previous one. This year’s East show was the best I’ve seen, with more than 3,400 registered attendees and a trade-show floor packed to capacity with more than 60 vendors. Concomitant with the numbers was the palpable sense that, whether you were a content publisher or a technology geek, Streaming Media East was the place to be, even more so than the National Association of Broadcasters show a month earlier.
That’s not to say that Streaming Media East (or West, or Europe) has the same sort of cachet as NAB, which drew more than 100,000 attendees this year. After all, Microsoft and Adobe made their industry-shaking announcements in Las Vegas in April, not New York in May. But it’s a mark of the online video industry’s maturity that what Streaming Media East lacked in headlines and attendance, it made up for in what really matters: packed sessions that were insightful and informative, and a show floor where deals actually got made. In fact, several vendors mentioned that they got more real business done than they had at NAB.
And not only was the business and technology landscape considerably different from the last show (Streaming Media West in October 2006), but it was different than it was only a few months earlier. To wit: Between February, when Ron Miller began working on his cover story "Cookin’ with P2P" (pp. 32–38), and May, when Streaming Media East opened, peer-to-peer content delivery had gone from being a somewhat peripheral concern to being one of the most talked-about subjects within the online-video world. That’s not necessarily surprising—as traffic goes up, so does the need for cost-effective ways to meet demand—but it was nonetheless fascinating to see so many new players in that space, not to mention so many familiar P2P faces who were once on the fringes now becoming the center of attention.
That’s not to say P2P is a panacea for scalability woes—it still hasn’t proven itself on a long-term, large-scale basis—but it’s increasingly being looked at as a viable and even necessary complement to traditional CDNs. Miller’s article reflects a technology on the cusp; we’ll see later on whether or not early 2007 was really the tipping point for P2P or just a momentary uptick in interest.
As the editor of a magazine with a relatively long editorial lead time in a world of quick-turnaround blogs and technology news websites, I sometimes worry that it will appear as if we’re a bit behind the times in an industry that is evolving so rapidly. But while newsweeklies, for instance, are designed to respond to events within days, that’s not what we’re about. We assign articles about four months ahead of time, and our writers usually turn them in a whole two months before the issue date.
Occasionally news has the potential to be so far-reaching, as in the case of the announcements of Silverlight and Adobe Media Player at NAB (see "New Kids in Town," pp. 88–94), that we’ll rearrange our editorial calendar in response. But there will never be a "stop the presses" event, as much as that appeals to the old newspaper journalist that still lurks inside me. What Streaming Media is about is taking a step or two back from the news of the day, looking at it through a wide lens, and, hopefully, making some sense of it with the benefit of reflection and analysis.
Besides, Rome wasn’t built in a day.