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Who's in Charge of Online Video? The Viewer, Naturally

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It should go without saying that the development of editorial content in Streaming Media magazine and on StreamingMedia.com occurs entirely free from advertiser influence. Of course, that doesn’t mean I don’t occasionally have to say it anyway, particularly when an advertiser feels as if it hasn’t been given sufficient coverage in our pages or on our site, or that we favor some companies over others. To them, my response is always to point out the obvious: “If we made editorial decisions based on who spends money with us, then we clearly would have given you more coverage, right?”

Whether it’s deciding what news stories to cover on the website or figuring out which topics deserve feature-length attention in the magazine, senior associate editor Troy Dreier and I base everything on the answer to one simple question: What do our readers want and need? If it’s not something that our readers will benefit from, we move on.

That said, we are to some degree a trade publication, and a large portion of our readers are involved in developing technologies and services that the rest of our readers will consider purchasing. Our job is to give all of our readers the knowledge and the insight they need to do their jobs better, no matter which side of the buyer-seller relationship they’re on.

For the last few years, our December/January issue has featured a sponsored content section called “Executive Visions.” The premise is simple: Advertisers get to present concise thought pieces predicting the trends they think will dominate the online video industry in the next 12 months. And though we clearly labeled them as advertorial, when we posted them online, they quickly became some of our more popular articles.

This year, we decided to pursue a similar article from the editorial side, so you’ll find our “Streaming Media 2013: What’s In, What’s Out, and What’s New for the Year Ahead?” feature, which includes forecasts from a variety of industry experts, from organizations representing the entire range of our readership: Funny or Die, Blip, CNN, Wells Fargo, Northwestern University, and six others are represented. Their predictions are fascinating and as diverse as the prognosticators.

But one theme runs through all of them: The proliferation of mobile video viewing will be the dominant trend of 2013, no matter what the setting. Media and entertainment publishers have of course been at the forefront of the mobile video revolution, but just as the revolution in personal computing at the end of the last century meant that enterprises and educational institutions had to respond to employee and student demands to support their PCs, those same organizations now face the daunting challenge (but tremendous opportunity) of making sure that all of those iOS, Android, and Windows 8 mobile devices are supported as well within the firewall as outside it.

And that support is going to have to be multidirectional. If we’ve learned anything over the past few years, it’s that people are just as interested in using their mobile devices to create and share video as they are in simply using them to passively watch content. John Pavley, CTO of The Huffington Post, just missed the deadline to contribute to the “Streaming Media 2013” article, but he wrote a terrific HuffPost article in late November in which he presented the thesis “The mobilization of live streaming media is going to hit in the next six to 12 months, and hit big,” and then detailed five supporting arguments. (Check it out; it’s well worth your time.)

Each of Pavley’s five points comes back to the single most important consideration for anyone in the online video industry (or the publishing industry, for that matter): Viewers, listeners, and readers are taking control of both technology and content like never before. To thrive in 2013 and beyond, we all need to let them lead the way.

This article appeared in the December 2012/January 2013 issue of Streaming Media as "Who's in Charge Here?"

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