Case Study: Video Empowers Local Government
Founded in 1999, Granicus Inc. began its life like many streaming technology companies of the time: with a relatively generic set of tools for enabling the delivery of streaming media. Early on, though, Granicus recognized the benefits of narrowing its focus to a particular segment of the streaming world.
"We decided we wanted to focus the company on a niche market so that we could differentiate our products and get into the meat of a particular market," says Tom Spengler, cofounder and CEO of Granicus. "We thought government was a good market for the existing technology we had built—which was some ASP-type software that was really an end-to-end application from encoding to distribution and content management."
Soon, Granicus turned its full attention to the government streaming marketplace, with a primary emphasis on the city and county levels—a niche that has served both them and local governments well. In the process, they've helped those governments serve their constituents better, bringing public meetings to a broader audience.
A Unique Market
When looking at enterprise streaming applications, Granicus’s target market has always perceived the value proposition of streaming in a way that is slightly different from how other markets might. "Local governments aren’t so much interested in online training or cutting down travel costs," Spengler says. "Their primary interest has been public meetings and how they can improve public access to, and transparency around, these meetings."
Traditionally, meeting coverage was done via local cable television providers due to the requirements of local franchise agreements. But cable companies don’t have the same kind of monopoly they did a decade ago, and new entrants such as satellite providers often don’t provide the same kinds of public channels. "Local governments needed another way to reach their audiences, and the internet is obviously a better way," says Spengler.
But since the traditional pro-streaming marketing messages weren’t entirely relevant to local governments, Granicus had to find another way to prove the value of its platform. "There wasn’t any of the cost savings associated with the initial message of being able to save on travel and training," says Spengler. "So we were put in a position where we really had to integrate the role of managing the streaming solution into their legislative process."
An Integral Integrated Product
To determine how best to integrate its products with the workflow of local governments, Granicus spent a lot of time with city and county clerks who were responsible for organizing meeting agendas and logging the actions of a city board or other municipal group. Coordinating their efforts with the use of streaming video was vitally important, because otherwise people would have no effective or efficient way to navigate video of meetings that can run for many hours.
In the beginning, this indexing was done manually. "The clerks would have to watch the video over again even though most had been in attendance at the meetings the night before," says Spengler. "They then asked us to develop some live indexing tools. They wanted a tool that allowed them to load an agenda based on their own formats, so during meetings they could just click on the agenda item and it would index against the video. Now, because of this tool, the time it takes to publish video has gone from one day to two or three hours."
Many clerks also noted the difficulty of balancing the competing tasks of indexing the video and recording meeting minutes. Granicus developed its MinutesMaker module, which allows clerks to import all minutes-related data live during the meeting and index it to the audio and video, rather than having input everything manually after the meeting. "It’s really a substantial time savings, plus the final minutes document is actually a dynamic document that’s linked to the audio/video record at every single granular point," says Spengler.
This document gets to the heart of what Granicus set out to accomplish: a straightforward way to integrate textual information with video and audio content to form a seamless whole. "What we really try to create is an ‘integrated public record’ that’s searchable online, and to do that through a workflow that saves our customers time rather than creating additional work," says Spengler. "This vision created the demand for our products."