Eyes on the Enterprise: (Not So) Instant Karma

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It must be karma. How else can one explain the long, sometimes checkered, evolution in the market for online business multimedia solutions?

Nearly a decade ago, it was relatively easy to sell the world on the idea of implementing web video for creative marketing applications. Think back to Broadcast.com’s ill-fated Victoria’s Secret webcast in February 1999. If you believe the company’s self-reported usage statistics for the event, about 1.5 million internet viewers tuned in to see the lingerie marketing event, which had been hyped to Super Bowl proportions.

Of course, most of the people tapping into the Victoria’s Secret webcast that day were more than likely to see jilted, jagged video peppered with repeated "buffering" interruptions, as the Broadcast.com servers largely failed in their attempt to make the video available to online users wanting to catch a glimpse of models strutting the catwalk in their underwear.

The resulting publicity from this technological debacle, however, was a boon for Victoria’s Secret, casting the retailer as a brand seemingly popular enough to crash the internet.

Similarly, Broadcast.com’s Mark Cuban and Todd Wagner parlayed the attention—and the red-hot internet market of the day—into a sale of their company to Yahoo! that made them both billionaires.

These days, Cuban is more focused on spending part of his internet loot on a point guard that can push his Dallas Mavericks deep into the NBA playoffs than he is on online video.

Meanwhile, the online business multimedia market continues to grow steadily even while fighting the forces of karmic retribution.

Back in the days of the Victoria’s Secret webcast, the technology needed to drive such an event was truly not ready for primetime. Yet, companies such as Victoria’s Secret were ready to take the plunge with web video marketing events. And pundits at the time told us that Victoria’s Secret would be only the first in a new wave of corporate marketing events incorporating online multimedia.

It hasn’t quite turned out that way. The business online multimedia sector has grown smartly in the years since the Victoria’s Secret event, but it probably has not reached the levels envisioned by many back then. Instead of becoming part of the fabric of online marketing, internet video has emerged as a highly effective tool for one-to-many internal communications for large organizations.

The potential still exists for web video to evolve into a cornerstone marketing platform for a wide range of organizations. Indeed, the one problem highlighted during the Victoria’s Secret era has clearly been overcome.

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