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Streaming Media East 2005 Wrap-Up

Rich Media & Streaming for News Portals
Scott Cunningham, multimedia technologies manager at USA Today's Media Laboratory, led an interesting and extremely well-attended Tuesday afternoon session. The session focused on how USAToday.com has explored and experimented with methods of offering content to visitors. Cunningham went through a variety of examples from USAToday.com, including coverage of Iraq, the California wildfires, Hurricane Isabel, and the 2004 political conventions. Each story includes video, audio, and/or graphical content specific to the topic—the wildfire story, for example, includes a neighborhood map with clickable points, each of which reveals a story from a survivor in the area.

Not just there to tell stories, Cunningham also offered words of wisdom, including the fact that "post production can be a nightmare," when print journalists are sent out to create audio or video content because print journalists "like to jabber." So it is important to know not just your audience, but who within your organization will create the most appropriate content. Cunningham also cautions against the overuse of templates and encourages content creators to question what the best way to tell as story may be, as that will determine the final format (video, audio, graphics).

USAToday.com has also made inroads when it comes to reusing print content appropriately online. An audio clip of an Iraqi gentleman discussing relations with America, for example, is accompanied by a story from the print version of USA Today that is also about Iraq but not fully tied to the audio. This enables visitors to gain a more complete picture of the story, while avoiding repetition. Finally, Cunningham encourages content creators to remain flexible—with people and workflow—as that will ultimately be the only way to create a successful strategy.

Profiting from Music Properties on the Internet
Before this Tuesday afternoon session began, panelist Larry Madden looked at the title and quipped, "Isn’t that an oxymoron?" He was only half joking; as executive VP and chief financial officer of Loudeye, which works behind the scenes with companies like Coke and MTV to create branded online music stores, he knows how difficult it is to make digital music delivery profitable. Along with David Pakman, managing director of Dimensional Associates and COO of eMusic, and Drew Denbo, director of business development, music, for RealNetworks, Madden agreed that, despite the hype, digital music delivery is still in the early-adopter phase, making up only about two percent of total music sales in 2004.

Echoing Rayburn’s opening comments calling for transparent technology, Denbo argued that until consumers no longer have to think about what devices their digital music will play on, the market will remain small. "It’s all about interoperability. Until there’s a digital rights management standard, we won’t have that," he said, arguing that in the long run, digital music services will need to be able to transcode different formats on the fly, so that a tunes purchased from different providers will be playable on the same devices.

And while the major services like Real’s Rhapsody and Apple’s iTunes focus on delivering blockbuster artists, Pakman believes that smaller, niche-oriented services like eMusic can survive by mimicking independent brick-and-mortar record stores. To prove the point, he announced that eMusic had just acquired the entire Sun Records catalog, drawing applause from the music fans in the crowd who recognized the importance of Carl Perkins, Roy Orbison, and Johnny Cash’s early recordings. Apple had signed a deal with Sun several years ago, Pakman said, but "never bothered to make the music available. They didn’t care about the market for this great music."

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