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It’s All About Communication

At a distance, the schizoid logic of the streaming media industry – which from one second to the next declares that content is king, no, make that technology, no, maybe infrastructure – suggests a world as serious as the people who first thought the evaluations of the companies in this space were legit.

But peer closer, past all the hype about first-run VHS quality movies to your desktop and a different story emerges, one of communication, collaboration and global exposure. Because for all of its apparent hype, the streaming media industry is already a billion-dollar market whose applications are crucial to the new way of communicating on a global basis.

Today, information is a more important tool than ever before. The Internet offers over 1.1 billion-web pages; we each receive an average of 31 e-mails a day and both of these figures are expected to double by the end of this year. One newspaper alone contains more data than the ordinary 17th century person would have encountered in a lifetime. Let’s face it folks, more than 70 percent of all traffic passed on the Internet is from e-mail, i.e. communication.

Streaming media technology and the applications built around it are widely being adopted every day, right now, allowing corporations to communicate like never before. Isn’t that what this is all about? The ability to be able to deliver and receive information faster and more efficiently? People speak of broadband as being the "savior" of this whole industry. Broadband will help, but people have not yet grasped the concept that streaming media is a technology that can be delivered to any device capable of receiving it. And right now that device happens to be the PC. But what happens when that device is also your phone, your pager, your Palm etc… When we speak of streaming applications, we are talking of communication with a global reach. Forrester Research says that come the 2nd half of this year, more than 60 percent of all traffic to your website will come from outside the U.S. So how can broadband be our answer to mass-market adoption? If we are going to talk about broadband adoption rates, let’s talk about them worldwide.

Technology Drives Market

And even if everyone could get broadband, does that change things for certainty? People always seem to think that the best technology always gets adopted, which it doesn’t. Microsoft converged the TV and Internet accessible from one device, with WebTV, but how many did they sell? The Beta videocassette player is hands down better technology than the VHS player is, but which one got adopted? Technology is not always about what works best; it’s about what is cost effective, easy and attractable to the mass market, be it B2B or B2C.

There is no doubt that streaming media technology will allow entertainment content to be accessed in a whole set of new ways never thought possible even as little as three years ago. But right now, until there is enough of a user base and mass audience to access entertainment content, we need to focus on the communication benefits that these applications are providing. Knowledge is power, and this technology allows for that power to be in the hands of anyone who can access it unlike anything we have seen before, except perhaps the Internet itself.

Everyone seems to be in a panic state right now thinking that this industry is going down the drain. It isn’t. It’s like any industry that was so over hyped and overvalued, we are seeing a correction period. Better it happens now as opposed when this is really adopted and we rely on this application for everyday use. This correction period is reinforcing to companies in this space that you need to have a real business model of how you are using this technology. How many companies can you think of that use to be in the space that we’re never really providing any value or service? Always ask yourself, what is the value of what I’m offering? Am I showing and enabling my clients to save money, communicate on a global scale, provide access to real-time sensitive information or train my employees to make them more efficient? That’s what this is all about.

The Internet has changed the dynamics of how we access information, and streaming media is set to provide the next global applications that will deliver audio and video, not just text-based info. It’s time now to get your business models in place and be prepared for when this is truly a mass-market opportunity.

Until that time comes, stay focused, stay alert and most importantly stay calm. Because those with business models that rely on this technology becoming as widely used as audio conferencing will continue to flourish and grow in this space. There will be many winners when this happens, and I’ll bet that it won’t be the ones that have the information that win, but rather the ones that will be able to deliver it to the most devices.

About the authorDan Rayburn, an authority on interactive web technology, has seven years' expertise in the streaming media sector. Before starting his own consulting company, Rayburn established the Streaming Media Division for the Globix Corporation. Previously, in 1996 he co-founded one of the first live webcast production companies successfully acquired by Digital Island. His articles on streaming media trends and technologies have been published in major trade magazines and web portals including Streaming Magazine, Electronic Media, Communications Week Magazine, IT Consultant Magazine, Ziff Davis IT Week UK and IDG Books. Contact Rayburn at www.danrayburn.com

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