STREAMING MEDIA

“We aren’t selling toasters; we are selling exciting products,” David Pryor says in an interview with Automotive News.  He’s the Vice President of Marketing, and his exciting products are Porsches.  “It’s very hard to communicate that emotion with just text and pictures.” 

As a method of delivery rather than a medium itself, streaming media technology distributes audio, video, and multimedia in real time or on demand over the Internet.  Unlike earlier online media, streaming media plays instantaneously without any added time and effort to download the entire file.  In short, there’s no thinking or technique involved: it just plays.

Streaming media isn’t just for luxury brands, entertainment, or news industries.  It has numerous common business applications, including company meetings, distance learning, sales force training, surveillance, video email, product introduction, event broadcasts, news distribution, webcasting and web conferencing.

For example, educational and training opportunities are not confined to classrooms — companies can simultaneously train countless employees around the world.  In 2003, the United States Department of Defense did exactly that, streaming 35 hours of training on smallpox vaccinations to 20,000 military healthcare professionals, including medical directors and clinical consultants.

Imagine commercials for your product airing continuously without being interrupted by TV or radio programs.  In January 2008, a Research and Markets report on streaming media advertising noted that the marketing size for both streaming audio and video advertising was estimated at $990.3 million in 2006, up 128% over $433 million billed in 2005.

Businesses from every industry with the need for communication are quickly recognizing the value of streaming media, particularly streaming video.  IBM notes that streaming video offers businesses “the ability to help dramatically increase the efficiency and effectiveness of their corporate communications efforts — from rich media corporate portal content, to live webcast presentations, to distance education for employees, and more.”

A recent study by AOL’s Advertising.com found that 66% of survey participants view streaming video content at least once a week.  These survey participants were at ages of prime consuming power: 44% of video viewers are between the ages of 18 and 34, while 56% are age 35 or older.

Insight Research reports that streaming video and music will grow at a rate of 29% and generate $70 billion over the next six years.  Robert Rosenberg, president of Insight Research, concluded “the future of streaming media has never been brighter.”

While streaming video can be viewed by anyone, anytime, anywhere, today’s technology can track all the details.  In the Streaming Media Magazine article “Eyes on the Enterprise: Streaming Video’s Marketing Potential,” Steve Vonder Haar writes “the web not only exposes your promotional content to more individuals, it also paves the way for letting you know exactly who spent time reviewing your marketing information.”

By getting to know your audience, you can develop targeted campaigns that establish a bond with consumers.  In reference to Porsche’s streaming video on Plum Network, an online cable TV and video on-demand site, Porsche’s David Pryor states “video allows us to create an emotional connection with our consumers.  We want it to be as immersive as possible.”

To ensure the success of a streaming video, proper planning must begin before the camera starts rolling.  Like traditional video, the quality of streaming video products reflects the skill and equipment employed in production.

Video production specialists know how to capture shots that compress well and translate smoothly when streamed in even the smallest window.  Any excessive camera motion techniques, including fast cuts, pans and zooms, reduce the speed and quality of streaming video.  Tripods, image stabilization, close-ups and fine-tuned encoding can reduce complications in all connection speeds. 

Color and contrast also affect compression.  Dark colors can be blended with shadows, and patterns must be refreshed at even the smallest movement.  Consequently, solid bright colors and subjects that contrast with their backgrounds allow for optimal video quality.

The running time of streaming video is crucial to its effectiveness.  A video designed for distribution or displayed at a tradeshow, for example, is probably too lengthy to be streamed from the web.  Such a video should either be re-edited into a shorter version, or split into a series of clips.

An Advertising.com study concluded that the brevity of streaming video might explain why it’s gaining popularity: 66% of survey respondents prefer online advertisements that are shorter than those on television.  15-second spots had 20% higher end play rates compared to 30-second spots.

Whether you have a new product to launch, an event to broadcast, a training session to conduct, or more, streaming media can make it as easy as a single click of the mouse.  It’s simple and effective.  It’s the way of the future.  And in troubled economic times, veteran technology journalist Jacqueline Emigh believes it cannot be ignored: “Against today’s overall backdrop of financial uncertainty, end users’ interest in streaming media stands out vividly.”