This post appeared in the San Jose Mercury News on January 23, 2012
by Larry Magid
Streaming Web video and audio have been around for years, but 2012 seems to be shaping up as a pivotal year for Internet media.
Last week Forbes.com reported that AOL’s Huffington Post Media Group plans to launch its own cable-style live TV channel to compete with the likes of CNN. Reportedly, it will feature live reports from the blog’s 320-person editorial staff and will even broadcast editorial meetings to give viewers a glimpse of the news-gathering process. That strikes me as one way to get reporters and editors to behave during meetings. I blog for the Huffington Post, but have no inside knowledge about this reported plan.
One major international TV network is using live streaming partially to get around the fact that it’s not carried on most U.S. cable and satellite systems. Al Jazeera English (where I occasionally serve as an on-air tech analyst) live streams its 24/7 programming from its website and makes its feed available to Roku, which provides streaming video to TV sets. Al Jazeera is available on cable and satellite systems around the world but has very few such outlets in the U.S. The Qatar-based broadcaster is using its website to encourage its viewers to “Demand Al Jazeera in the USA,” with links to a form where they can request their cable company to pick up the signal.
Reuters, which competes with AP as a leading wire service for news organizations, has launched its own TV channel. As far as I can tell, Reuters TV doesn’t have live programming but it does offer recorded programs hosted by its many reporters. Videos are hosted on YouTube but also available from the Video link at the top of Reuters.com.
Of course, there is nothing new about news organization hosting video. All of the major TV networks and many newspapers, including the Mercury News, offer at least some video on their sites. Print reporters who traditionally worked in text, not pictures and sound, often find themselves in front of a camera instead of a keyboard. Not all print journalists are good on TV but some, like my colleague David Pogue of the New York Times, are excellent.
One of the best uses of Web video is live webcast events. An increasing number of conferences live blog their sessions, often for free. I suppose this could cut back on paid attendance but it also increases the visibility of the speakers, which is one of the reasons people agree to speak for free at conferences.
I go to a lot of press conferences but sometimes I’m not able to attend. But if the company webcasts it, I can watch from the comfort of my home, hotel room or Wi-Fi equipped coffee shop. In some ways I prefer watching press conferences on the Web because I can more easily write about them and get my blog post up quickly. From home, I know I’ll have a good Internet connection, which is not always the case at events.
YouTube, which mainly has user-generated content, has professional content as well. The Google owned site just announced that it’s launching an online “film festival” that will feature short films submitted by aspiring film makers. Although there are no age restrictions, they are encouraging young filmmakers and producers to enter. Ten finalists will be flown to the Venice Film Festival to screen their films.
In October, YouTube launched an expansion of its original content video library, “including channels created by well-known personalities and content producers from the TV, film, music, news, and sports fields,” according to a YouTube blog post.
While the Internet has long disrupted TV and DVD rentals, it is just starting to have an impact on radio. Many people listen to radio in their cars and, until a couple of years ago, it wasn’t practical to stream Internet radio to a moving vehicle. That’s changing thanks to smartphones.
Last week I drove round-trip to the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas and listened to Pandora Internet radio during much of my drive. When I wasn’t listening to music or comedy routines on Pandora, I was listening to broadcast stations from around the country via the Radio.com app, or streaming live network feeds and on demand features via the CBS Radio News app which is available for Apple and Android phones and tablets. For the record, I serve as CBS News’ technology analyst.
I have a Pioneer AVIC-Z130BT Audio and Navigation System in my car that connects directly to an iPhone and lets me select recorded music as well as Pandora and Aha radio programs directly from the Pioneer unit. Most newer cars have connectors that allow you to play the audio from a smartphone through the car’s speakers.
To my delight, I rarely lost the data signal, even in remote areas along the way. I happen to have an unlimited data plan on my Sprint iPhone plan, but if you don’t have such a plan, make sure you’re not going over your allotment or this “free” radio could wind up costing you money.