In this first edition of the TechRepublic New Media Roundtable Quarterly Update, I’ll provide an overview of several Web sites providing streaming content for IT professionals, review recent events important to your organization’s new media strategies, and take a look at what Gartner analysts had to say about the recent Napster rulings.
This week’s column provides a digest of the full Quarterly Update, which is available as a download in the White Papers section of the TechRepublic Downloads Center. You can read the short version and then download the full report to enjoy at your leisure—or go straight to the full-length version right now.
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New media resources for IT professionals
As broadband Internet connections have become more common, so has streaming audio and video content on the Web. And because high-speed Internet access is still much more the norm in business settings than it is at home, a great deal of the broadband content is targeted at people in the office, including IT pros.
In this Quarterly Update, I’ll take a look at a varied quartet of Web sites serving up streaming media. (Some of these sites require specific media viewers, but those that do typically provide links to Web sites where you can obtain the required viewers.)
If you want a weekly earful of IT insight, check out CIO Radio on the CIO Magazine Web site. Billing itself as a provider of “weekly interviews with notable, quotable experts on critical IT issues,” CIO Radio has featured discussions with George Paolini, vice president of Technology Evangelism and Marketing for the software systems group at Sun Microsystems Inc.; Don Walker, president and CEO of Veritect; and Charles C. Poirier and Michael J. Bauer, authors of E-Supply Chain.
If you prefer to watch as well as hear your IT information, ZCast.tv broadcasts daily video streams of news, features, and technology evaluations. ZCast.tv is an offering of Ziff Davis Media, the well-known publisher of several technology-oriented magazines, including eWeek, Smart Business, and Interactive Week.
But news and interviews aren’t the only types of streaming content available to IT pros on the Web. WatchIT.com is among the sites providing more in-depth IT training content. However, unlike advertising-supported sites like CIO Radio and ZCast.tv, WatchIT.com, for the most part, provides streaming content in a pay-for-play model. If your company buys a corporate Internet subscription, you can watch all of the new programming, as well as more than 200 archived programs, online. Intranet, CD-ROM, and VHS subscriptions are also available for corporations, and if you’re not a subscriber, you can use the WatchIT.com site to view previews of current programs and purchase individual programs in VHS ($199.95) or enhanced CD-ROM ($249.95) format.
One IT vendor taking a slightly different approach in its use of streaming video is hardware and software reseller CDW. Rather than presenting video content about its own products and services, CDW presents monthly online technology seminars featuring a representative from one of the vendors whose products CDW sells.
For more in-depth reviews of the streaming content available on these sites, see my complete Quarterly Update in the TechRepublic Downloads Center. Then, take a look at the sites and let me know what you think. Also, let me know about other sites you visit that provide streaming IT content so I can pass them on to other New Media Roundtable members. We’ll take a closer look at streaming video offerings from traditional technology publishers in April’s New Media Roundtable columns.
Continue to the next page of this column to see a summary of the Roundtable Quarterly Update’s sections on new media strategies and IT policies related to new media.
New media strategies
When shaping your organization’s strategies for leveraging new media opportunities, understanding the current technologies is just step one. In this section of the New Media Roundtable Quarterly Report, I’ll bring you up-to-date on some of the myriad technology and business issues you’ll want to keep on your radar.
Find your way through streaming media format maze
If you view much audio and video content on the Web, you’ve probably already found yourself wandering through the maze of competing streaming media formats. Want to view the preview of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon? You’ll need to visit the Apple site first to download the Quicktime viewer plug-in. Want to catch up on IT news headlines at ZCast.tv? Make sure you have a recent version of RealPlayer on your PC.
But while a detour to find and install a player before you can view a video clip may be annoying, choosing a streaming format—or formats—for your company’s streaming video efforts has much more serious implications that can impact the cost and ultimate success of those efforts. Have you ever skipped over a piece of streaming content on a vendor’s site because you didn’t have the right viewer installed and didn’t want to take the time to download it? What if your company’s customers find themselves in the same situation on your Web site? All the work you put into creating and hosting an awesome video clip explaining the innovations behind your latest product will be for naught if nobody sees it.
Right now, Microsoft and RealNetworks are the primary architects of the streaming media maze. Both provide top-notch media players, strong hosting technologies, and formats that are rapidly improving, so how do you choose which streaming video format you should use when hosting video content on your site?
To find the answer, consider that moment when customers or potential customers come across video content on your site: They decide to click on it or not based on whether their PCs have the media player required to play the clip installed. It really comes down to a matter of player distribution, and here, once again, both sides have good arguments to make.
RealNetworks has dominant market share, but Microsoft has made remarkable progress in getting their viewer installed on desktops. So, at least for now, if you want to make sure consumers will view the streaming video content on your site, you’d better provide it in both RealPlayer and Windows Media Player formats. If you can’t afford both, try to select one based on what you know about your audience’s likelihood to use one player or the other.
See the complete New Media Roundtable Quarterly Update for more details on the competition between Microsoft and RealNetworks to rule the streaming media world and additional advice on choosing streaming video technology. The complete Quarterly Update also includes additional coverage on these related topics:
- A new hope for streaming media standards?
- Has Generic Media solved the streaming video format problem?
- RealNetworks aims for fundamental improvements in streaming media architecture with RealSystem IQ
- Can your organization afford to host an online event?
Continue to the next page of this column to see a summary of the Roundtable Quarterly Update’s sections on IT policies related to new media.
New media policies
As employees enjoy new media technologies more, you are placed in the unfortunate, but important, position of regulating how they can use those technologies in the work environment. If these issues have not yet arisen in your company, you can bet they will.
MP3 files are not going to go away, even if Napster does
Though it appears that the lights will soon be going out on Napster’s free Internet music-sharing service, don’t expect Web music fans to stop passing around MP3 files anytime soon. Gartner analysts think that the music-sharing phenomenon is barely going to be slowed by the demise of Napster, and that means IT departments will continue having to deal with policies regarding the use of company equipment to acquire and store MP3s.
While the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that creating a centralized directory that facilitates the mass swapping of copyrighted materials is illegal, it issued a verdict that peer-to-peer file-swapping services are not illegal. “Given the court's ruling, and the pace at which peer-to-peer technology is advancing, the music industry has months, not years, to create business models that embrace, rather than destroy, peer-to-peer file-sharing,” said Gartner analyst Rob Batchelder. “'Don't ask, don't tell' is the winning formula, as AOL, Aimster, and a host of other peer-to-peer file-sharing sites are proving.”
If you hoped that Napster’s apparent demise would ease your worries about creating and enforcing policies regulating employee use of MP3 files on company computers, you can forget it. In a poll of TechRepublic members last fall, more than half of those responding said that their company had official policies limiting employees’ use of MP3 files, with 37 percent banning their use at work altogether. It’s a good bet that those numbers will be growing in the months to come, with or without Napster in the picture.
TechRepublic cofounder and Executive Contributing Editor Jeff Yocom is on a mission to help IT executives and managers leverage new media in all its forms: streaming audio, digital video, wireless—you name it. Yocom searches the virtual and real worlds for new media developments and engages TechRepublic members in illuminating discussions to keep you up-to-date on real-world applications of new media technologies.Each week, Jeff Yocom will be reporting on the latest developments in new media technology. What new media topics are important to you? Post a comment or send us an e-mail.