Hearst-Argyle's goal is to allow local residents to discuss news topics important to their community and to upload their own photos and videos. The first u local area was launched in Dec '08 by WMUR in Manchester, New Hampshire and according to Hearst-Argyle generated tens of thousands of submissions in the first week alone. The other stations in Hearst-Argyle's portfolio will roll out u local in the coming months. For KickApps, the deal follows one with WorldNow, announced last year to drive social media into WorldNow-powered sites.
The question begs: can a local TV station become a social media hub for its local residents? In the Facebook-MySpace-Twitter-YouTube age, we seem to be on the cusp of social media saturation. Yet despite all these engagement opportunities, focused local social media initiatives could well find a place. People are extremely passionate about their local communities and the social bonds are very tight. Sharing common experiences, concerns and passions online with local neighbors seems like an updated version of what's been happening over backyard fences since the beginning of time.
The key is execution, not just in the user experience, but in the positioning of what the local broadcaster's brand will stand for. Striving to be a social media hub is a new positioning, and to incent viewer behavior, Hearst-Argyle will need to embrace the capability, heavily promote it and then manage it so it's a safe, well-lit area of its sites.
It's no surprise that local broadcasters have been slammed by the economic downturn. They were already hit hard by free classified services like Craigslist, fragmenting audience behavior, the shift of network programs to online and more recently the decline of the auto industry which is a key advertiser category. Now there are numerous entrants trying to grab their traditional local video advertisers. Not a day goes by without multiple stations announcing cutbacks. In short, local broadcasters need a total reinvention of their business models if they're to survive. u local is not the complete answer, but it is certainly a move in the right direction.
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The move suggests even more vigorous competition is coming to the video management/publishing space where players like thePlatform, Brightcove, Maven, ExtendMedia, PermissionTV, Akamai (StreamOS), WorldNow and others have focused.
I sat down with Anystream (note, a periodic VideoNuze sponsor) president Bill Holding and founder/chairman Geoff Allen recently to learn more about their expansion strategy.
Anystream is well-known in the digital media space as it Agility transcoding platform is deployed in over 700 companies. Leveraging this base of relationships and its knowledge of customers' work flows, Anystream is now "moving north" by focusing on the video management layer. The core technology comes from Anystream's 2007 acquisition of Cauldron Solutions, which has been built out, renamed as Velocity and integrated with Agility.
Anystream's new, broader positioning rests on its belief that the video "Produce-Manage-Monetize" lifecycle elements are deeply linked, and that ultimately a comprehensive, integrated solution will be prized by media companies serious about scaling their broadband video businesses. At the manage layer specifically, Velocity focuses on rights, scheduling, packaging, syndication and asset tracking.
Anystream believes metadata it gains access to, at the start of the video lifecycle through its transcoding role, is a unifying value driver in the video management and monetization phases.
Hearst-Argyle clearly saw the benefits of this approach, citing Anystream's metadata management as opening up new content re-use opportunities and creating competitive advantage. In the press release, Joe Addalia, H-A's director of technology projects, said H-A has cut its production and distribution to online channels "from 30 minutes to 3 1/2 minutes."
I continue to be impressed with how many companies are staking a claim in the broadband video management/publishing space. I'm constantly trying to discern the real competitive differentiators that separate industry players. Like many of you, I often find the landscape quite blurry, with overlapping capabilities. Each player tends to cite its traditional competencies as being the best building blocks from which to build a full scale management/publishing platform.
While it's tempting to say "they can't all be right," the fact that so many players are finding market success today indicates that content owners are not monolithic in their specific requirements and that a giant game of matchmaking seems to be occurring between content owners and video management providers. One day there may be a consensus on who truly has the "best" management platform, but for now that day seems to be far off.
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