DNC Online Video Footage

I’ve been terrible about keeping my blog current this summer.  And, I envision staying fairly inactive for the next couple weeks unfortunately. But, I felt the need to pause from my hectic schedule tonight to post about a meaningful and very public advancement in online media this week. 

It’s no secret that more and more professionally produced video content is moving online.  And, while YouTube still drives the majority of online video viewing, some of the content is compelling enough that people are actually watching. 

But, there has been nominal advancement in the actual quality of the video delivery over the past decade–until the past 12 months or so.  Average bit rate delivery of video content online has remained around 350 Kbps for many years, largely because of delivery costs as well as the ability for end user’s CPU rates to take on anything meaningfully higher. 

This week though, the DNC, with the participation of folks including Move Networks, Microsoft and some bright colleagues of mine at Level 3 are movin’ on up, so to speak.  If you haven’t seen it for yourself yet, check out the HD quality content that can be found live and on-demand at www.demconvention.com.  Move is using it’s adative streaming video format, in conjunction with Microsoft’s Silverlight player, to deliver a world-class viewing experience that rivals what one would experience on their massive plasma screen TV at home.  Level 3 is the CDN and the signal acquisition provider.  It’s almost humorous to compare the DNC site to the quality of the Windows Media content that can be found at, say, CNN.com.  Night and day.   

And, the results of this high quality content delivery are what one would hope them to be…record numbers of viewers, longer viewing times and some rave reviews.  Here is what Rafat at PaidContent.org had to say the other day (and he’s generally skeptical and cynical about most activity like this):

“Every major site and TV network is live streaming it online in full…But the most awesome (I have probably never used that word in seven years of this site) online video feed is on the official Democratic Convention site, on DemConvention.com.  It is in HD and uses Move Networks’ plugin and Microsoft Silverlight.  You have to watch it to see the potential of HD video online…certainly shows how great HD video can look online.”

In the case of the DNC website, view times are interesting and important but it’s not a monetized site so we can’t yet realize the true implication of higher viewing times resulting in more meaningful advertising revenue online.  But, when that happens, and this week’s experience is proving it WILL happen, a virtuous cycle begins.  And, then, all of us who have been dreaming of the day Internet video becomes a principal means of content delivery get to feel the rewards of the hard work over the past decade plus.


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Costa Rica Canopy Tour

Honeymoon 147

Originally uploaded by bg18k

I recently returned from my honeymoon in Costa Rica.

One of the highlights was our canopy tour in Arenal near the volcano with Sky Adventures. I’ve done two canopy tours now, one in Mendoza, Argentina and this one in Costa Rica, but the CR one was far better. This video will show you why.

Pura vida, as they say in Costa Rica!

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Battle at Kruger

I’m late to the party on this one, as the 30 million YouTube hits would attest to, but this was truly one of the most stunning nature scenes I’ve ever witnessed.  It’s also a heck of an example of the power of UGC. 

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Big Leap for Live Social Media Today?

Barack on UStream

I first started noticing the live social media space a year ago.  Frankly, I haven’t felt like much occurred in this “market” since that time.  Granted, I’ve personally taken the time to jot down thoughts on the “Truman Show” style Justin.TV on a couple occasions but that’s only because I find lifecasting to be very bizarre, particularly from an end-user perspective.

I saw today, however, that Ustream.tv had a great week.  Digital Media Wire reported today that the company raised its first round of outside capital to the tune of $11M.  That’s a large first institutional round and having the likes of DCM and Labrador (key funders behind Pandora and Yardbarker) is impressive.  Several folks have been blogging about Ustream this week including NewTeeVee and their stats from the past few months are noteworthy–particularly the amount of broadcasts being developed daily (8k – 10k per day.)

When I first heard about Ustream a year ago, I interpreted it more along the lines of lifecasting sites like Justin.TV, Stickam or ManiaTV.  They were catching on in the tech crowd with people like Cris Pirillo who streamed their own shows from offices or on the road at trade shows–a podcasting site, effectively, with some nice social networking tools and a decent, interactive video player.

The live social media play is a tricky one to get right: it requires a well-executed blend of community, nicely produced and interesting content and reliable, sufficient quality distribution of the video.  It also requires some well-known and compelling personalities to jump on board and help grow that community.  According to the DMW post today, Barack Obama, John McCain, Chris Brown and others are occasionally using the site now for broadcasts.  That’s certainly a start… 

The live social media space has been gaining momentum for several years now.  Podcasts first hit the Internet 5+ years ago, YouTube exploded on to the scene in 2005, fatter pipes for distribution are readily available as are more sophisticated and affordable video players.  While some players like ManiaTV have taken meaningful outside capital during the past three years, the timing may finally be right for a player like Ustream to begin truly defining this market with marketable broadcasters and an audience ready to pay attention. 

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Random Sports and Leadership Musings

I continue to ponder the Denver sports scene these days.  My thoughts waffle between frustration and depression most times with the occasional burst of enthusiasm sprinkled in (e.g. Peter Forsberg and Adam Foote returning to the Avs during a two day stretch late last month.) 

I published a while back about my strong desire to see Mike Shanahan depart the Broncos and my feelings have only increased since that time.  Ian Gold and Javon Walker, two very strong contributors to the team over the past couple years, were recently cut, Jim Bates resigned meaning yet another defensive coordinator will be in place next year (has anyone in the organization noticed the importance of continuity to success?) and today their seemingly figurehead GM of 16 years, Ted Sundquist was fired.   Ummm, did anyone in the organization remember that the NFL draft is just a few weeks away?  I really have no idea what kind of love affair Coach Shanahan and Owner Pat Bowlen are indulging in these days but I’m baffled how the axe keeps falling everywhere but on Shanny’s head. 

At the same time, a friend of mine has developed quite a buzz around his new blog, firegeorgekarl.com.  As the blog author knows, I fully disagree with the general premise of the blog but I’m impressed by the caliber of his research, musings, postings and general perseverance on the subject.  He’s picked up some buzz throughout the Denver sports community for his strong opinions on the subject of George Karl and your 2007-2008 Denver Thuggits.  Unlike my opinion of Mike Shanahan, I personally disagree with the notion that any majority part of the Nuggets struggles this year should fall largely on the shoulders of Coach Karl.  Despite its position right in the thick of the bottom of the playoff race, the Nuggets have one of their best records ever at this point in a season and have clearly demonstrated they are a team that can compete with anyone in the league on a given night.  Unfortunately, they also can play terrible ball on a given night.  Karl can’t be held completely accountable for that erratic play and its probably both wrong and lazy to point the finger too strongly in his direction.  I, personally, like this Nuggets team a lot and, if they do inch in to the playoffs or bow out early, sincerely hope nothing dramatic happens with either Karl or the roster itself. 

Lastly, I’m curious if anyone else is as amazed by the new Nike commercial as I am.  My only frustration with it was that the Nike site didn’t provide any embed link for me to post the commercial more effectively on my blog.  I haven’t been this pumped up by a commercial in quite a while and give Nike props, yet again, for its marketing creativity and brilliance time and time again over the past twenty plus years.  I only wish they focused on making footwear products as good as their commercials are these days.     

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Adventures in Video Conferencing–funny video

This is a pretty funny commercial.  I’m not sure this ever made it to television but I enjoyed finding it online today. 

I might have to try something similar from the ski slopes before the end of the season rolls around! 

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SI Swimming Online

 SI Swimsuit Edition

I finally got an opportunity a few days ago to peruse the new Sports Illustrated 2008 Swimsuit edition.  Around the same time last week, I found myself reading this perplexed blog article on Digital Media Wire regarding the increasing online popularity of this SI hallmark. 

To Heather Hopkins or anyone else out there confounded by the online success of the Swimsuit edition, I encourage you to stop racking your brains.  This isn’t any kind of rubix cube.  First, I doubt there is any particular logic to the prominence of one search term (“sports illustrated swimsuit”) over another (“SI Swimsuit issue.”)  If anyone feels differently about this, or there is some particularly marketing ploy at the heart of this, I’d love to stand corrected.

To the larger issue, though, of the online success of the Swimsuit edition, there is clear and logical explanation behind that.  First and foremost, the product itself remains unmatched.  We’re talking about really beautiful women and its less about the bathing suits this year than ever.  The SI Swimsuit edition appears to have gotten somewhat racier over the years and I’ve personally deduced a lot of that has to do with awareness over their principal competition now: online adult content.   At the same time, it’s increasingly integrated with pop culture and other popular content tie-ins: Will Ferrell and his new movie, Semi- Pro, Danica Patrick, athlete’s wives and more.  I’m sure the studio behind Semi-Pro paid a pretty penny for its sponsorship integration which makes that tie-in all the more compelling for the magazine.   

Furthermore, the Swimsuit edition is heavily marketed and have fairly massive distribution.  Unlike regular, weekly editions of SI, the Swimsuit version can be found on the shelves of just about any drugstore, grocery store, hair salon or tienda of almost any other kind throughout the US (and possibly beyond I assume.)  I’m curious how and why they’ve secured distribution that goes so much wider for this edition than their others but I’m assuming they have a much heavier cost structure to maintain on this episode.   

Lastly, this year more than year’s past, the supporting online website for the SI Swimsuit edition is great.  The UI is clean and there are some clever applications including a video mash-up feature that could keep a teenage boy engaged on the website for hours.   This year, much of the magazine’s content is online for free and its principally monetized through advertising.  But, the ads are relatively non-intrusive and the whole user experience online is well thought through.   

It’s not a stretch to call the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit edition a hallmark of winter and, even more broadly, of American society for the last 40+ years.  As a product, it continues to evolve with the times and, so, it’s not in the least bit surprising to me that,  in 2008,  it’s such a popular destination online.


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