The View From London's NetMedia: Day 2

By: Steve Outing

I'll be back with a regular Stop The Presses! column on Monday. In the meantime, I'm reprinting below the last of two summaries of the NetMedia 96 conference held at City University in London last week. This conference, organized by Milverton Wallace, is dedicated to how journalists are sing the Internet and the media are being impacted by it. This report was written by Darren Ingram, and is republished here with permission.

Report of day 2 of NetMedia 96

LONDON, UK -- The second day of the NetMedia 96 conference in London concentrated on all things interactive and digital and how they impact on the media.

Abe Peled, managing director of News Datacom, spoke about the delivery of television and data services through a multimedia satellite delivery platform and how it could change the information superhighway. With Internet surfers spending most of their online time waiting -- especially on the busier, more popular sites -- the current mode of making information available on the Internet for reading can be a time consuming business. More advanced delivery mechanisms will help make inroads to this aim and maximize the benefits of reading information interactively.

For some applications, the use of a digital broadcasting system could provide some means for the high-speed delivery of information to the user -- with in-built conditional access equipment and encryption protecting the intellectual property rights of the copyright owner and providing a revenue stream, perhaps through micro-billing. "There is a killer application for the digital technology -- people willing to pay to get a wider variety of choice in television. Once the digital infrastructure is there it can be used for (other) applications such as the information superhighway," said Peled.

While some of the technology is not suited for two-way delivery presently, already wrap-arounds exist through low-speed dial-up back-channel access.

Other future options will involve the use of low-earth orbiting satellite systems which will be able to deliver content and accept requests through a high-speed back channel. With a single digital satellite transponder having the ability to deliver 300Gb of data in a 24-hour period, this allows for a continuous stream of material to be sent with the user selecting what they would like to receive out of the information broadcast. With a daily newspaper taking seconds to deliver by the high-speed service, it makes it very simple for high-quality multimedia custom content to be delivered to all subscribers at the same time. "This is only the beginning, this is the new media. The service can deliver text, graphics, video and audio," said Peled, explaining that this leads to the future delivery of very rich content without it impacting on network resources.

The re-invention of television

John Forrest, deputy chairman of NTL, examined digital technology and the re-invention of television and forecast a great future for new services.

Multimedia is not exactly that new in terms of television -- after all sound, images and video have been provided for a while, noted Forrest, adding that often this has gone a step further through the use of teletext services, providing on-demand access to a host of information through a TV screen. The development of even faster processing technologies is going to be dependent on products having mass market appeal -- and thus helping drive demand to repay the ever-increasing R&D costs for the ever-powerful products. The technological change is also having an impact on the back-end provision side, allowing lower start-up costs and greater competition through the introduction of new players in the marketplace.

Howard Gordon, president of Xing Technologies, gave thought to how the Internet and new broadcast technologies could work together now and in the future. Over the past year since Xing began its own Internet-based video broadcasts, the amount of video content being made available has significantly increased.

Xing is involved in live and pre-recorded audio and video transmissions for various clients on an ad hoc and long-term basis -- in fact over 10,000 hours of Internet video is said to be available today for download.

Gordon acknowledged that there are still some issues over the quality of video and audio along with the actual transmission network capabilities. While the quality of audio has effectively been sorted out, there is still some work for the video component combined with a bandwidth-friendly means to deliver the content. The sometimes contentious market of interactive advertising came under the microscope from a number of speakers in a special panel session with testimonials from companies who have found it to work and exceed their expectations.

While the industry may love online advertising, there is still a large body of users who find it obtrusive and note that it still attempts to slow down their existing, already over-loaded Internet cnnections.

Ad agency new media requirements

Rindy Bradshaw of Ogilvy & Mather -- an international advertising agency -- noted that not every traditional advertiser is yet embracing the advertising potential of the Internet, for whatever their motive. Many agencies are forgetting that with the new media the advertising agency still requires a traditional brief in order to fully determine what is required and thus how best it can be achieved. The point of keeping a strategy up to date is also important -- especially in this fast moving marketplace.

Many companies, however, manage not be intrusive and thus have a very good working advertising model which attracts viewers. Developers should also take care to ensure that the message being put over on an Internet WWW site should match that which is being promoted in the more traditional media areas. It is important to have this cohesive format without the encumbrances of a traditional corporate structure to make the best possible Internet operation.

Robert Hamilton, online manager at Federal Express, said that FedEx has been an active marketeer in cyberspace for some time, using the advantages of the Internet to allow it be used for business. Some of the business opportunities for FedEx are worldwide service inquiry, global package tracking and now U.S. domestic shipping -- the provision of software which lets the shipping party generate their own waybills and other required documentation.

FedEx views the Internet's operation as a merging between marketing and operating, allowing the WWW site to let customers conduct their business while they can learn about new product services and offerings. It is very easy to let people take a quick look at something new as the new information is effectively only a click away. This is a powerful means to gain customer interest in something they may not normally look at. The other danger is, for advertiser hosts, that the customer may not come back!

Thomas Hill, vice president of Yankelovich Partners, discussed how to build a complete solution for online interactive marketing. Apparently 22% of all U.S. adults over 16 are presently online, according to new Yankelovich Partners research, noting a 50% year rise in takeup with no signs of things slowing down in the future.

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