In the past 36 hours, I've seen 37 stories in my Google reader about the the MJ webcast and unless I missed it, not a single article talked about anything pertaining to the business side of live broadcasting. Every time a large webcast takes place on the Internet, the industry wants to speculate about the Internet breaking or failing in some way and everyone seems to want to cover the story only from an infrastructure angle.
While some seem to think it makes for great headlines by asking if the Internet will crash under the strain and want to imply some sort of doom and gloom from too much traffic, in reality, the titles of many of these articles should be seen for what they really are – a headline.
Does it really matter to any industry how much traffic is delivered if there is no business model behind it to sustain it? Sure, lots of traffic is great for the CDNs, good exposure for the companies that make the video platforms and some of the other vendors involved, but what about the content owner who is paying to make this happen? Over the years, I've done enough large-scale live events for many of the major portals including Yahoo!, MSN, MTV and VH-1 to know what live events truly cost to produce and they are not cheap. At a time when content owners are trying to create a sustainable online business, the industry only seems to be writing about traffic numbers for webcasts or how many Facebook updates took place.
What we should be talking and writing about is the costs associated with putting these events live on the web and the potential ways content owners can turn this into a business over time. How much money does any major newscaster lose during a one-off large scale live event? Are they trying to sell sponsorships during the event? Do they have any type of ad model specific to live events? Are they seeing any success at all when it comes to covering their costs? These are all questions we should be asking and more importantly having discussions about so we can try to figure out the business models to sustain these events. At some point, all of this technology boils down to a tool content owners need to use to sustain themselves in some way. Why is no one talking about that?
Instead, those who cover the industry are so caught up in the traffic numbers and the many ways they can turn those numbers into nothing more than a headline. Think to yourself how many articles you read on the MJ webcast and ask yourself if you learned anything different from all of those stories you read. I know I didn't. Nearly all of them simply said the Internet didn't break and reported the traffic numbers. Nothing wrong with reporting the traffic from an event, but there is a bigger story here that we should be discussing as an industry. There is a business somewhere behind the technology of online video, even for large scale live events.
This is what disappoints me about the industry sometimes. 2009 marks the fourteenth year since streaming was first used on the Internet. Fourteen years. There is more to this than infrastructure and when all you ever see people writing about after a large broadcast is stuff involving bandwidth, it makes it look like we have not progressed much as an industry. This industry needs to grow, we need content owners to be profitable and we need to be discussing how that is going to take place and what we can do to get there faster.