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What marketers can learn from politics: "gigacasting" the election.

When Apple Inc.'s Steve Jobs took the stage to introduce his company's iPhone gadget to the world a couple months back, it marked a true milestone for a key sector of the technology industry.

Believe it or not, I'm not talking about how the yet-to-be-released iPhone will impact the business of cellular carriers or the prospects for online music downloads. From where I sit, the iPhone introduction was a watershed for the world of corporate webcasting.

In the first day following Jobs' MacWorld speech, Apple reported that 2.4 million streams of the presentation were requested by viewers online. Now, we still don't know how many "unique" viewers tapped into the presentation via the web or how long they watched. But, by any measure, 2.4 million streams represent a whole lot of interest for what was basically a product launch event.

"How many press releases out there have gotten 2.4 million hits?" asks Mike Piispanen, SVP of corporate services for Thomson Financial, one of the industry's leading providers of webcast services. "We're reaching a tipping point in this industry."

It's been a long time coming, but marketers are beginning to wake up and realize that web video can be used for more than sharing clips from late-night television shows on YouTube. Indeed--as the iPhone product launch illustrates--the broadband web is a viable platform for distributing rich media to targeted audiences interested in hearing a company's product pitch.

Not all companies will achieve the hype and sizzle that was associated with the much-ballyhooed iPhone launch. But huge opportunities exist for companies that put forth the effort to make product launches, customer seminars, trade show presentations, and other marketing events available to customers and prospects.

As more companies begin to use online video for this type of outreach, I suspect that we will begin to discover that not all webcasts are created equal. That's because a different class of technology is needed to produce and distribute an online employee training session than is necessary to enable a large-scale marketing event. Simply put, everything needs to be better for a big event: video production quality, network requirements, and content management systems, to name just a few.

The differences are so great that new terminology is needed to describe these corporate online multimedia events designed to reach thousands of viewers at a time. I call these large-scale online multimedia events that reach 1,000 or more viewers "gigacasts."

Ultimately, the name is unimportant. What is important is that new uses for online multimedia are emerging, requiring us to look at webcasting in a fresh way.

Now that Jobs has done his job, where should we look next for innovation in applying web video in marketing? My suggestion is to keep a close eye on the candidates in the 2008 presidential election. Remember that the election is tantamount to a giant marketing campaign. Instead of selling toothpaste, political marketers are promoting a collection of personal attributes and policy positions under the "brand" of a specific candidate.

Democrats Hillary Rodham Clinton and Barack Obama made splashes in January by releasing campaign videos online. Picked up and re-broadcast by traditional media, the videos were a corporate marketer's dream. Clinton and Obama both got their message out while answering softball questions from their own staff and avoiding the pitfalls of actually interacting with real journalists.

Republicans are getting into the act, too, with John McCain and Mitt Romney featuring links to speeches and favorable news coverage on their official sites. Romney's site even devotes a chunk of its home-page real estate to a collection of video links dubbed "Mitt TV."

Perhaps most creative in using online multimedia has been Democrat John Edwards. In January, the Edwards campaign used a NewTek TriCaster to capture a "town hall" event with New Hampshire voters and make it available online. The event, little noticed by traditional media, attracted 40,000 viewers.

The heated competition among a crowded field of candidates makes for the perfect real-world laboratory for online multimedia marketing. Invariably, one or more of the candidates will find himself short of funds and feeling shortchanged in traditional press coverage. That's the perfect recipe for meaningful innovation. Facing a dire situation, some enterprising campaign will figure out a fresh strategy for using online multimedia to better market its candidate.

And once somebody figures out a way to use web video to sell you on a president, you can bet your bottom dollar that more marketing executives will become convinced that it can help sell cars, real estate, and--someday--maybe even toothpaste.

Steve Vonder Haar ( is research director of Interactive Media Strategies.

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Author:Haar, Steve Vonder
Publication:Streaming Media
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Apr 1, 2007
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