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Online Videos Become Internet’s “Most Valuable Player”

By Carol Martino
Table of Contents

Preface 3
Online Video Technology 4 VideoE-Mail 4
The Blogging Boom 6 The Dynamics of Real Simple Syndication 9 Podcasting – Catch the Wave! 9 InstantMessaging 11 Video Instant Messaging/Video Conferencing 11 Webcasting – “All the World’s a Stage” 13 Streaming Revolution Still in Its Infancy 16

The author has provided the most accurate information available at the time of this writing. However, the accuracy may change due to the rapidly changing nature of Internet technology. Neither the publisher nor the author can be held responsible for any errors or omissions that may have occurred within the text of this book, nor can they be responsible for any interpretations readers may have or any problems they may encounter when utilizing the Internet or an online service provider.

No part of this book may be edited, altered or reproduced in any form without written permission from the publisher.


Publisher: Martino & Associates – United States – _______________________________________________ 2


“The future is here, It’s just not widely distributed yet.”

Although that comment was made by William Gibson, the sci-fi writer who coined the term “cyberspace,” nearly a quarter of a century ago, it still holds true – especially when it comes to new technologies for online communications and social networking.

Take “blogs” for example. More than 66 million blogs are currently being tracked on the Internet, and that figure increases every second. Although people worldwide are finding huge audiences for these personal, online journals, it took me most of an afternoon to find a few people in my own community who have even heard of a blog.

Let me mention that I was among the uniformed until recently. Little did I know that Shakespeare’s words “All the world’s a stage” are ringing true more than ever. Today, most anyone can take the stage through a phenomenon known as “social networking.” This online networking is part of the Web 2.0 shift from traditional websites to interactive platforms that are enhanced with audio and video.

When it comes to social networking, Instant Messaging (IM), also known as “text chat,” has been widely recognized since the late 1990s. But newer social formats, which include video e-mails, blogs, podcasts, video conferences and webcasts, are taking online communications to greater heights as easier to use software tools become more accessible. And they’re exploding all around us, according to Rich Schott, president of Funmark Advertising, Inc., Annapolis, MD.

Social networking generally refers to people who connect to websites to expand their contacts, either socially or professionally. Mostly, it’s used as a social platform for people to express themselves or to meet others who share common interests. “It’s a great way to develop friendships – sort of like chatting over the world’s fence without leaving your own backyard,” Rich said. For professionals, this networking provides unparalleled potential to establish business contacts with anyone in the world.

Also, a growing number of users are leveraging the social network to share information, philosophies, and views – to literally be heard by the world. Think about the power of a single voice, your voice, or the chant of millions penetrating these massive channels often referred to as citizen journalism.

Rich believes this techno-explosion has been the most dynamic force in communication since the masses began using the Internet in the mid 1990s, and its potential is just now being fully realized. “The mass media we grew up with is fast becoming the media of the masses, and it’s reshaping every aspect of our lives. With the advent of digital technology, ordinary people are deciding what’s important to listen to or view. The World Wide Web is ushering in a new era as it emerges into the World Live Web. And it’s turning the world upside down,” he said.

_______________________________________________ 3

Online Video Technology

If a picture’s worth ten thousand words, like the Chinese proverb claims, then how much is an online video worth? Ask the mother whose fears ease a bit when she receives an online video from her son who is serving in Iraq. Ask the grandparents who yearn to see their far-away grandchild’s first tooth, or virtually attend a ballet recital, soccer game, or birthday party. Or ask the son whose loving face gives comfort to a dying father halfway across the world. They’d agree that today’s online video technology, most purely realized, is priceless.

These beating-heart videos, which come in many forms, have been changing the way we communicate with family and friends. With a simple click, miles are bridged as loved ones connect worldwide. And this new technology isn’t just transforming our personal lives; it’s changing the way we do business and enhancing every other aspect of society.

Video E-Mail

Since childhood, I’ve had a great passion for writing letters, yet I sent my first e-mail in the mid 1990s with a sigh of skepticism. I wasn’t quite sure how the heart could be transmitted through this new technology. Now it’s hard to imagine life without the immediacy of e-mails.

Then came video e-mail. I remember the day I purchased a webcam so I could send videos e-mails to my far-away grandchildren. I couldn’t believe how easy it was! I simply recorded my heartfelt message and hit send. The next time they opened their email, excitement danced in their eyes as my face came to life on their computer screen. And soon, a video e-mail reply came saying, “We love you too Grandma.” Since then, video e-mails have become part of my daily life when communicating with family and friends.

If you want to add a “human” touch to your online communications, nothing does it better than a video – whether for personal or business use. Facial expressions can convey emotions or nuances that don’t come through in text. And sending a video is just as easy as sending a text message, sometimes easier when you consider that most people talk faster than they type. Besides, people are more visually driven these days and would rather watch a video than read text.

Maybe that’s why video e-mails are becoming one of the hottest marketing tools in business. For example, Jason and Kelli Schott, who own Bank Schott Billiards in Severna Park, MD, record short videos to highlight specials or to remind customers that it’s time for a three-year maintenance on their tables. “It’s a great way to add a personal touch. We only have to record the message once and can then send it out as often as we want to,” said Kelli.

_______________________________________________ 4 The Schotts also integrate videos into their e-mails for direct and target marketing. Jason said, “Video e-mails give us face-to-face contact with our customers and also provide a way to forge new business relationships. The video format is more engaging than text, so it holds promise for a better response. Also, it increases brand awareness because our business card is embedded in each message, directing viewers to our website.”

Video e-mails are also enhancing communications in the Christian environment. One of the best examples I’ve seen is the website where Dr. Buddy Bell, founder of Ministry of Helps International, Inc. and others highlight various ways to spread the Word of God by using this latest technology. This first-rate website features the video e-mails of several pastors interacting with their staff, answering prayer requests, following up with visitors and welcoming new members, and even entertaining children with a cute, sing-song message about Jesus.

With today’s wireless connection, you don’t even have to be sitting at your desk to benefit from video technology. For instance, the captain and crew of Chesapeake Bay Sport Fishing encourage clients on their fishing charters to share their grand catches with family, friends or colleagues through wish-you-were-here videos aboard the “Jessie Girl.”

These are just a few of the innovative video e-mail applications that can be viewed at Check them out!

Many of today’s computers have webcams and microphones built into the system, and since broadband transmission and streaming media have gone mainstream, video quality has increased as well as its speed. “But the vast majority of the Internet population uses the text-only format because they’re unaware of the video option, or they question the need for it,” according to Rich.

He compares the scenario to the mid to late 1990s when consumers questioned the need for an e-mail address or website -- and now both are commonplace. The same will soon be true for video e-mails, especially for businesses that want to keep a competitive edge. “In the next three to five years, everyone you know will be using some form of video to communicate,” Rich said. “Some will require users to install special programs or download the videos on their systems before playing. An ideal solution is to find a company that provides web-based services that don’t utilize resources on your computer to store video content, which would allow for true video streaming.” he added.

With the latest technology, consumers can also take digital footage with cameras or camcorders, upload it to a web-based account, and send it as an e-mail or easily post it on a website or blog. Once again, an ideal solution would be to send it as a streaming video e-mail rather than an attachment. Businesses can even welcome consumers to their websites though video clips – sort of like having their own TV commercial.

Actually, with streaming media, there’s no end to applications for online video communications. It took me a while to grasp the magnitude of the streaming revolution,

_______________________________________________ 5 a technology that enables Internet users to communicate through audio and video, sometimes even in "real time" such as in live webcasts.

Early on, I thought this new technology was only for teens and techno-geeks, but when I realized it was being used by mainstream America, I was eager to jump on board. And it’s been a great ride! (I’ll spare you the details of a grandmother’s heart “connected,” but let me just say this, there’s nothing like “virtually” tagging along with a grandson when he gets behind the wheel for the first time!)

Needless to say, online videos have been impacting the lives of people worldwide since becoming the Internet’s “most valuable player.” Everyone will soon turn to this cuttingedge technology, from home users to Fortune 500 companies. It’s destined to explode and, in my opinion, will someday be as commonplace as electricity.

The Blogging Boom

The latest craze is “blogging,” which is giving voice to the world. This technical phenomenon has generated so much excitement that TIME magazine named “You” as “TIMEs Person of the Year for 2006” – yes you, “for seizing the reins of the global media, for founding and framing the new digital democracy…,” according to the magazine.

Sitting in a coffee house the other day, my friend asked, “Just what is a blog anyway?” A young lady using a laptop looked up to see who the dinosaurs were two tables over. I had to smile because it wasn’t that long ago that I was asking the same question.

To put it simply, a blog is an online diary with entries posted regularly and displayed in reverse chronologic order. It’s this order, and an interactive format for viewers to text in comments, that sets blogs apart from traditional websites. Also, while websites are static, blogs are live and constantly evolving.

Posting an entry is called “blogging,” and anyone can do it. You don’t need to be a technical expert or spend much money, if any, to get started. A few months ago, I launched my own blog and found that with today’s software tools it requires only a few basic steps to be transformed from a web reader into a web writer – or even a radio talk show host or TV producer!

Think about it! Typical folks with a computer can share their thoughts or even video snippets of their lives with the entire world if they choose. Or, they can make their blogs password accessible. Though I don’t interact with the world like some, I’ve invited family and friends to my site, and I’ll soon expand it to include news and updates for business associates.

While early blogs were limited to text entries, today’s streaming capabilities allow bloggers to integrate a combination of rich media. So many of those spewed into the

_______________________________________________ 6 global blogosphere are enhanced with videos (vlogs) or podcasts which can be audio or video. Another popular format takes in photoblogs which are displayed in blog style but emphasize photography rather than text. No matter what form they take, blogs are redefining the way we communicate.

Blogging actually began in the mid 1990s with diarists who wanted to express themselves. But it took a while to catch on because early blogs could only be created by people who were familiar with HTML, according to Brett Irby of Lyncburg, VA. “It started out as a geeky underground forum for exchanging information. But few people knew how to do it, so it was very obscure until 1999 when it gained attention in the political arena,” he said.

Within a few years, new companies were launching user-friendly blog tools and the phenomenon spread rapidly to the less technical population. Over 66 million blogs are currently being tracked through Technorati, a widely recognized blog search engine, according to Derek Gordon, vice president of marketing. He noted on the company’s website that “Blogs are powerful because they allow millions of people to easily publish and share their ideas, and millions more to read and respond. They engage the writer and reader in an open conversation, and are shifting the Internet paradigm as we know it.”

During a recent conversation with Derek, he assured me that the emergence of the live web is just beginning. “Blogging has been here for a while, but it’s just the first indication of a much larger phenomenon known as ‘citizen media.’ It’s an old impulse for humans to record their lives and make themselves heard. It’s no different than the cavemen who documented their lives on cave walls. But now, we can be heard and seen by the world if we want to, or we can choose to expose our lives to only a small family circle,” he said.

As people gain access to high-quality and inexpensive editing and publishing tools, they’re rushing to blog, vlog, and podcast, according to Derek “Not only because they’ve won a way to publish and produce, but also because they’re finding captive audiences. It’s a great way to bypass editors and other media gatekeepers,” he said, adding that young people on the web are even publishing their own video games.

Blogs cover a vast range of topics from personal thoughts and essays to family updates, journalistic news, opinions, and political views. The subject matter is limitless, running the spectrum of mundane diaries (which I call “blahgsam”) to dynamic exchanges of ideas and philosophies.

Niche Blogs

Most blogs, however, focus on niche topics, such as politics, pets, literature, or cooking. It’s a great way to have on-going conversations with like-minded people around the world. For example, an increasing number of “baby blogs” are springing up, offering an outlet for young mothers to share advice and nurture friendships – all while creating a sense of community.

_______________________________________________ 7 Another community rallies around the military. The other day I was talking to Lt. Jeff Barnett, a 25-year-old Marine who recently returned from duty in Iraq. Shortly before being deployed, he started a blog to say farewell to family and friends. He said the new technology held “an aura of mystery” at first, but he soon embraced the daily lifeline home through his blog, Midnight in Iraq. “It was a great way to keep in touch with my family, but to them it was so much more than that. When they read my daily entries, they knew I was doing well. They feared for my safety more than I did,” he expressed.

What started out as a son’s heartbeat home was eventually posted on the blog, and before long Jeff’s audience expanded to a legion of caring strangers. In March 2006, the New York Times asked him to contribute to their Frontline forum.

Business, Professional and Ministry Blogs


Although most blogs are personal, they’re having an increasing impact on society as the masses recognize the expansive reach of the interactive platform.

For example, businesses are reaping the benefits of posting special promotions, sales, and product announcements. Blogs also serve as a great branding tool. But one of the greatest benefits is the two-way communication that allows businesses to connect with their customers and get valuable feedback. The interaction builds trust which often equates to marketing gains.

Blogs also level the playing field for small businesses with zero marketing dollars by giving them an enormous audience, according to Derek. “A Mom and Pop shop on Main Street can be catapulted into worldwide notoriety if they have a product or service that catches fire with everybody on the web,” he said.

Educators are among the growing number of professionals who understand the value of blogs. They use “edublogs,” to post homework assignments, grades, messages and lunch menus, to communicate with parents, and also to share information and network with colleagues. “It’s a great resource for getting information out to students and parents. And it’s interactive, so they can easily communicate with teachers and other staff. It’s completely changed the dynamics of communication,” according to Julie Schott, assistant principal of St. Paul’s Lutheran School, Glen Burnie, MD. And when daily homework assignments are available with a simple click, there’s no “wiggle room” for excuses, she added.

The ministry is also finding an historic opportunity to share the Gospel beyond church walls. Hungry souls are flocking to sites to be spiritually fed through daily prayers, inspirations and devotionals. Pastor Peter Migner of Emmanuel Church of the Nazarene, Madison Heights, VA, is a pioneer in digital ministry. He uses the emerging technology to reach the masses through engaging text, video and audio.

_______________________________________________ 8 “I’m convinced that the Internet is an adventure into an untapped ministry field. My hope and prayer is that churches and ministers around the world will use this technology to convert, educate, and disciple,” he said. “Although I prefer in-person hugs, handshakes, praying, and preaching, I believe digital ministry is the fastest and most effective way to reach a lost world. An entire generation is growing up online, and the Word of God is just a click away. I want to influence as many of them for Jesus as possible,” he added.

Churches are recognizing blogs as a powerful medium to interact with missionaries and gain insight into their lives and experiences in every corner of the world. The format is also popular for posting sermons, announcements, and updates and showcasing videos of Sunday School programs or Christmas pageants.

The Dynamics of Real Simple Syndication

One of the most innovative advances that has brought blogging into the mainstream is a protocol known as Really Simple Syndication (RSS). This system is used to turn blogs into “news feeds,” that are available (usually free) through subscriptions, and then deliver them to a special e-mail folder. Brett Irby demystified this technology for me by explaining that RSS is a delivery system, sort of like an “Internet newsboy,” but it only delivers news, videos, or other content that interests its subscribers.

Podcasting – Catch the Wave!

Once I grasped the concept of blogging, it was time to tune in to podcasting. Thanks again to Brett, this new technology was explained to me in plain English. Podcasting, he said, is no more than downloading audio and video files from the Internet via RSS feeds. Although multimedia on the Internet is nothing new, the feed technology has been enhanced with an “enclosure” that tells your computer exactly where to deliver the files. Usually, a little orange icon on a website indicates that an RSS feed is available for subscription.

Once you subscribe to a podcast, its programs are automatically delivered to your PC and then easily transferred to a mobile audio player, such as an iPod, so you can listen to them on the go. Most often these are digital audio files, but podcasts can also include videos, pictures, text or any other file type.

Unlike traditional streaming media, such as broadcast radio and TV, there’s no “realtime” transfer of data, so podcasts can be archived and listened to at your convenience. This on-demand application appeals to busy consumers who can tune into the latest episode of their favorite talk show or perhaps catch some humor while jogging, running errands, or commuting.

_______________________________________________ 9 The beauty is that you don’t have to just sit back and consume podcasts – you can record and distribute your own! All you need is a PC with Internet access, a good microphone and software that’s available on most computers. “It’s mind blowing when you think of how easy the system is to use with today’s software tools,” Brett expressed. “You simply create a digital recording, upload it to the Internet and distribute it through RSS. I recently recorded a business presentation that anyone in the world can download and listen to. It’s sort of like having my own radio station but with no geographical boundaries,” he said.

Think about the possibilities! Have you ever dreamed of being a radio talk show host? Well, your very own “podcast studio” is just a few clicks away. Not only can you host a talk show, you can invite the entire world to listen in as you share opinions, vent pet peeves, read poetry, or chat about sports, health, entrepreneurship, movies, politics – you name it! I’ve read that podcasters have even gained overnight success while producing high-quality broadcasts with unique and creative content.

With today’s user-friendly software, podcasting is so simple that even little Tommy can host a radio program that spotlights siblings singing songs, reciting their ABCs, or simply talking about their day at school – not that folks outside the family would subscribe to such content, but in today’s mobile society you can’t put a value on giving voice to those long-distance ties.

Podcasting has actually been around for a few years, but it didn’t get much fanfare until
2004. By then, it quickly gained momentum, and the pool of podcasters grew daily. By
2005, this new breed of radio had gained mainstream popularity.

Like blogging, the diversity of podcasting is enormous. Numerous industries use this marketing channel to dispense information and influence target audiences. For example: travel agencies provide destination guides; restaurants feature customer reviews and interviews with local chefs; doctors answer common questions; and financial services offer investing tips for clients.

Corporations also recognize the audio format as a unique resource for training and updating employees. And churches are making sermons, Bible studies, and devotionals available in podcast form.

The platform has proven to be a dynamic force in education, especially at universities where professors download “make-up lectures” and supplemental material. Students who miss class no longer have to borrow notes; they can simply download lectures and listen to them on demand. Other students can access lectures for review.

Podcasting will continue to penetrate society and influence our lifestyles as novel uses for them evolve and applications are refined. So stay tuned.


_______________________________________________ 10

Instant Messaging

There’s no doubt that e-mail rapidly replaced traditional letters and telephone calls once the technology became available. The concept of sending a message and getting a speedy reply without the intrusion of a phone call was appealing. Even I, a serial “fountain pen” letter writer, eventually seized the opportunity to communicate with loved ones at a quicker pace.

But soon, as society spent more time online, e-mails weren’t always fast enough – mostly because senders had no way of knowing when the receiver was going to be online to get the message.

When Instant Messaging was introduced in the early 1990s, it answered the need for a speedy response and became the most widely accepted technology on the Internet – personally and professionally. Unlike e-mails, IMs allow consumers to send “real-time” text messages. Users simply create a list of friends or colleagues whom they communicate with frequently, and the system alerts them when anyone on the list is available online.

Once participants connect, they can exchange text messages – either through a one-onone forum or in chat rooms where chosen groups are invited in. Messages flow so smoothly that it’s more like a conversation than mere text.

Video Instant Messaging/Video Conferencing

Before long, streaming media was fused into instant messages and text windows became video screens for one-on-one chats. A few years ago, I bought my first webcam and microphone and used video instant messaging to connect with family during the holidays. The quality was poor at best – a bit fuzzy with delayed transmissions. But it didn’t matter, because our hearts came through, though miles apart. At the time, we couldn’t imagine anything better.

Since then, video instant messages have been rescued by a knight in shining armor called “bandwidth” which has honed technology to high definition videos and rich audio almost to the point of perfection.

This advanced technology paved the way for video (web) conferencing which allows two or more participants at different locations to see and hear each other while communicating. This rich, interactive medium opened vast new opportunities. User can spend live video time with family and friends, business associates, health-care providers, educators, and anyone else in the world.

Perhaps one of the most familiar applications is seen in the global marketplace where video conferencing brings people together for business meetings. This efficient forum often accelerates decision making while saving travel time and expense. The face-to-face

_______________________________________________ 11 experience is like a visual handshake that helps build trust in distant relationships. While eye contact and subtle body language are assets during any business interaction, they’re especially beneficial during negotiations and interviews.

Businesses also recognize the technology’s value for interactive training sessions, demonstrations and presentations, emergency briefings, and project collaboration – all possible without leaving the office. And the technology has proved to be a great resource for home-based employees and entrepreneurs.

Medical professionals have embraced numerous applications for video conferencing, such as consultations between specialists and doctors in rural or remote areas. Homehealth care nurses take advantage of “video visits” to address the questions and concerns of patients prior to a personal visit.

21st Century Learning

In education, online communication continues to play a major role in the daily lives of students. Most of them cut their teeth on technology. A world of information has literally been at their finger tips, so it’s no wonder they often shun traditional media in favor of multimedia Internet solutions. It’s not unusual for kids nowadays to know more about technology than their parents and teachers. Even the little ones get just as excited about learning “online” as they do coloring inside the lines.

Schools nationwide are trying to meet the growing needs of their students by upgrading classrooms to a 21st century learning environment – which translates to all forms of Internet technology. Judy Brady, assistive technology specialist at Anne Arundel County Public Schools in Maryland, noted that adequate funding is available for technology and teachers are working hard to “catch up” to tech-savvy students. “The students use the latest technology out of school, but in school they’re often in the 20th century,” she said.

Val Emrich, the district’s instructional technology manager, believes technology should be integrated into all areas of learning. “We can’t look at technology as a separate class anymore. It’s no longer just a piece of the pie. It’s an ingredient in all areas of education,” she said.

The county is now using conferencing software for high school students enrolled in a pilot calculus class. “Sometimes only a handful of students sign up for particular courses. Hiring a full-time teacher to visit a few students at various locations throughout the district is not always an efficient or cost-effective use of resources. With this software, students can be at different schools in the county and interact with the teacher and each other. It’s almost as if they’re in the same classroom. The community they’ve built is phenomenal,” Emrich said. “We hope to get to the point of using webcasts in the curriculum. As former U.S. Secretary of Education Dr. Rod Paige noted, the educational landscape has changed. If we don’t adjust to meet it, we’re missing the boat and so are the students,” she said.

_______________________________________________ 12 Through multimedia technology, students can welcome guest speakers into their classrooms, listen to rare lectures, or take virtual field trips anywhere in the word. The other day I read about a group of American students who were transported to the South Pole to interact with scientists. Now that’s cool!

Webcasting – “All the World’s a Stage”

In recent months, I’ve read umpteen riveting blogs, listened to gripping podcasts, and sat in on a video conference, but there’s nothing quite like being entertained with a webcast – especially when seeing and hearing your own grandchild singing The Farmer in the Dell with a brilliant twang!

Social networking has brought dynamic changes to the Internet, but the most dramatic seems to be a shift from communications and information to pure, homespun entertainment. And surprisingly, viewers worldwide are tuning in! That’s not to say webcasts haven’t gained ground in almost every other area. Just like blogs, podcasts, and video conferencing, the use of this powerful tool is being leveraged by nearly every sector of society.

Webcasting, or Internet broadcasting, uses the most advanced technology available to stream live audio and video over the Internet. It can be delivered to numerous people in “real time” as well as archived for later viewing. Although it’s a one-to-multiple paradigm, live webcasts can be interactive. Attendees sign in to let the presenter know who’s online. The presenter, sometimes called a host, can poll questions, take surveys, or seek other feedback, and viewers can text in comments.

Webcasting has been available on the Internet for some time, but until recently it’s been inaccessible and cost prohibitive for the home user. The richness of this multimedia forum is amazing, and it’s taking us to new realms. Technorati’s Derek Gordon noted, “People have been making home videos for years, but now they have a means of distribution that used to be controlled by a few people. Also, until recently it’s been extraordinarily expensive. But with the live web, anyone can now publish and distribute a video inexpensively, if not free. And the ability to attract and maintain an audience is really strong.”

Emerging Webcast Trends

In today’s ever-changing society, people are finding new ways to use online video technology. Have you ever missed your child’s soccer game because work commitments took you out of town? Some high schools and universities are now broadcasting live, reporting play-by-play coverage and scores from the field. What about the city council meeting you couldn’t make? Chances are that a broadcast has been archived for you to view on demand. The possibilities of staying connected are endless. I’ve read that even Santa Claus uses webcasts these days to reach hospitalized children who are too sick to leave their rooms or have visitors.

_______________________________________________ 13 People are also discovering innovative ways to connect with loved ones. My cousin Ryan Schwass often tours with Lazy D, a hip-hop rock band from Indiana. His grandmother in Illinois is in poor health and had never seen him take stage until recently when the band’s performance was webcasted from a Daytona Beach venue. Imagine what that meant to her!

As a long-distance grandmother myself, I was intrigued when reading about two elementary school teachers who use webcasts in their classrooms to connect students with their families during special projects and events. This concept is a “virtual” dream come true for those of us who can’t always be there.

For the past few days, I’ve immersed myself in a variety of online webcasts, and I’m overwhelmed with the diversity – from real estate spiels and how-to demonstrations to enlightening features on culture, science, and nutrition. Most memorable was a hearttugging story of a premature child’s struggle in life, a wee stranger worlds away who I’m sure has turned the very breath of viewers into the purity of answered prayers.

Anyone with a webcam or video recorder can share a daily pulse of thought or beat of heart while hosting a quality TV show and make it available for the world to view – and they say it’s stunningly simple. Keep in mind that most of these videos aren’t the painfully primitive home movies we were once forced to watch at family gatherings. The webcasts I’ve watched were extremely creative, and the content of business and professional webcasts was quite interesting and refined.

Although I haven’t produced my own show yet, I have “virtually” attended a party hosted during the holidays by my son who lives on the east coast. It was quite surreal to watch guests arrive in “holiday style” as I sat at my computer drinking a glass of wine while dressed in flannel jammies.

Once I signed in, familiar faces toasted me on screen, and I was able to text in my own well wishes. It’s a great option when separated by miles, but it has its drawbacks – like the tantalizing food within my view, especially the fried chicken, but not within my reach from the computer screen. (Technology still has a few kinks to work out.) Though webcasts can’t replace the genuine hugs from loved ones, there are some advantages. For instance, I didn’t have to buy a special dress for the occasion, and I could imbibe in a few glasses of wine without lining up a designated driver. Best of all, I simply said good night and within seconds was tucking myself into bed.

“Virtual” Congregations

On a recent afternoon, I watched one of Pastor Peter Migner’s devotional webcasts as viewers worldwide chimed in. Later he told me, “This cutting-edge technology is a great tool for broadcasting Sunday services or capturing video clips of mission trips. But I prefer hosting broadcasts that allow me to interact with participants so I can be personally connected while encouraging them through devotions and prayers.”

_______________________________________________ 14 Officiating a wedding, broadcasted live, is among his most memorable online experiences. “The bride and groom were able to share their joyous day with guests who couldn’t attend. Once word got out to family and friends, we had viewers from all over texting in their congratulations. The couple was giddy with excitement as they thanked them for joining in. And the ceremony was archived for later viewing,” he said.

The pastor feels blessed to have access to the latest technology. “I truly feel honored and privileged that God would use me, the pastor of a rural church, to be among the first in the world to share the Word of God through video over the Internet. With so many easyto-use tools, we can now reach more people in less time with little cost. It’s an example of what God can do through online video communications,” he expressed.

Business World Embraces Rich Media Platform

Businesses and corporations are also finding innovative ways to use webcasts, such as launching new products and services, training employees, or sending multimedia newsletters. For busy executives, this cost-effective, online forum alleviates travel expenses and time away from the office. Even niche businesses are using webcasts to promote everything from hair extensions to handcrafted canoe paddles. And they’re gaining recognition in global markets.

An increasing number of companies, such as travel agencies, stock brokers, and car dealerships, are reaching target audiences through webcasts which often boost their profile and generate revenue. Industry leaders, such as Caterpillar Inc., manufacturer of construction and mining equipment, diesel and natural gas engines, and industrial gas turbines, also recognize the value of streaming video solutions to enhance communications. Rachel Potts, media representative for the Peoria, IL-based company, produces Cat World Webcast, a bi-weekly streaming newscast that highlights the company’s people, products, processes, and other interesting stories.

One of the latest applications of webcasting can be seen in the real estate industry. Many realtors are now marketing investment properties through interactive webcasts, and they’re seeing incredible paybacks. It’s a great way for investors to see real estate and its surrounding area come to life. Also, it reduces the cost of printed material and travel time.

Brett Irby noted that a realtor in Virginia recently hosted a broadcast, and within 30 minutes it caught the attention of four potential investors in another state. Real estate broadcasts also focus on marketing statistics and trends as well as tips for homeowners who want to host a successful open house. “Traditionally, companies have had to hire out these video productions for the Internet, but with today’s technology most anyone can produce a live and interactive broadcast,” he said.

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Streaming Revolution Still in Its Infancy

As a child of the 1960s, I must admit that I was slow to accept all this new online technology. But once I did, it quickly became the lifeblood of my daily communications. Thinking back, it’s hard to imagine that I was ever enrolled in the old school of thought that questioned the need for all this “www” stuff and the “cold-call” e-mails.

However, once my sons grew up and moved away from home, the quicker I could connect with them the better. My heart started “e-pumping” its love across the miles without question. Over the years, as technology advanced, I’ve relished the chance to communicate with the grandkids and other family members through online videos – and options keep getting better!

Just think, 15 years ago hardly anyone had access to a computer or even heard of the Internet. Today, they’re as common as major appliances in many homes – not to mention the workplace. The broad scope of the World Wide Web staggers the mind. More than a billion people use the Internet to communicate, many of them through video. Yet, the streaming revolution is still in its infancy. The trend will continue as the world harnesses the power of online video communications, as new tools and applications become available.

Who would have thought that we’d someday be transmitting data, pictures, videos and voice all over the world – instantly from our desktops! Internet technology has truly shaped today’s communications from e-mails, instant messages, blogs and pods to hightech video conferencing and webcasts. Best of all, consumers can utilize all this technology and manage their entire digital lives with just one suite of products.

In the next 3-5 years, most everyone will be using some form of video communications, either from a desktop, laptop, or pocket computer, a cell phone or television. The only question is – are they going to pay for the service, or are they going to generate an income by providing it to others?

To learn more about using online video communications or profiting from them, contact:
Rich Schott 410-224-6780

Carol Martino, Peoria, IL, has been a professional writer for more than 25 years. Her articles have appeared in numerous newspapers, magazines, trade journals, and other publications in the United States, England, Australia and New Zealand.

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