Publisher's Note: Now's the Time
While the economy means bad news for most businesses, those in the streaming media industry should prepare for a robust 2009.
I’m one of those people who listen to music when I write. I find that no matter what kind of music you listen to (or what you read, for that matter), you can always discover words of wisdom and inspiration if you pay attention. So when I sat down to put together this article and to think about what kind of theme we should do for the Sourcebook cover art, I turned to one of my favorite albums, Led Zeppelin II. In one of my favorite songs, "Ramble On," I came across a line that got me thinking:
"In the darkest depths of Mordor, I met a girl so fair. …"
Now, it might sound like a stretch, but it made me think about how so many people are down and negative on the current economic state (Mordor). What I found interesting about Robert Plant’s words in this song, so clearly based on J. R. R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings, is that Frodo Baggins does not meet a girl in his travels through Mordor in his quest to destroy the ring. So what did Plant mean? To me, the girl was a metaphor for inspiration, hope, and the courage to carry on in the face of unspeakable doom and evil—an opportunity and a will to change his world, Middle-earth, as never before. This inspired me to think about what our industry has gone through to get to where it is today and what role the economic downturn is playing.
I don’t think we really need a history lesson on the ups and downs of the internet industry or online video’s successes and failures over the last 10 years. We all understand that advances in technology and increased broadband adoption have helped online video grow, while the biggest setbacks have been self-inflicted by the companies that couldn’t resist promising more than they could deliver. But people still can’t help but wonder if business will slow in our space because of the economy. Before you make a call on that, let me ask a few questions:
—Are we seeing a reduction in the amount of video content being published online?
—Are we seeing a reduction in the amount of traffic to online video?
—Are we seeing a retraction in the ways online video is being accessed?
—Are we seeing a reduction in bitrates for delivering online video?
If you answer yes to any of these questions, then there’s an economic crisis in our industry. But the reality is that you can’t answer yes—just read the facts presented in the articles in this Sourcebook. Are we seeing a reduction in the size and number of companies in the space? Somewhat, but that’s not a bad thing. Our industry has always had an element of glitz and glamour that attracted companies that may not have had the best business models. To quote Sir Topham Hatt from one of my son’s favorite stories, Thomas the Tank Engine, all they did was "cause confusion and delay!"
We are going to see a clear path to tremendous growth in 2009 for the business of online video. Suppliers in our space will be more finely tuned to your needs and to their own business models, so performance and pricing will be sharp.
With TV manufacturers embracing built-in internet connectivity, we are bound to see a massive boom of consumption in the living room. Mobile technologies, albeit a political train wreck, are also showing exciting signs of promise and real growth. As for the monetization models that make all this possible, online video advertising has always been a moving target, but there’s no question how this will play out in 2009. Industry rates and delivery mechanics will be set by those companies that are making the deals. I don’t think we need a committee or an organization to "set the stage" in this arena; it’s happening already, and history is being written by the victors.
So forge ahead with your online video projects. There’s no contesting the competitive advantage it will bring your business, whether you are in the entertainment industry, corporate world, advertising, or education. In 2009, you’ll not be distracted as much by vendors with "great promise." You’ll be seeing real companies with real solutions, and it’s a good time to buy from companies with sharp pencils. I suggest you look very closely at those companies advertising in this year’s Sourcebook—there’s a reason they are here. The age-old question of who you can trust your business to is becoming much easier to answer. Hard times breed good companies and opportunity, and to me, that’s a bit of magic. Thus, the cover-art theme of this year’s Sourcebook.
The online video industry is in great shape. It’s never been better, and now is a great time! Just read this issue and judge for yourself. Of course, interpretation plays a big role in anything you read, discuss, or even hear in a classic rock song. It all comes down to how you deal with the information you are presented with. It’s no wonder there’s an "economic crisis" when all the major media tell us there is. All I see is a correction. So stay informed and try to walk with something positive you can apply to the moment. Let me leave you with some inspiring words of wisdom that I believe originated from Eleanor Roosevelt but, admittedly, came to my attention while watching Kung Fu Panda with my kids:
"Yesterday is History, Tomorrow is a Mystery, Today is a Gift—that’s why they call it The Present."