Editor's Note - Broadband Content: Business First, then Pleasure

I've historically remarked that one characteristic of valuable content is its relationship to the consumer's ability to take action as a result of consuming it. If there's a perceived value attached to a unique piece of content in relation to a decision that needs to be made, time saved, etc. then the buy-in is more likely. We're talking mission-critical content here. Typically, this exists in an enterprise environment. Also typical of this environment is a high-speed connection. Put these two together and you have an instant fit for broadband content. Many have lamented the slow adoption rate of high-speed access in the home-though this of course would be the jackpot for broadband content and its adjunct technologies-but waiting in the wings is the enterprise viewer.

Just take a look at Yahoo! and MSNBC.com. Both are proceeding full steam ahead with rich media offerings, and both offer business-related broadband content. Merrill Brown, MSNBC. com's editor in chief has commented that television missed the enterprise boat. Perhaps because TV is largely viewed as an entertainment-based medium, having one sitting on your desk might not be perceived as a terribly productive arrangement. So television has some social and cultural hurdles to jump if it ever wants to break into the corporate market. But not so broadband. Computers are obviously ubiquitous and high-speed access is the norm. Provide the right content tucked in the right standards and there's a ready-made audience waiting to buy in.

And let's not limit ourselves to content piped in from the open Web. There are plenty of behind the firewall applications as well. This issue's cover article by Philip De Lancie on page 20, "Streaming Content: Business Gets Its Feet Wet," addresses the fact that streaming technology vendors are enjoying a rapid adoption of rich media within the enterprise market. According to De Lancie, "For the same reasons that companies use tools such as videotape, CD-ROMs, laserdiscs, and DVD, streaming has a role to play in today's content-delivery mix. And, of course, the fact that streaming enables delivery over networks makes it difficult to ignore."

So whether it's internally generated and circulated or externally acquired, broadband content is certainly within reach of the enterprise market and, for the time being, this market is the low-hanging fruit for content producers and the technologies that enable it.

But it's not just about novelty-we shouldn't be viewing this stuff just because we can. What are the benefits of Web-based multimedia? Is it mission critical? Well, there's something to be said about the term "couch potato." I'm happy to admit that I'd rather sit at my desk first thing in the morning, slurping my coffee, while a news commentator tells me about the latest developments in whatever industry, supplemented by informative footage, rather than pour over the same news in a text-based format. And the novelty shouldn't be downplayed either. The fact that receiving information in a mulitmedia format is more "fun" is important-end-users have to want to do this stuff after all and if an engaging format makes consumption that much easier, then so be it.

Pricing? Well, that's another issue. I've heard both sides. One stating that if we simply get the content out there freely, more creative and compelling ad solutions will follow as revenue support. The other states that there are certainly premium packages that can be bundled that fit well into a subscription or pay-per-view plan. Perhaps the latter has greater utility in the entertainment market. But, hey, business before pleasure.