Is the Enterprise Ready for Its Close-Up? Making a Business Case for Corporate Multimedia

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Richer Issues
Being a media mogul isn't easy, particularly if you are just the corporate content manager with Rupert Murdoch aspirations. Rich media introduces new layers of content production, management, and distribution complexity that many companies don't anticipate. "It seems enticingly easy when they get it in the door, but they don't understand what they've got," says Citigroup's Welch. In some cases, companies need to manage studios, and of course all of those massive media files that need storage and search tools. Making rich media tools accessible to all does indeed empower new cadres of in-house experts to make valuable training media, but at the same time it can create an unruly mob of independent producers. Prescribing who is allowed to make what media and where, when, and to whom it can be distributed suddenly becomes an important issue when everyone can make a briefing video. Even modest rich media like narrated slide shows require sign-offs from the legal and communications departments, at the very least. And then there is bandwidth. What happens when everyone hits the server at once to see their CEO's latest utterance?

Enterprise rich media also is not just about pretty video footage. Managers find that multimedia works best when tied to other documents and images that move to the viewer at the right times in a presentation, assets the employee often keeps and uses. Without good tagging and search tools, those lush assets are useless. "The efficiency there is, you are tying existing content with new content you are generating," says Patrick Ryan, VP of sales at Virage. "The challenge is, how do I create and manage rich media archives? How do I ascertain the value by bringing rich media together with other types of content?" Virage has made a name in the enterprise for automating the capture and indexing of rich media assets so that they can be turned around quickly for re-use. Its video logger software extracts metadata from a video stream as well as transcripts using speech to text technology. Virage software can use that metadata to locate a specific minute within an archived feed and call up the other assets tied to that moment of the presentation. Kimberley Osberg, president of TrustedMedia, agrees that the future of enterprise rich media is way beyond pretty movies and lies in pulling diverse media together so that people work more efficiently. "You are going to see a lot of movement in synchronized document management bases. They enable people to have data sets where Powerpoints or documents are delivered; everything they need to do their job is updated on a regular, secure basis."

In the last few years, old and new content production and management solutions have rushed in to satisfy this exploding need. Brainshark, for instance, specializes in a Web-based service that lets Caputo's staff make multimedia presentations themselves but also keeps the rich assets stored at Brainshark and not the home servers. Caputo can send clients and end users to these servers to grab the data they need, but she can also select who sees what and then track usage to do assessment. In this case, Factiva gets is rich media without expanding bandwidth and resources in-house. "It's not our business to do this, and the price is so advantageous," she says.

Pushing rich media around a network as blithely as you would a Word doc is nice in theory, but it creates bandwidth issues even at a company like Cisco, "and they sell routers," Osberg points out. "Streaming doesn't solve everything. If your [servers] are hit hard, you're screwed." Her company's TrustCast manages rich media delivery. Her system can put specific employees on media distribution lists so that they are not streaming content from a server when they want, but get content delivered to their client on a schedule that is more manageable for the network. "You can keep your load at manageable levels, and the media is delivered at higher bit rates," she says.

If rich media is becoming such a valuable competitive edge for companies, then locking down our Corp TV is critical. Most rich media management systems control access privileges, but some companies are demanding government-grade secrecy. TrustedMedia's answer was fully encrypting media at the point of production and storage so that it can de-code only on the fly to a client device that has a matching key. "It's controlling how the media flows," says Osberg. "It's not hard to store media; it's hard to protect media and manage its distribution."

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