Five Ways iTV Will Change Your Company

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Five trends will change the way corporations transfer knowledge to customers, employees and prospects.

From broadcasting to narrowcasting. Television stations mastered broadcasting. The next revolution is narrowcasting, and corporations that master it will have a powerful new way to capture and leverage their corporate knowledge. These interactive television channels will be available almost anywhere in the world, on demand, 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

The best way to understand this trend is to look at two examples from television. A classic example of broadcasting is NBC's "Today Show." This program contains a broad range of topics that appeal to a broad range of viewers. When you have a range of topics, you cannot go into depth on any particular topic. NBC covers just enough content on each topic to make it interesting. Then it moves to the next topic.

Dramatically different in format is The Golf Channel. It does not appeal to a broad range of viewers. It appeals only to a narrowly defined target market. The content is much narrower in focus. The Golf Channel can show 30 minutes of instruction on how to chip out of wet sand and its target market would find it valuable. In other words, broadcast content is a mile wide and an inch deep while narrowcast content is just the opposite, an inch wide and a mile deep.

When television first appeared, there were three or four channels. Cable brought us 50. Satellite brought us 500, and interactive TV is forecast to have 10,000 channels. With the Internet's endless capacity for channels and low cost of delivery, corporations will be able to create their own corporate channels. These will be highly focused channels containing deep and valuable content that will appeal to narrowly defined target markets.

Compelling content. With any new opportunity comes challenge. Interactive TV brings the opportunity for corporations to deliver high-value information to highly targeted groups, anywhere, anytime. To succeed, however, corporations will have to learn how to make their content much more compelling.

There is a huge difference between the bricks-and-mortar world and the virtual world. Consider that if you drive across town to an educational corporate seminar, you have made a time commitment and an emotional commitment. Because of the time commitment, you are not expected back in the office until later that day. The emotional commitment happens because someone invited you to the seminar, and chances are this person will greet you when you arrive.

Research shows that individuals rate 70 percent to 80 percent of the corporate seminars they attend as poor. However, because of the time and emotional commitment, most attendees do not leave.

This is drastically different in the virtual world. Much like television, when you sit down with the remote control and start clicking through channels, you have no time commitment and no emotional commitment to any particular channel. If you do not experience gratification within a few seconds, you leave by clicking on another channel.

To harness the power of interactive TV, corporations will have to create high value and highly compelling content. Imagine the last seminar you attended. Imagine if you were surfing through your television looking for information on a particular topic and you came across a televised version of that seminar. How long would you watch before you changed the channel?

Research shows that viewers will leave if they have not experienced value within 30 seconds. And that is only half the battle. To hold viewers' attention, corporations will need to maintain a balance of high-value content and entertainment.

Most people agree that the typical corporate presenter is dull and difficult to understand. Making content compelling will be a major challenge for corporate America.

TV PV. In the television, video and movie industry, PV is short for production value. If a show is beautifully produced, it is said to have good PV. This means all aspects of production were done correctly. Hundreds of details were planned and properly executed, including lighting, camera positions, blocking, set design, talent and scripting. As the television and Internet converge, the end result will look more like television.

Television is a highly refined medium that has evolved over 50 years. As corporations begin to put video in a window, viewers will judge the video based on television standards.

JIT learning. Just in time - or JIT- will become the predominant way that corporations teach, learn and transfer knowledge. Today the dominant way that corporations train is in classrooms. As corporations master interactive TV, training will migrate from the classroom to the desktop. Classroom training necessitates scheduled classes. Interactive TV archived on video servers will allow users to access the content they want, when they want it. Learning will shift from scheduled to JIT.

The ramifications of this trend are enormous. Corporations that master JIT learning will generally be smarter, faster and more productive than competitors that do not.

• Smarter. Imagine having the ability to capture victories, best practices and core competencies. Any time an employee achieved something that could be beneficial to the rest of the enterprise, you could take the employee into a studio, record the learning on video, allow her to attach related documents and make it available 24/7 as part of your digital knowledge base.

• Faster. Once you have started creating a digital knowledge base, when situations arise that require other employees to develop or master the same knowledge, they can search, view and learn in a fraction of the time that would have been previously required. This newly acquired asset will reduce the time it takes employees to come up to speed.

• More productive. Many employees say they prefer to learn at home, where there are fewer distractions. Cable modems and DSL lines have made high-speed connectivity affordable to the home user. I like to learn new things between 9 p.m. and 11 p.m. when the kids are in bed and the house is quiet. If there are other viewers out there like me, and a significant portion of training takes place from 9 p.m. to 11 p.m., corporations will experience a huge leap in productivity as workers train at night and remain productive revenue generators during the day.

Chunking. Speed, convenience and variety are the primary drivers of the Internet, and interactivity allows the Internet user to receive these benefits. Interactivity allows users to chart their own paths and find the content that is most interesting to them. In other words, Internet users "cherry pick" the Web to find the most valuable content in the least amount of time.

When was the last time you went to a Web site and started reading at the beginning and went through every page in order until you had read the entire site? Probably never. Unlike television, this trend does not change when viewers watch interactive TV. Rarely will an interactive TV viewer sit through a long-form 30-minute program. Unlike movies and books, interactive TV will rarely have a beginning, middle and end.

In order to make content consumable over the Net, corporations will need to learn how to break their content into chunks. An educational seminar that lasts 30 minutes will be broken into six to seven chunks that last approximately four to five minutes each. The typical viewer will scan the list of chunks, find the one that is most interesting and start there. If the chunk is bad, the viewer will leave the channel. If it is good, the viewer will select other interesting chunks. If the chunk is great, the viewer might start at the top and watch the whole show.

The Internet will eventually be bigger than television and radio. But this will only happen with the creation and integration of valuable, exciting, entertaining and engaging content. In Webcasting, you only have about five seconds to attract and retain viewers. Otherwise, you have lost them forever.


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