eWebcasting as Smooth as TV With SMIL

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Synchronized Multimedia Integration Language can turn your Webcasting presentations into television-like experiences for your Web visitors.


SMIL (pronounced "smile") was developed by the World Wide Web Consortium's Synchronized Multimedia Working Group to allow the synchronization of audio, video, text and graphics in Web-based presentations. It was expressly developed to enhance the quality of streaming media and can support multiple types of data, compression algorithms and bandwidth environments. It was designed so that anyone familiar with HTML and some XML could employ it to create television-like presentations.


You are probably asking yourself, "What does this technospeak have to do with me?" If you create Web-based advertising and would like to offer your clients a compelling new way to deliver it, this has a lot to do with you. If you are a Web site owner looking to showcase your products and services with economical elegance, this has a lot to do with you, too.


Why? Because the Web is inherently interactive and visitors can follow the links embedded in a SMIL presentation directly to your Web site. There they can obtain additional information or, more importantly, be taken directly to an order form for the product or service described in that presentation.


So how can you put SMIL to work for you?


In the entertainment industry, an entertainer wants his visitors to know where and when he will be performing. Scroll the schedule of his club dates next to the window playing a video clip of his specialty. As he sets his performance schedule for future dates, the clip can be quickly updated to reflect this. Include some text advertisements from the clubs involved, give their "live" URLs and let them help pay for the production.


When selling real estate, photographs or slides taken with a digital camera can be coordinated with an audio commentary and text. Tell your potential clients about the geographic area, the schools, recreational opportunities and transportation situation. Place commercial messages from merchants in the area, with live links to their Web sites, into the presentation and generate additional revenue to defray some of the costs.


For corporate trainers, courses can be devised that integrate voice and images. Live links can be introduced to take the students to other sites and information pertinent to the material being taught. Keep updated company policies online and couple them with news items and other materials relevant to the employees. Motivational trainers can use text, audio and video to sell their training materials when their audience is most inclined to buy.


E-commerce sites can show photos of the product range with an audio track discussing each product as it appears. Use this in conjunction with text to take your visitors directly to the order form for the product while they are eager and motivated to purchase. Work with merchants of complementary products; generate revenue by placing ads for their goods throughout your presentation.


Companies that offer services can show slide presentations timed so that bullet points come up in sequence on the screen at specified time intervals. These could change color as the presenter moves from point to point. Testimonials could scroll as you discuss your customer satisfaction policies. Restaurants could show a clip of the chef preparing his signature meal while the recipe is read or scrolled for the visitor.


Streaming and SMIL are integral components of rich media, which is in the spotlight as traditional advertisers, losing faith in the tried-and-true banner advertising campaign, start to hop aboard the streaming bandwagon.


As these advertisers shift their emphasis from banner click throughs to ads used specifically for branding, greater emphasis will be placed on rich media. With rich media, there are numerous opportunities to present the complexities of branding that cannot be done with static banners -- greater interactivity, sound, motion and the ability to display creatives in a larger space. As this occurs, SMIL will become the key to making these ad campaigns an entertaining and "smooth as television" experience.


Think about TV news. It's straightforward information about the events of the day. But today's sophisticated audiences demand more than just talking heads on their TV screens. So the news is packaged as entertainment, with music and graphics to grab the eyes and ears of viewers. When advertisers realize that Web surfers are seeking this same experience, there will be a rush to duplicate this on the Internet.


• Ronni Rhodes is owner of WBC Imaging, Oro Valley, AZ. Reach her at Ronni@wbcimaging.com.

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