PR TECHNIQUE: VNRs - Launching your VNR into cyberspace. Although Web video isn’t yet broadcast quality, companies are beginning to put their VNRs on the Internet. Why are they doing it? Jonathan Blum uncovers some good reasons

Companies are beginning to place their video news releases on the Web - even though current technology can’t offer anything even close to TV quality. But, still, there are some good reasons to do it.

Companies are beginning to place their video news releases on the Web - even though current technology can’t offer anything even close to TV quality. But, still, there are some good reasons to do it.

Companies are beginning to place their video news releases on the

Web - even though current technology can’t offer anything even close to

TV quality. But, still, there are some good reasons to do it.



Some companies are using the Internet as a way to generate interest for

their stories by previewing them. ’It serves the ’did I miss, do I need,

can I use’ this feed issue - and it is proving popular,’ says Mark

Dembo, senior vice president of sales and marketing at West Glen

Communications.



The process is simple. VNR companies take the clip and encode it on a

computer server. Reporters simply log online and point a browser at the

VNR site to view a low-resolution version of a clip.



But low-resolution images are going to be a limitation for the near

future.



’As a delivery tool, we see the Internet being at least a few years

away,’ says Dembo.



When putting your VNR on the Web, one early decision to make is whether

you will allow users to download it or whether you will merely ’stream’

it. If you want the user to be able to reproduce the release (for

example, for use on its own Web site) then you should allow downloading.

Otherwise, streaming lets visitors quickly view the VNR by delivering it

to the Web site in sections.



But beware: one danger of allowing your release to be downloaded is that

groups opposed to your company’s message can use/edit it for their own

purposes. A way to address that problem is to put the VNR on a

third-party site that requires journalists to register to download (or

require registration on your own site).



Another decision to make is what software to use for encoding the

VNR.



The most popular are Windows, Real-Video and QuickTime (for the Mac).

If, for example, your product or service is aimed at heavy Mac users

(say programmers for Apple-compatible software), you should use

QuickTime. But there’s little reason not to make your VNR available in

all formats.



Another important technical consideration is whether to outsource the

’hosting’ of the site. If you post a story that many media outlets will

be interested in, you could have a repeat of the Victoria’s Secret

fiasco, in which so many people wanted to see the webcast of the

lingerie company’s fashion show that the site crashed. It’s possible to

outsource at least the overflow of what your site can’t handle. In any

event, it’s crucial to learn from your systems people how much traffic

your site can handle.



Another application to broadcast journalists previewing VNRs on the Web,

is print journalists who use them to write stories. This would appear to

be a new market for VNRs, though Gail Cottman, president of National

Satellite/Production Media Service in Los Angeles, says she’s been

beaming VNRs into print newsrooms for years.



There are also Internet-centric reasons for posting VNRs on the Web.



Media sites have proliferated in the past 18 months; according to one

survey, there are about 6,000 up and running now.



Medialink and Business Wire recently rolled out a new Internet joint

venture called Newstream.com. The companies want to be the one-stop shop

for content-hungry web sites, journalists and producers. With a staff of

around 100, a brand-new production facility and a proprietary contact

list of outlets, Newstream.com expects to satisfy the media demands of a

large portion of the Internet.



’There is no question this is the beginning of an essential new business

model,’ says Medialink president Larry Moskowitz. His idea is that

content will be gobbled up by an untouched audience: people at work. ’We

plan to bring the greatest means of communication ever invented, the

moving image, to the cubicles and the Mahogany rows of America,’

Moskowitz says.



And he isn’t the only one thinking big online. Jeff Wurtz, VP at News

Broadcast Network, says he likes to think of the Web as a fabulous

placement opportunity for the right story to be pushed to the right

outlet at the right price. ’One big reason why we are online is to

experiment with cutting-edge technology,’ he says. ’That includes

measuring how a story did, presenting that story in interesting ways and

offering the service to our clients for a reasonable sum.’



Another good use of the Web for VNRs is for global stories. For example,

when the Pope released a CD, Cottman’s company put video on Sony’s and

the Vatican’s web sites.



Yet, not everyone agrees that it’s important to put your VNR on the

Web.



’There is a huge cultural gap that will have to be overcome before my

clients take a VNR off the web,’ says Jack Trammel, president of VNR One

Communications, an Austin, TX media firm. ’I cannot stress enough how

overstated the web is right now as a practical day-to-day news

tool.’



West Glen’s Dembo says, ’Clearly the key to the future of the VNR as a

delivery tool will be full broadband.’ But that’s years away, most

experts agree. In the meantime, PR pros will no doubt continue to come

up with new reasons to put releases on the Web.



DOS AND DON’TS



DO



1 Try to make your VNR available in as many formats as possible.



2 Make your VNR downloadable if you want the user to ’repurpose’ it.



3 If you’re worried about groups opposed to your message, put your VNR

on a third-party Web site that requires journalists to register (or

require registration on your own site).



DON’T



1 Neglect the B-to-B market for Web VNRs - most people are on the

Internet at work.



2 Post a newsworthy story without having enough server power to handle

the traffic. Journalists won’t like it if your site crashes and they

can’t access it.



3 Forget the cardinal rule of broadcast VNRs - make sure the release

contains a good story, not just puffery.



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