The third screen

Broadcast PR can be part of the portable video revolution.

Broadcast PR can be part of the portable video revolution.

The notion of portable video content has been commonplace in Asia and Europe for a few years. Even US-based electronics manufacturers have been dabbling with the idea.

Still, Apple's recent introduction of the video iPod will likely bring the concept to the critical masses. And this could bring even more attention to other mobile content devices, such as cell phones, PDAs, and Sony's PlayStation Portable.

Broadcasters are already taking advantage of this new platform. NBC and ABC have signed deals to make their respective network's signature shows, including Law & Order and Lost, available for download on iTunes. And CBS struck a deal to bring most of its shows, including Survivor and Late Night with David Letterman, to Verizon's Vcast multimedia service.

With such a change in the way consumers are viewing video, there are opportunities for broadcast PR tactics to be part of the revolution.

Tim Bahr, president of MultiVu, says the new mobile video platforms will definitely extend the reach of broadcast PR tools such as VNRs, b-roll, and SMTs. "It just affords another distribution platform and extends the value of what we are already doing," he notes.

In fact, MultiVu has already started to turn its clients' VNRs and b-roll into video podcasts that are available on iTunes and Yahoo. "We look at our business today as part TV, part internet, and now part wireless technology," he says.

Larry Moskowitz, president, chairman, and CEO of Medialink, says the adoption of mobile video will be explosive. "Every screen is a TV screen, be it your phone, PDA, or the screen at the office," he says. "It's a wake-up call to the continually technophobic PR industry. There's a powerful tool here."

Maya Burghardt, GM of On the Scene Productions, notes that mobile video could be an important development for the broadcast PR industry in particular. "We're primed for inclusion in this whole explosion," she says.

Content that connects

But incorporating existing broadcast PR tools into such a medium could be tricky. Because VNRs and similar tools are typically created with the jurisdiction of newsrooms in mind, there could be changes in what type of content will work for mobile video devices.

Moskowitz says the media industry's reputation only intensifies the need to reach out to consumers directly. "As we see the media lose more and more credibility...we must face the fact that the media don't have the importance that they had even a year ago," he says.

Indeed, Chris Cavello, VP of internet and specialized media for West Glen Communications, notes that clients are increasingly looking for a "one-on-one" connection with consumers.

Bahr says content for mobile video devices could be more in-depth than VNRs and b-roll. "When you take the news editor out of the equation, you can communicate more in a manner that isn't just what works best for TV news," he says. "You can start thinking about what [the consumer] wants to know."

Doug Simon, CEO of DS Simon Productions, agrees that content for mobile video devices will have to be dynamic enough to warrant downloading. "The content that's going to work will have to be focused on viewer value," he says. "Otherwise, no one will opt in."

As far as subject matter most suitable for mobile content, Bahr opines that entertainment will likely be the most popular, with finance and healthcare-themed content also doing well.

Moskowitz says anything that can be demonstrated - a new product, medical process, or new hire at a company - will benefit from the mobile video medium.

"I think news content will flourish under the direct-to-consumer model," says Shoba Purushothaman, CEO of the News Market, who also sees a huge opportunity for government agencies, especially those concerned with consumer education.

"There is no way a government or special interest group can ignore [this technology]," she says, adding that come election time, it may be common to see politicians delivering messages via mobile devices. "The AARP may not worry about reaching the iPod generation just yet, but I see other brands and groups being interested in that demographic."

And because there isn't the anti-commercial filter of the newsroom to factor in, content may be more commercial than what PR pros are used to, while still maintaining some of the same PR ideals, says Simon. "The messages and content will be less like traditional ads and more like PR," he adds. "Instead of the journalist being the gatekeeper, however, it's going to be the individual consumer."

"I don't know that it will have to be modified that much," Purushothaman says. "I think consumers are generally getting trained to be more selective in what they watch."

Getting good reception

Yet translating content made for TV screens to screens considerably smaller will require technical adjustments. "On a smaller screen, you'll want something that can play well," says Burghardt, adding that it will be important to avoid shots that are too wide. "Being particular in those details is what's going to help us jump onto that small screen."

Bill Daddi, president of Daddi Brand Communications, says mobile video content can be useful in helping to develop brand equity, if done correctly. "We have to find formats that are efficient in terms of communicating something over brief periods of time," he says.
 
He adds that the PR industry's experience in integrating messages into content make it a logical choice to benefit from a mobile video content explosion. "We're well positioned as an industry to use our skills and experience to integrate content," he says. "I think it just takes a change in mindset for this industry."

Purushothaman says the concept of mobile video could be a positive development for the broadcast PR industry in particular. "If you look at the video PR industry, it's been one of those bizarre anomalies. TV is still the dominant influencer, yet when you look at a typical PR strategy...video PR is an afterthought," she says. "The environment we're moving into now will force a major rethinking. All of these changes and shifts in the marketplace are going to pull video up the food chain in the PR budget."

Yet other marketing disciplines are likely to get involved as well. Moskowitz already cites interest from ad and media buying/planning firms. "TV is a medium that the ad industry has understood far better than the PR industry does," Purushothaman confirms. "There is no way ad agencies will stay on the sidelines."

Steve Lanzano, EVP and GM of media buying firm MPG, says the agency is taking a wait-and-see attitude as to how it will involve clients in mobile video. "The question is consumer acceptance," he says. "More and more agencies and clients are looking at any form of communication that gets the message out."

While certainly not mainstream yet, mobile video content is something that should be high on every PR pro's radar. "Podcasting and videocasting are phenomena that are here to stay," Purushothaman says. "They may not become dominant in 24 hours, but they are definitely a growing phenomenon."

And for an industry that has consistently been behind where technology is concerned, this may be an opportunity to be at the forefront.

"This should surely be part of a PR arsenal," says Moskowitz. "The industry should be waking up to this new dawn."


New platforms

Though the concept of portable video is still a developing one, there are already several products on the market designed precisely for this medium. Here's a handful:

Apple Video iPod
An updated version of its audio-only predecessor, this item comes in both 30 GB and 60 GB models and can hold as many as 15,000 songs, full-color art, and up to 25,000 photos, in addition to 150 hours of video. It features a 2.5-inch color display and a lightweight design. $299 and up

Archos Gmini 402
In addition to music storage, this miniature portable video player has 20 GB of memory, allowing for up to 80 hours of video storage. Its small size - just 5.6 oz - makes it easy to carry anywhere. $236-$372

Motorola E815
In addition to standard functions, this cell phone is equipped with Verizon's Vcast technology, which allows for viewing of streaming video. $299

Sony PlayStation Portable (PSP)
Primarily designed for gamers, this device also includes mobile video capabilities. A memory stick enables users to download both UMD and MP4 videos, which can be viewed on the device's 4.3-inch screen. Approximately $250

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