Information in motion

GovWorks, a governmentwide acquisition services center, this month will launch an online marketing campaign that will use streaming video to publicize its telecommunications offerings.

The center, run by the Interior Department's Mineral Management Service, is one of the first federal government customers for Biznews24, which last month created a group to work with federal customers on streaming video applications.

The company is targeting agencies that are considering traditional mailings, e-mail distribution, costly satellite teleconferencing or live meetings to deliver information such as policy statements, detailed reports, job tutorials or training manuals.

Interest in streaming video has been spurred by a desire to cut the need for travel and avoid the headaches of screening traditional mailings in the wake of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and last year's anthrax scare, according to observers. "I think [businesses and agencies] are more open to experimenting with this than they were before," said Daniel O'Brien, a senior analyst at Forrester Research Inc.

For GovWorks, Biznews24 will produce and deliver the multimedia marketing campaign to as many as 10,000 telecom decision-makers in the federal government, said Beth Owen, business specialist for GovWorks. The company will deliver e-mail messages with links to material on the GovWorks Web site.

Owen said the center is producing a prerecorded video message from its procurement chief explaining telecom services offered through the center. "Instead of direct mail, we like the more personal qualities that come with the [Biznews24] product," she said. "We're able to be a lot more aware of our customer. After [Sept. 11], direct mail is no longer an attractive option."

To view the type of presentation Biznews24 will deliver for GovWorks and other clients, end users need nothing more than a Web browser with a media player, such as RealNetworks Inc.'s RealMedia, according to Paul Miller, director of Biznews24's Federal Solutions Group. And the Web-based presentations can include more than streaming video. Biznews24 synchronizes Microsoft Corp. PowerPoint or other presentations to run with video presentations and can also produce live or prerecorded multimedia events.

"As the volume of communications, training materials, information videos and government agency video footage grows ever larger, it becomes imperative to have the capability to store, manage, search and retrieve relevant information quickly and easily," said analyst Paul Ritter, program manager for Internet market strategies at the Yankee Group.

Ritter said the Yankee Group forecasts that U.S. spending on streaming media solutions, software and services will approach $6 billion by 2005.

But the technology does not come without challenges. Miller said bandwidth should not be a problem for federal agencies delivering presentations to internal users, because those users usually are connected to high-speed networks.

But some agencies might want to avoid a bandwidth crunch by delivering presentations to different user groups at different times. Agencies also will have to determine how to set up their firewalls to maintain their integrity while the presentations run, he said.

Forrester's O'Brien said agency officials who are serious about frequently using rich-media presentations might have to decide whether to invest in their own production studios. And agencies should be aware that creating multimedia presentations can be an involved process that includes planning and determining how to measure results. "It's not as simple as pointing a camera at somebody and recording it into RealMedia," he said.

Tillett is a freelance writer based in Arlington, Va.


Information on demand

Biznews24 touts its solution as one that offers a "closed loop."

Paul Miller, director of the company's Federal Solutions Group, said "closed loop" means that Biznews24 can assist customers with scriptwriting, offer studio production of presentations, deliver e-mails that invite participants to the multimedia "events," create such online events, provide analyses that show who attended the events and for how long, and collect feedback from participants.

"So we end up closing the loop on the communications instead of sending out thousands of training manuals and having no idea whether anybody's reading them," Miller said.

Users can produce an event for less than $10,000 or for several hundred thousand dollars, depending on the level of services they require. Miller said the company should be listed on the General Services Administration schedule by September.

The Biznews24 federal group also plans to provide software tools that will enable agencies to pull together existing content to create and manage their own multimedia presentations. In fact, growth in the volume of agency-held information could fuel adoption of streaming media technology.


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