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Articles

New Approaches to Broadcast News Monitoring

Video and multimedia search has emerged as the Internet's new whizbang service, especially useful for broadcast monitoring and to search for video clips.

By
Bill Comcowich
President and CEO
CyberAlert, Inc.
www.cyberalert.com

This article may be reprinted in its entirety with byline.

Google (video.google.com) and Yahoo! (video.search.yahoo.com) both announced new video searching and broadcast news monitoring services. The new services enable searchers to easily find video clips on the Internet containing specific key words. The services monitor news stories on broadcast television by analyzing the closed caption text that accompanies television broadcasts. Closed caption, originally designed for use by the hearing impaired, displays text on screen of the words being spoken on air. Both services are now available online.

The new Yahoo! service, provided by TVEyes (www.tveyes.com), enables searchers to view streaming video files and obtain video clips of selected TV news broadcasts. The Google service shows still frames accompanied by the text of the closed caption.

In addition to monitoring TV news, services from Yahoo!, Blinkx (www.blinkx.tv),  SingingFish (www.singingfish.com), and YouTube (www.youtube.com) also search for audio and video files on non-broadcast Web sites, including corporate Web sites. Blinkx also performs video searches on a some entertainment Web sites.

At the present time, the new Google and Yahoo! services are quite limited in their TV broadcast news coverage. Yahoo! monitors only the BBC, Sky News, and Bloomberg. Google monitors Fox News Network, PBS and several local TV stations in the San Francisco area. Notably absent from coverage are cable news networks CNN and CNBC.

The new services are based on the search engine business model. That is, to obtain new results, the searcher must perform an online search by entering key words into a special video search box. Both the new services are free and will likely generate revenue in the future through key word advertising.

Even though their media coverage is limited and the presumed consumer-focused business model is not likely to appeal to most business customers, the new video monitoring and searching services from Google and Yahoo! are likely to challenge the established B2B players in broadcast monitoring. Most of these video monitoring services offer subscription services, monitoring a fixed set of key words for the client and delivering daily reports with text extracts of stories that have been aired containing each client's key words.

The largest (and usually most expensive) of these subscription services is Video Monitoring Service (VMS) of New York (www.vmsinfo.com), which is loosely affiliated with Burrelle's, the press clipping service. VMS monitors the closed caption text and also utilizes human viewers in several markets to type summaries of broadcasts. VMS monitors all the national TV networks and deploys video capture systems in about half the top markets to monitor news broadcasts on local TV channels. In addition to providing an extract of the text of the broadcast, VMS delivers video clips on VHS tape, DVD or downloaded digital files. Its offerings include online access to stored video clips.

Multivision(www.multivisioninc.com) is a national broadcast monitoring service that offers the added advantage of an online digital storage system for streaming video clips. The online system enables clients to monitor, watch, analyze and present their television content far more easily and efficiently than with DVDs or VHS tapes. Multivision offers coverage of the news broadcasts of all national TV networks, 75 cable stations and claims to provide 140 markets of local coverage in their video news monitoring network.

Medialink (www.medialink.com) and Vocus (www.vocus.com) also offer national TV broadcast monitoring services. The Medialink TeleTrax™ service is positioned as an international digital rights management service.

Local and regional TV broadcast monitors exist in almost all reasonably large cities and metropolitan areas of the U.S - and sometimes provide more comprehensive monitoring of local TV stations than the national monitoring companies. Some local monitoring companies cover multiple markets, such as Metro Monitor (www.metromonitor.com) which monitors local TV stations in 27 metropolitan areas in the Southeast.

A list of local and regional broadcast monitoring services can be found on the Web site of the International Association of Broadcast Monitors (www.iabm.com), organized by state. The IABM membership also includes broadcast monitoring companies in international markets including Canada, UK, France, Spain, Eastern Europe, Japan, South Africa, Mexico, South America, Australia and New Zealand.

Many of these local broadcast news monitoring companies have banded together into two "cooperatives" which each day aggregate the closed caption text from each of their members, thereby enabling the local broadcast monitoring companies to provide national news coverage of broadcast news. The two cooperatives are National Data Service (http://www.newsdataservice.com/) and iNewsNetwork (www.iNewsNetwork.com) which includes international TV news broadcast coverage.

Most local monitoring companies offer monthly subscriptions to business customers, automatically conducting daily searches of the customer's key words and delivering a daily report containing a list of all broadcast stories found during the previous 24 hours containing the clients key words in closed caption text. The local broadcast monitoring services generally charge lower prices than the national services for equivalent services such as daily reports, transcripts, and video clips on VHS, DVD or downloaded digital files.

In addition to Blinkx and TVEyes, there are at least two other TV news monitoring companies offering online delivery of streamed TV news clips. Critical Mention (www.criticalmention.com) now covers national network news broadcasts and is scheduled to roll out coverage of local TV stations in the coming year. ShadowTV (www.shadowtv.com) is still another entrant into digital monitoring of TV broadcasts. All of these companies offer near real-time online access to streamed video clips for a monthly subscription fee. All, however, are presently limited in their coverage of local TV stations.

Since all these services rely on closed-captioning to identify key words, the services miss purely visual references to companies and their brands in news broadcasts. For example, a celebrity being interviewed about a new movie may be shown drinking a Pepsi®. But, because the word "Pepsi" is never uttered, the closed-caption text contains no mention of Pepsi and the clip would not be delivered by most currently-available broadcast monitoring services.

Closed captioning of news broadcasts is also notoriously incomplete and often inaccurate, frequently missing dialog and misspelling proper names, resulting in missed clips.

Closed captioning is not available in most countries outside the U.S. Media monitoring companies outside the U.S. generally rely on human monitors who type summaries of the audio. The summaries often include visual references to companies or brands. Some companies including TVEyes and Blinkx are experimenting with voice to text software to automate the transcription process. To this point, the quality of voice to text software is not accurate enough (especially with proper names) to offer consistently reliable, automated transcription of TV broadcasts.

It is also possible to monitor TV broadcasters through their websites, by utilizing an Internet monitoring service such as CyberAlert (www.cyberalert.com) which monitors the web sites of more than 1,500 national TV networks and local TV stations and more than 500 additional TV networks and local stations internationally in 250+ languages. The CyberAlert 5.0 news monitoring service also monitors the web sites of approximately 150 all-news radio stations in the U.S. and Canada.

Radio remains a weak link in broadcast monitoring. The leading radio broadcast monitoring service is National Aircheck (www.national-aircheck.com), quite probably the only national radio monitoring service. Speechbot (www.speechbot.com), a research project of HP Labs, monitors audio from a selected set of public affairs, entertainment, sports, and talk Web sites.

Bottom line: A comprehensive media monitoring and measurement program for corporate public relations, marketing and competitive intelligence should include all media - especially since TV, cable and the Internet have largely supplanted print as the primary source of news for most consumers. In addition to using a press clipping service, most businesses and national not-for-profit organizations should also be utilizing the services of a broadcast monitoring and an Internet monitoring service.

Finally, a related observation on the use of video in public relations and marketing: Given the new ability of search engines to identify and display video files, the use of video programs in corporate web sites is expected to accelerate greatly in the coming year. With the likelihood of greater online accessibility of video files resulting from the availability of video search engines and more consumers using broadband connections to the Internet, the imagery and emotion of video programs will become powerful online tools to tell corporate and brand stories.

Additional insight on monitoring broadcast news is available in an in-depth article "New Approaches to Television Archiving" by Jeff Ubois, available at www.firstmonday.org/issues/issue10_3/ubois/index.html

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