Law Blog Takes Off

Software Solutions: On the `Net, Not in the Box

A New Company Built for Vlogging

Sermons to Go

Princeton University Embraces Podcasts

Corrections or additions?

These articles by Kathleen McGinn Spring, Michele Alperin, and Karen

Hodges Miller were prepared for the January 4, 2006 issue of U.S. 1

Newspaper. All rights reserved.

Business Survival 2006: The Internet — For Fun, But Also

For Real

Everyone is on the Internet at work – maybe conducting research, or

E-mailing clients, but also shopping, watching movie trailers and live

ball games, and reading the newspaper, and looking for dates. Workers

are finding new ways to use the Internet every day, sometimes for

personal reasons, sometimes for fun – and occasionally even for work.

Now employers are finding new ways to use the Internet as well, not as

a time waster, but rather as a revenue booster. Doctors and lawyers

are turning to blogs, which are basically online journals in the form

of a running commentary with links to further information, as a way to

gain exposure, find new patients or clients, and build a reputation –

all at a tiny fraction of the cost of putting out a newsletter.

Marketing firms are offering to put together daily blogs for clients

who don’t have the time to use this medium themselves, but who are

finding alternatives such as custom magazines prohibitively expensive

and not very effective.

Video casting, long promoted as a way to cut business travel by

substituting desktop meetings for trips to far-flung branch offices

and clients’ locations, appears to be ready for prime time thanks to

new software and increasing adoption of high-bandwidth Internet

connections. Once so jerky and fuzzy that it was more an annoyance

than a business tool, the technology combines audio and video to

create a virtual meeting may finally be here.

At the same time, "vlogging" is showing early promise as a whole new

advertiser-supported medium, and also a way for artists and other

professionals to build a following. Similar to blogging, vlogging adds

a moving image to a message. Individuals can create and edit vlogs on

their own, or they can turn to new companies, including one just

launching in the Princeton area, to handle everything from editing to

hosting – all at no cost.

Meanwhile, podcasting, vlogging’s audio counterpart, is being used to

build business, cement client relationships, and pull in advertising

revenue. A podcast can be anything from a movie review to a sermon to

commentary on a recent Supreme Court ruling. It can be a few minutes

long or can stretch to hours. The medium was given a big boost in July

when Apple launched a free podcasting directory. Anyone can post on

it, and anyone can access all of the material at no cost on a one-time

basis or can subscribe to a particular podcast and receive each new

installment by E-mail. Area organizations ranging from law firms to

churches are already podcasting.

All of these Internet off-shoots are in their infancy, prompting

adventurous entrepreneurs and established companies alike to find ways

to turn them into profitable ventures. But while vlogging, blogging,

and podcasting will become businesses for some, they are surprisingly

inexpensive, easy-to-use tools ready for any business to use.

So young are these technologies that their names are only now starting

to spread the way that "E-mail" did just over a decade ago, back in

the days before Amazon and Ebay, when the word "spam" conjured up only

an image of unappetizing canned meat. Already, though, the name of one

of these new technologies has become the "word of the year" in the New

Oxford Dictionary.

Top Of Page
Law Blog Takes Off

When Richard DeLuca became director of business development at the law

firm of Stark & Stark on Lenox Drive in May, 2004, he brought a

question with him. "How am I going to market better?" he recalls

thinking. He soon had a one-word answer: blogging. The online

discussions of legal issues and news would be helpful, he reasoned,

because "more and more clients are using the `Net to search for legal

information." With a blog, it is easy to put out this information on a

timely basis.

DeLuca, a Rutgers graduate (Class of 1998), was emboldened to suggest

the concept a good year before most people had even heard of it, he

says, because "Stark & Stark understands technological changes." Still

he met with a lot of "what’s that? what’s that?" reactions. Now, less

than 18 months after the firm’s first blogs appeared online, he has

attorneys waiting their turns to post blogs – and to turn them into

podcasts.

Stark & Stark is one of only two New Jersey firms that are blogging –

Lowenstein Sandler is the other. "I’m surprised more aren’t doing

this," says DeLuca. His explanation is that "change is at glacial

speed for law firms."

The upside of blogging for Stark & Stark has been huge. "We’ve had

about 55,000 visits," says DeLuca, "and many are repeat visits." The

firm is finding that many of its blog readers are returning five, six,

seven, or eight times. Many attorneys in the firm, all of whom sign

their blogs, have gained clients as a direct result of the blogs.

Blogging attorneys have also been contacted by newspapers for

interviews on their areas of expertise. "We’ve had eight media

placements as a result of reporters reading the blogs," he says.

Beyond the added exposure, one of DeLuca’s figures in support of blogs

is bound to strike a chord with business of all kinds.

"We had E-newsletters before we had blogs," he says. "The annual cost

of blogs is one-tenth the cost of the newsletters." The firm, he adds,

no longer publishes the newsletters.

Between 30 and 40 of Stark & Stark’s attorneys blog regularly. The

firm’s first blog was on traumatic brain injury. It was written by

Bruce Stern, a specialist in that area of law. Following the standard

format for this new medium, Stern’s posts are short – just a paragraph

or two – and point the reader toward more information.

A recent post about protective soccer head gear, for example, links to

a letter from the president of a local Pee-Wee soccer association

writing on the subject. It is part of an ongoing discussion on the

blog about possible changes to soccer safety regulations. Other topics

on the blog include news of a new acute care facility in California,

new motorcycle helmet regulations in Ohio, and medical advances in the

treatment of head injuries. Everything is succinct, topical, and of

interest to those who have suffered brain injury or who litigate on

their behalf.

Stern’s is a standalone blog. The firm’s other blogs are aggregated

under the heading "Law Blog" (www.njlawblog.com). The main page of the

blog mixes areas of practice, but links to postings in 15 legal

specialties march down the left-hand side of the page. Someone

interested only in one area, perhaps environmental, real estate, or

employment law, can go directly to the blog for that specialty.

As is common with all blogs, the Stark & Stark blogs contain lists of

links to other Internet sites that would probably be of interest to

readers. They also allow for questions and comments and give the law

firm the ability to filter out any irrelevant or obnoxious postings,

functions that are also near-universal in blogs. Unlike many less

sophisticated blogs, those posted by Stark & Stark have a search

function. It is more common for blogs to just archive past posts,

sometimes by topic, sometimes not.

From a marketing standpoint, a big plus for blogs is that they make it

easy for anyone to get them by subscription. Just click on a link, and

each new blog is delivered to an E-mail inbox. This makes blogs vastly

preferable to E-newsletters, says DeLuca, because they are, by nature,

opt-in. No one who doesn’t specifically ask for the blogs will get

them. Superior psychologically to E-newsletters, which are often seen

as spam, they are also superior technologically, he says, because they

zip right through any spam filters totally unmolested.

Another upside to blogs is that they make it easy to measure results.

Counters on blog websites compute number of visitors and even track

where they come from. Are they clicking over from another site, from a

search engine, or maybe from a newspaper site? The counter knows. Are

they coming back again and again? The counter knows that too. New

business is also easy to track. Blog visitors may start up a

relationship with an attorney right in the blog by, for example,

asking questions. There is a link to each attorney’s bio and contact

information right on the blog, making it easy for potential clients –

or reporters in search of a source – to get in touch by phone too.

Members of his firm who blog spend about one to one-and-a-half hours a

week on updates, says DeLuca. He conducted training sessions soon

after he introduced the new communication tool, but says that it is

incredibly easy to master blogging. How hard is it? "It’s like writing

an E-mail," he says.

Last summer DeLuca added a new wrinkle to the blogs by turning some of

them into podcasts, which, basically, are just audio versions of the

blogs. Through an incredible coincidence, Stark & Stark’s podcasts

went live on July 1, the very day that I-music giant Apple also became

the world’s I-audio giant by unveiling a vast catalog of free podcast

downloads on its iTunes website. As one of only a handful of legal

podcasters, Stark & Stark comes up right away on an iTunes search. It

has posted 19 podcasts to iTunes (a totally free service for both

posters and listeners) and they have already been downloaded more than

8,000 times.

Like all podcasts posted on iTunes, the Stark & Stark legal updates

can either be listened to on the website (www.apple.com/itunes) or can

be downloaded to an iPod MP3 player.

DeLuca says that the results for his new media initiatives "blow away"

the numbers for E-newsletters, which were, after all, new media

themselves way back in the beginning of the 21st century. He also

shares his favorite E-marketing websites – both of which, probably not

coincidentally, are blogs. They are Digg (www.digg.com), which is all

about new media, and Micro Persuasion (www.micropersuasion.com), the

blog of PR superstar Steve Rubel, who, in early-December posted a note

on the New Oxford Dictionary’s decision to crown "podcast" as its 2005

word of the year.

— Kathleen McGinn Spring

Stark & Stark, 993 Lenox Drive, Building Two, Lawrenceville 08648.

John A. Sakson, Lewis J. Pepperman, co-managing partners.

609-896-9060; fax, 609-896-0629. E-mail: info@stark-stark.com. Home

page: www.stark-stark.com

Top Of Page
Software Solutions: On the `Net, Not in the Box

Generating less buzz than the niftily named blogs, vlogs, and podcasts

are next generation software products. With Microsoft’s recent

introduction of its Live family of products, it appears that software

too is setting up shop on the Internet, rather than in shrink-wrapped

packages on store shelves.

David Spivak is the founder of Hightstown-based Design Solutions, a

company with a specialty in building functionality into websites. He

says that there are a number of new ways that employers can make their

offices’ Internet terminals, which are already enriching employee’s

work days, enrich their companies as well.

"A creative mind can think of tons of uses for the Internet," he says.

"Some of them are obvious, some not so obvious." Spivak founded his

company in "the mid-1980s, just before the computer revolution." He

received his degree in art from Parsons School of Design, and says he

is glad that he learned his craft before the computer age. "I’m

grounded in the basics," he explains. When computers and the Internet

came along, he was ready to learn something new and adapt it to his

business, which has five full-time employees and two part-time

employees.

There are countless other ways to use the Internet, he says. Some are

already common in larger company, while others are brand new. Here are

some tasks that can now be handled over the Internet. Most are not as

much fun as looking at the dating possibilities offered by Match.com,

tracking bids on eBay auctions, or finding hot bargains on

Overstock.com, but all can keep employees busy boosting the company’s

bottom line.

Job tracking. This is an Internet application that Spivak himself uses

every day in his own business. Job tracking, he explains, allows his

employees to log onto a website and chart his progress on a task, and

see what he should be doing next. "When someone finishes a project, he

can log on and see what the next scheduled project is," says Spivak.

The site includes the date the job needs to be completed and the type

of work that needs to be done. Employees can see which jobs most suit

their talents or can jump onboard to help colleagues finish up a

project that is nearing deadline.

Often several employees are working simultaneously on different parts

of the same job. For example, he says, his company recently finished

work on a game project. Every portion of the project needed to be

coordinated, and job tracking allowed different staff members to

easily work on different portions of the job, such as packaging

designs, gameboard, or card designs.

While job tracking has not totally eliminated the need for staff

meetings, Spivak says it has freed him to work on other areas of his

business. "I’m the sales arm of the company," he says. "With job

tracking it is much easier for the office to function without me being

right there all the time."

Not only can employees log onto the job tracking site, but Spivak’s

clients can also receive a password that allows them to look at their

own job and see its progress.

Medical records. Spivak suggests that doctors can use the Internet in

several ways, including putting medical records on the `Net (password

protected, of course), where they can easily be sent to a referring

physician for a second opinion. X-rays, MRIs, or CAT scans could also

be put on a website so that several consulting physicians could look

at them – all at the same time – from different locations.

Online tech support. The Internet is a great way to offer technical

assistance to customers, says Spivak, who suggests that "little movies

showing how to install or repair something are a great way to help

customers."

Sales support. The Internet is ideal for "cross selling," says Spivak.

Companies can easily track what types of items a customer purchases,

then make special offers or coupons that are personalized for the

customer’s needs.

Custom tailored buying incentives. Spivak mentions a Manhattan-based

florist who wanted to offer delivery service nationwide. "He was able

to limit the range of choices the client could make by zip code," he

says. Clients in nearby zip codes could order from the entire range of

offerings. Clients who lived farther from the store’s base had fewer

choices.

In addition, the florist could offer discounts based on zip codes as a

way of attracting sales within a easy delivery area. The customer

could type in a special code and get the discount.

Interactive calendars. Many companies are now using interactive

calendars to help their employees track meetings and deadlines, he

says. The calendar can be downloaded to a PDA so that the employee can

receive updates or change his schedule even when he is away from the

office.

Meeting software. New software allows people to work on documents

simultaneously in different locations. With the use of webcams and the

software, the Internet becomes a global conference room.

The Internet’s interactive abilities have already changed the way we

do business. In the coming decade, Spivak predicts, the pace of change

will only accelerate.

– Karen Hodges Miller

Design Solutions, 114 Rogers Avenue, Hightstown 08520. David Spivak,

president. 609-443-3100; fax, 609-443-5540. E-mail: dspivak@dsol.us

Www.dsol.us

Top Of Page
A New Company Built for Vlogging

`There was a lot of buzz about video casting in 2000," says Simon

Tidnam, "but not a lot of broadband was deployed." Now, thanks to the

feverish efforts of cable and telephone companies, bandwidth is way up

– both in the office and at home. Taking advantage of faster, more

commodious Internet pipes is start-up Clique Communications. Tidnam is

the director of marketing for the 50-person vlogging company, which

recently settled into offices at 205 Rockingham Row in Princeton

Forrestal Village.

Clique is going after both the consumer and the corporate business in

a two-pronged attack that currently features tests of its video

casting software at telecom companies and the deployment of a Hummer

with a "giant" built-in plasma screen to spread the good news about

vlogging to college students and up-and-coming Indie bands.

Clique is wholly-owned by Innovativ Systems (www.inovsys.com), a

20-year-old Edison-based private company that designs, procures,

assembles, tests, and configures custom computer systems for

businesses. Ever since the Internet passed from fad to business tool

clients had been asking for video casting, says Tidnam. There was a

lot of hype, but the face-to-face virtual meetings never got off the

ground. Still, Innovativ wanted to prepare for the day when the

bandwidth to make video casting clear and easy was in place.

Toward that end, relates Tidnam, Innovativ acquired Legato Video and

Netgen Video. "They had a lot of Sarnoff people," he says. The two

tech-heavy companies had an "excellent" portfolio of patents and

valuable client lists. Their staffs formed the nucleus of Clique,

leaving the company, says Tidnam, with the task of "going from code to

products." Clique, which moved into and began re-fitting its offices

in May, and began a beta launch of some of its products in

mid-December, has now added sales and marketing staff. The company is

headed by Jim Spinella, who came over from Innovativ.

Tidnam, a graduate of the University of Edinburg, recently joined

Clique. He was previously with Wavexpress. While he holds a master’s

degree in literature, he says that he was "drawn to the technology

business." He met his wife, Hannah Winarsky, a graduate of Vassar,

while she was taking her junior year in Scotland. She is the art and

literature editor at Princeton University Press. The couple lives in

Princeton.

The company for which Tidnam is busy devising a marketing strategy has

a split personality – alternating between button-down and

wild-and-crazy. Its corporate website

(www.inovsys.com/solutions/cliquevm.htm) features clip art of intense

business types tapping on Palm Pilots, studying reports, and having

earnest conversations. It talks about how "businesses of every kind

are leveraging video conferencing and collaboration systems to improve

productivity, reduce costs, and enable more effective communication.

It’s recently become clear that an efficient video communication

system is no longer a luxury – it’s a critical component to any

successful business plan."

Click over to one of Clique’s consumer websites.

Zowie!

Vlogcrazy (www.vlogcrazy.com) urges us – one and all – to "watch new

friends, tell your story, become a star." The graphics are high

energy, the message is: "Ever wanted your own TV show? Here’s your

chance!"

"Talented?" the website asks. "Want to be the next Jon Stewart or Bill

O’Reilly? How about the next Paris Hilton or Tara Reid? Here’s the

chance to show the world what you can do."

Clique has separate business models for its corporate and consumer

products. On the corporate side, Tidnam says, the company is planning

to license software to telecoms and cable companies. The software, he

explains, is designed to create the best possible videocast quality by

checking network conditions on each side at the time of the video call

and adjusting accordingly. The software also takes different

bandwidths into consideration. In the past, he says, the poor quality

that caused so many people to abandon video conferences was a result

of one person’s computer operating at a significantly higher level

than the other’s.

The stronger network connection overpowered the weaker, or the weaker

dragged down the stronger. The result was a fuzzy picture and tinny

sound. Clique’s software, now in tests at telecom companies, is

designed to detect the strength of each signal and to connect all the

video conference parties with the optimum picture and sound their

disparate connections allow at any given moment.

Clique’s software will work with any PC as well as with video enabled

phones. Who will sell the video handsets? "Not us," says Tidnam.

Motorola is now making some – at a price of $700 to $800. This is

pricey, even for the corporate market, he admits, saying that video

handsets are still "at an early stage."

So really, despite any number of false starts, is videocasting.

Promoted as the future for what feels like decades, it has never

caught on. "It is awkward the first couple of times," Tidnam admits.

But, he insists, it soon becomes natural to look at the person to whom

you are speaking via computer or phone. It fosters better

communication around the office, and makes collaboration between

offices or with clients more effective. And, of course, an ease with

video meetings – conducted with a minimum of hissing and fade-outs –

could hold the promise of less business travel.

Back on the consumer side, Clique is planning an ad-supported model

for its Vlogcrazy website. But it’s still way too early to go after

advertisers, says Tidnam. The plan is to first encourage garage bands

to go online with short clips of their songs, to talk about their

music, communicate with fans, and promote their upcoming appearances.

Once a base of bands is onboard, perhaps in six months, Clique will

look for advertisers. Established bands pitching new albums would be a

natural fit, he says. A visitor to the website could look at a few

vlog entries and then would see an video ad (a vad?).

The Vlogcrazy site is free for all users. It is as easy to use as a

blog, its print cousin, says Tidnam. (Blogs, by the way, are now so

easy to use that any adult can put one up in under 10 minutes, even

without the help of a grandchild.)

Vlogcrazy users record a segment, preview it, and then push a button

to publish it to the web. Vlogcrazy provides the editing tools and

hosts the vlogs. Everyone who creates an ongoing vlog will have a vlog

address, perhaps www.MyCoolBand.vlogcrazy.com., just the way that

bloggers using the popular Blogger service (www.blogger.com), which is

owned by Google, have a blogger address – maybe

MyCoolBand.blogspot.com. Fans can bookmark the sites and check

in for updates.

"It gives all of those people with videocams somewhere to go," says

Tidnam. For anyone who has misplaced or broken the videocam he got for

Christmas four years ago, when the little devices were last hot,

Clique is selling a nifty goose-neck videocam of its own design on its

website for $39.95. The slinky cam is designed to clip onto a flat

screen, attach to a laptop, or sit on a desk. Clique holds the patent

on the webcam and has just signed a distribution agreement with

Toshiba. In the works, says Tidnam, is a high definition (HD) webcam.

It will sell for substantially more, perhaps something in the range of

$130, but, he says, "the pictures are crystal clear."

Bands seem to be a natural vlog target, says Tidnam, especially

because an obvious advertiser base exists. The company also has some

interest in going after the Internet dating market in light of the

wild popularity of sites like Myspace.com. "But we’re not quite sure

how to do it yet," he says.

Meanwhile, the Clique Hummer is going to start making the rounds of

colleges, calling on another natural target demographic, in

early-January. "Stanford has expressed strong interest," says Tidnam,

who plans to ship the Hummer to the West Coast early in the new year.

"It’s cheap marketing," he says of the over-sized vehicle with the

plasma screen. It’s also a splashy first step for a new company built

around the bet that vlogging will become as popular as blogging, and

that the time for office video conferences has finally arrived.

– Kathleen McGinn Spring

Clique Communications, 205 Rockingham Row, Princeton 08540. Jim

Spinella, president; Simon Tidnam, marketing director. 609-466-1444;

fax, 609-466-9724. Home page: www.cliquecom.com

Top Of Page
Sermons to Go

Let’s say you wake up on a Sunday morning to find two feet of snow on

the ground. Or maybe the day is fair, but you are feeling foul. If you

are a congregant at Nassau Presbyterian church in Princeton, you can

remain safely indoors without missing a word. This is so because the

church has just started podcasting its sermons. Anyone can go to

Apple’s iTunes website, at www.apple.com/itunes, and either listen to

the sermon right there – starting on the Monday after it is delivered

– or download it to an iPod MP3 player. It is also possible to access

the sermons, along with all manner of church news, via RSS, Really

Simple Syndication. The church, now celebrating the 250th anniversary

of Presbyterian presence in Princeton, offers an excellent RSS

tutorial on its website, www.nassauchurch.org.

Rick Seaholm, a graduate of the University of Massachusetts (Class of

1999) and an administrative assistant at the church, is the person to

thank for this totally free service. "When podcasts first became

popular, I started to look at requirements to get one off the ground,"

he says. "Over the summer I fiddled around, looked at other websites

to see how others were using podcasts." He has found that about 70 New

Jersey churches are now putting sermons in the new medium.

The leap to podcasts was not too much of a jump for Nassau

Presbyterian. The church has a sound room for recording and has been

streaming sermons to its website (www.nassauchurch.org) for nearly two

years. A sound room is not necessary. The only equipment a podcaster

needs is a computer and a microphone, but the sound room does provide

for good sound quality.

"The nice thing about a podcast," says Seaholm, "is that users can

subscribe, so it goes to them automatically." Subscriptions are going

up each week, and, he says, "many people have written and said it’s a

great idea." Sermon podcast fans include not only the homebound, but

also Princeton-area students attending out-of-state colleges and

traveling parishioners. Interestingly, the podcasts are not only

drawing people with an attachment to Seaholm’s church. Comments on the

podcasted sermons, still in their infancy, have come from as far away

as Michigan.

Okay, but what is the danger that a less than zealous minister from a

distant state will appropriate the sermons? "We put a copyright on

them," says Seaholm. Still, he wouldn’t be shocked at any instances of

sermon podcast piracy. Sermons are already out on the `Net in written

form, and, he says, "we know of instances of people who steal them.

It’s something they have to live with."

Shrugging off potential piracy, Seaholm says that podcasting is "one

of the more exciting things I’ve seen this year. Now everyone can have

a voice."

– Kathleen McGinn Spring

Nassau Presbyterian Church, 61 Nassau Street, Princeton 08542.

Clarence Ammons, interim pastor. 609-924-0103; fax, 609-683-1975.

Www.nassauchurch.org

Top Of Page
Princeton University Embraces Podcasts

Here’s another new word, that you may think you know, but you actually

may not: "podcast." I thought I knew because I knew about iPods, those

little rectangular boxes connected via earphones to nearly every kid I

pass, and many adults, too. I assumed they were simply updated CD

players – with lots of storage – for listening to musical favorites.

Now I find out from Donna Liu, executive director of the University

Channel at Princeton University, that the listening possibilities are

decidedly not limited to music, but include podcasts. Popular podcasts

include everything from movie reviews to mainstream magazine cover

stories to university lectures.

Liu has been developing this podcasting venture

(uc.princeton.edu/main/) with the support of the Woodrow Wilson

School. This venture collects non-classroom academic lectures from

Princeton and other universities worldwide and distributes them both

to individuals and to conventional television outlets over the

Internet, via podcasts. The lecture collection will eventually grow

into a searchable, global, online library of videocasts.

Slate’s Andy Bowers picked the University Channel as his Pod Pick of

the Week on November 11 and Campus Technology’s December 1 issue

selected its vodcasting (essentially video podcasting) lectures as

among the top 100 "best practices the year."

Right after I spoke to Liu, I started hearing about podcasts

everywhere – during my next interview, while listening to "Science

Friday" on public radio, and when perusing the New York Times website.

Although the terminology of this new technology sounds esoteric, the

concept is fairly simple. Podcasts are files containing digital audio

that are available for listening "on demand" – you can download them

at your own convenience from wherever they are posted on the Internet.

Then you can listen to them on your computer, or burn them to a CD for

listening in the car, or download them to your MP3/audio player for

anytime listening.

The University Channel was Liu’s idea. When she arrived at Princeton

University in 2002 as a Ferris Professor (a two-year teaching

fellowship for mid-career journalists), she was on leave from an

18-year career at CNN, and had substantial production experience. At

Princeton Liu says she was "struck by the tremendous lectures

available all over campus," and as a TV producer, she thought,

"Wouldn’t it be great if more people could see these?"

Liu decided to do a little calling around. Many universities had been

filming or audiotaping lectures for archival purposes, but often they

did not have effective means for sharing the wealth. Liu’s vision

would solve that problem. "Distribution takes only one person to

develop," she says, "and many universities will be able to take

advantage of it."

The dean of the Woodrow Wilson School enthusiastically supported her

idea. "He gave me the chance to prove the concept and build

membership," she says, and the entire university supported its

development. "What made it possible was teamwork." The Office of

Information Technology helped with webpod issues, for example, and the

Educational Technologies Center designed the website and has helped

with network and video issues.

The University Channel is still in start-up mode as it builds its

administrative structure. It went public in July with a beta version

of the website. Liu says the channel is close to reaching the five

charter members who will serve as a steering committee. So far the

committee includes Princeton, Columbia, Middlebury, the University of

Texas, and one member yet to be announced. Although actual membership

is still small, Liu says that a couple of dozen institutions have

contributed material.

Members are welcome to use the channel’s material for programming on

their television and radio stations and can be distributors

themselves. Other forms of distribution take the material beyond

campus walls. "The point is to create a public service," says Liu, "to

make the intellectual expertise available on university campuses

available to the public."

The channel’s initial focus is public and international affairs. "We

are specifically looking for the kinds of discussions that are aimed

at solving the world’s problems – war, poverty, hunger, and disease,"

says Liu.

Some samples now accessible on the site include: "American Media:

Still the Fourth Estate?" by Bill Keller; "The Outlook for the Global

Economy," by Robert Rubin; "A Conversation with Bill Gates";

"Democratizing Innovation" by Eric von Hippel; and a podcasting

symposium from Duke University.

Liu estimates the rate of downloads since University Channel podcasts

appeared in the iTunes music store (www.apple.com/itunes) as a couple

of lectures a minute, on average. Apple’s iTunes includes a vast

number of podcasts, which are easy to search. The channel doesn’t yet

have software to read statistics by number of downloads, but does have

a measure of demand on its bandwidth.

Liu says many universities are experimenting with podcasting. Stanford

launched an effort through the iTunes music store. Duke University

last year issued an iPod to every incoming freshman as an experiment.

"The iPod is really a portable hard drive," says Liu, "and they wanted

to see how many ways the kids could use it." Purdue has been using

podcasting internally so that students can review lectures they

missed, although Liu says that some faculty members have resisted this

application for fear students will stop coming to their classes

altogether.

The next step, which adds video, is the vodcast, which Liu says is

more difficult to implement because of bandwidth issues. Princeton

Channel uses vodcasting sparingly – only with lectures that are

especially well produced – not the usual single-camera recordings of

most lectures.

Before she arrived in Princeton for a temporary stay that has now

become permanent, Liu spent seven years with CNN International setting

up a production facility in Hong Kong to create programs about Asia,

featuring Asian people. Liu had started in CNN as a news producer back

when CNN was all in one newsroom. "In the early days, you still had to

explain who you were when calling on a story," she remembers. She grew

with CNN, as a producer and manager, with opportunities to develop

with the company as it became a major media outlet. The American-born

Liu had studied Chinese at the University of Rochester and then

started her career as a freelance reporter in Asia for CBS, Newsweek,

and AP. "Hong Kong was one of those places that had great promise, a

real hub of Asia," she says. "If you were interested in news in Asia,

you would have lots of opportunities."

So where will the University Channel go from here? One goal as it

expands its staff will be to hire an archivist, because eventually the

channel will host an archive and perhaps also an index to other

people’s archives. Funding will be combination of membership dues,

foundation grants, and corporate sponsorships.

Liu is now getting some nibbles from people overseas who are

interested in participating, from places like the National University

of Singapore and some Canadian universities. "In five years, we would

like to be a global service," says Liu. "There are no geographical

limitations to this kind of media distribution, and particularly in

terms of the discussion of international affairs, it is imperative to

go global. There are no language restrictions. It’s just question of

time and effort."

– Michele Alperin


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