Streaming of IWMW 2012 Plenary Talks – But Who Pays?
Posted by Brian Kelly (UK Web Focus) on 18 June 2012
The sixteenth in the series of annual Institutional Web Management Workshops, IWMW 2012, is now underway. As we were concerned last year that Web team budgets and pressures of work would make it difficult for people to attend a 3-day event, the IWMW 2011 took place over two days. However the feedback we received in the final session last year made it clear that there was demand for the event to revert to its traditional 3 day format.
Since the concerns about budgets and workloads will probably be even more valid this year we were still concerned about the number of delegates. However, following an influx of last minutes bookings, the final numbers are even larger than last year with 170 registered delegates.
We also have a number of sponsors again this year, with Jadu sponsoring the badges and lanyards, TERMINALFOUR are sponsoring a parallel session and Siteimprove providing inserts in the delegate pack. In addition Statistics into Decisions and Gas Mark 8 are co-sponsoring the event amplification and video-streaming of the plenary talks.
Since the University of Edinburgh video-streaming service has other commitments this week, TConsult, who have provided event amplification at IWMW events in the past, will this year also be providing the video-streaming service. The ustream.tv service is being used to deliver the live video stream. However since we are aware that viewers will probably not appreciate the adverts include in the free version of the service, we will be using Watershed, the premium version of the service. The charging for this service is based on viewer hours. Looking at the pricing options it seems that we can pay $49 for a month’s subscription, which gives us 500 viewer hours, with an additional $0.49 per additional viewer hour. This seems reasonable – unless the plenary talks attract a large audience. Since there are 8.5 hours of plenary talks we will be able to cater for 60 people watching all the plenary talks. Based on previous year’s experiences the expected numbers should fall within the standard allowance. However if some of the talks become unexpectedly popular – and the popularity which can be generated by viral social networks such as Twitter – we could be hit with a large bill. We have therefore put a cap on the total number of users. In order to ensure that people who wish to watch a plenary talk do not have access blocked we ask that people watching the live video stream switch off the live stream when the talks they are interested in has finished.
These considerations lead to the question: who should pay for live streams at conferences? At recent IWMW events the live video streaming was provided as part of the service by the host institution. However this year we have had to address the question of the business model for the provision on the service for the first time.
Although we are providing access to an ad-free video-streaming service we cannot commit to doing this in the future. One alternative will be to make use of the free ad-supported version of the service. As illustrated, when you join a stream an advert will be displayed, for about 20 seconds, it would seem.
Adverts which are used to fund a video service which is free at the point of delivery is, of course, something we are all familiar with – ITV have been doing this for many years and we are all willing to watch programmes on commercial channels, provided the content is of interest to us.
I would be interested to hear from people who would not be willing to watch video streaming of content of interest to them on how the costs of the service should be provided. I would, of course, expect such suggestions to be reasonable and feasible: saying that we should simply be getting more money to provide such services is not realistic in the current environment.
A similar question could be asked about the accessibility of recordings of the videos. We do not intend to provide captions for the recordings and, since legislation talks about ‘reasonable measures’ we do not feel there is a legal requirement to do this. We feel that the provision of the live video stream itself enhances the accessibility of the event – a point brought how to me last year when Janet McKnight uploaded a photo of herself watching the live video stream, with her baby in her lap (as illustrated). Put simply, the provision of the live video stream itself enhances access to the content for people who can’t attend the event for a variety of reasons. Having to spend additional money from an undetermined source to caption the videos would potentially undermine the provision of the live video stream itself, forcing us back to the world of siloed conferences in which only paying delegates could participate.
Unless, of course, we could make use of the textual summaries of the plenary talks provided by the official event amplifier on her Twitter account. We did this at IWMW 2010, as can be seen from the accompanying image of the Twitter captions of the talk by Ranjit Sidhu. This will be an approach we will explore again at this year’s event.
In order to maximise the impact of the ideas presented in talks at IWMW events we will seek to support event amplification to enable members of the sector who aren’t physically present to engage in the discussions and sharing of ideas. We will also seek to provide a live video stream of plenary talks and access to recordings of the talks after the event.
We will aim to provide these services in a sustainable fashion. We will be transparent about the ways in which these services are being funded.
Is that a reasonable policy?