Content still king in video age

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The pandemic has pushed the use of technology to the fore and it is likely to remain there, writes Tim Gillett

If there’s one sector in the academic publishing industry that has benefitted from the events of 2020, it must be video technology.

Before the onset of the pandemic, the use of video was undoubtedly on the rise (as documented in these pages) whether being used as a tool to enhance the dissemination of research, to record and promote the proceedings of industry conferences, or to enhance the marketing efforts of industry players, from society publishers to aggregators to the purveyors of the latest technology.

This exponential curve was supercharged at the start of the year, when industry events began to be cancelled or postponed, and replaced by ‘virtual’ meetings. Suddenly video became ‘the’ way to work, whether talking to colleagues living a mile away or on the other side of the world.

People working from home suddenly started to take more care about their own appearances and that of the bookshelves placed strategically behind them, and the word Zoom became a verb.

In scholarly communications there is much more to video technology than virtual meetings and recorded keynote speakers, however.

Cadmore Media was founded with a view to transform the dissemination of video and audio content in the scholarly and professional world through the use of the latest technology. As well as using expertise that relates to the wider world of video, Cadmore has honed its offering to make it relatable to academic publishing, through the use of extensive metadata, persistent IDs, full-text search, subject tagging and segmentation.

It says its media platform combines the latest streaming technology with metadata models, workflows and content partners specifically designed and selected for publishing organisations, enabling them to disseminate content that is fully discoverable, navigable, accessible and integrated with all other research and professional outputs, such as journals, books, conference proceedings and datasets.

Much of the company’s present activity revolves around societies, reports CEO and founder Violaine Iglesias.

She told Research Information: ‘Societies are seeking sustainability, both in revenue and mission. This may look like creating new video products for sale to libraries or individuals, as our clients IEEE Xplore and the American Psychological Association do, or providing content as a member benefit.

‘Video content has been produced in fits and starts for years (we’ve all attended a conference session with a camera placed in the back of the room), but the pandemic has pushed the issue. There’s been a lot of investment this year in video infrastructure, and there’s more content than ever. We can help societies make the most of that investment and empower them as video publishers to reuse and repurpose their content.’

Iglesias highlighted an example of the kind of creativity Cadmore is seeing in this space – the company’s client the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA). For their Propulsion and Energy Forum and the AIAA/IEEE Electronic Aircraft Technologies Symposium, participants submitted video presentations, which were integrated with Clarivate Analytics’ ScholarOne Abstracts. Attendees were able to access a white-labelled media library available for on-demand sessions via single sign-on implementation.

She explained: ‘This isn’t a short-term thing. Even once live events begin to happen again, the video investments made now can still be utilised to capture valuable content and make it accessible to those who cannot attend. In-person events only capture a slice of the interesting activity; many can’t attend due to budgets, health or family commitments.

‘Because of this, many societies who have experimented with online events this year have no plans to ditch the format when live events do become possible – there are too many benefits to collecting, creating and publishing the video content.’

Of course, societies and associations have differing levels of expertise (and interest) in becoming publishers of video content. For some, it’s a way to maintain control over their content, to get to know their audience or membership better, and to fully monetise their investment. Others prefer a lower-touch involvement and don’t want to host the content themselves, but can benefit from making their content readily accessible and discoverable, just as their journal content is.

Iglesias concluded: ‘At our core, we’re a technology platform. Just as you probably wouldn’t publish your journals on a site that was designed for ebooks, you want a video platform that is going to publish your content: adding appropriate metadata and links, optimising the user experience, and engaging viewers.

‘Because our platform was purpose-built for publishing scholarly video content, you’re getting not just a platform, but an expert navigator to guide you through your options and create a custom solution.'

Evolutionary steps

Another player in video technology, Morressier, evolved in the world of early-stage research and through an ambition to uncover ‘early innovation’, according to founder and managing director Sami Benchekroun.

He explained: ‘Due to Covid-19 and the changing needs of our customers, whether large scholarly societies or conference organisers, we were quickly asked if could organise complete conferences on our platform. It made a lot of sense as, for many organisations, we were already hosting the content, so why not elevate the offering and promote live streaming, Q&A sessions, exhibitions, sponsoring, advertising and so on?

‘So that is what we did. 2020 became the year when we were able to offer a fully-fledged, end-to-end conference solution. When you go down this path, you quickly end up with all these ideas of not only hosting single documents, but hosting videos of entire conversations online.

Benchekroun explained that, for Morressier, the situation opened up a whole new world for live streaming – something he described as an ‘evolutional step’ for the company.

He continued: ‘We have always provided video and pre-recorded sessions, but live-stream is a different ball-game.

‘What I strongly believe in, is not to look at different data formats in a singular manner. The biggest challenge we are facing right now is to keep content at the centre of what we do, and how to create an optimal mix, without forgetting what the end goal is. Whether that might be to find out more about a particular topic, to gain leads, or whatever.

‘By focussing on dedicated content pieces, it can be easy to forget the bigger picture. What we are doing is not looking at formats, as such. We are trying to solve problems, and video/livestream is certainly a format that will solve certain challenges. But it’s not a catch-all for all challenges.’

Benchekroun contends there are huge numbers of conference videos being uploaded to platforms worldwide – and many of them will either never be viewed, or by a very small number of people.

‘It’s like the YouTube phenomenon. There are gazillions of hours of videos being uploaded all the time, and they really need to be structured properly. We have to understand the needs and provide properly customised solutions to solve a wide range of problems. We might want to point the viewer towards a particular session, conversation, exhibitor, or document, according to their needs.

‘This idea of customising or understanding the content, which in the case of video is not a trivial matter, is a challenge.’