Webcasting study leads to book for BGSU’s Louisa Ha

Webcasting, and Dr. Louisa Ha’s research of it, have come a long way in a short time.

Dr. Louisa Ha
Dr. Louisa Ha

Ha, telecommunications, says relatively few people had heard of Webcasting, entailing online delivery of audio and video, when she began studying it in 2002.

Four years later, the medium has grown to include even full-length video of television shows, and Ha is senior editor of a book, Webcasting Worldwide: Business Models of an Emerging Global Medium, published recently by Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

The book, which has been adopted by the International Webcasting Association, evolved from a project by Ha and the other editor, Dr. Richard Ganahl of Bloomsburg (Pa.) University. In 2003, wanting to develop a business model of emerging media, they started looking at Webcasting in the United States and South Korea—the two countries with the most developed broadband capabilities.

Essential elements
Effective Webcast communication is dependent upon broadband Internet connection and compression technology, Ha says, noting that geographic penetration of broadband is actually deeper in South Korea than in the U.S. More than 60 percent of Americans who use the Internet now have a broadband connection, making Webcasting a fast-growing medium, she adds.

The business model devised by Ha and Ganahl focuses on three factors:
• Accessibility, including usability, ease of navigation and file transmission methods;
• Content, whether user generated or professional;
• Revenue Sources, which, Ha says, may include direct customer payments (subscribing to an educational video service, for example) and indirect customer payments (such as downloading iTunes), as well as advertising.

An emerging media enterprise can survive with a good combination of the three key components but can thrive only with innovative content, maintains Ha, whose interest in whether the model would work elsewhere in the world led to the book.

A global perspective
Webcasting Worldwide covers 17 countries and regions on four continents, with chapters written by contributors primarily from the countries they discuss. “They utilized our (ACR model) framework to examine the leading Webcasters in their respective regions,” she points out. “The application of the same framework and research method by different scholars in 17 disparate locations at the same time is very rare.”

More countries have realized the potential of broadband usage, which is important to the global communications infrastructure because of its power to provide educational, as well as entertainment, content via the Web, Ha says.

She acknowledges the existence of a “digital divide” between wealthier and poorer nations. But a more effective communications infrastructure involving broadband would benefit both governments—which can then provide services more efficiently—and companies, enabling more efficient dissemination and collection of information, she says.

A broadband initiative funded by Bill Gates and others is being planned in Africa, according to Ha, who chairs the emerging media research cluster in the School of Communication Studies. At the same time, she and two collaborators from Nigeria have received a $10,500 grant to put Internet technology in the hands of Nigerian farmers.

Primus Igboaka, a Ph.D. student in communication studies, is one of the collaborators on the project, which will use collaborative computer technology such as Wiki and discussion boards to create and share knowledge to aid development. The award is from the Authors’ Licensing & Collecting Society Ltd. and Emerald, a United Kingdom publisher of 150 scholarly journal titles in management, information science and engineering.

Broadband development is a top priority in China, too, Ha notes. Despite the existence of Internet censorship, she says Webcasting is still “the medium government can least control among all media in China.”

Changing the ‘Webscape’
Webcasting is also the medium through which “video becomes popularized” and can be almost DVD quality, she adds. With full-length video of TV shows such as “Desperate Housewives” available online, she explains that the networks are treating the Web as a medium of delivery, trying to attract the increasing number of people who are using the Internet—especially younger ones—to TV.

“It’s going to change the Internet generally,” says Ha, citing what she calls Webcasting’s limitless potential for education and business. “Video is not the monopoly of big media companies anymore but belongs instead to anyone with a video camera.

“It just gives a way that people can have a voice.”

December 18, 2006