By Michael Rau
July 16, 2007
Have you gotten your invitation to download Joost yet? Yeah - me neither.
OK. In case you haven't heard about Joost, I'm gonna tell you about it, but first allow me to digress.
A friend of mine is running for an elected post with a major national journalists' organization. She asked me the other day what I would say to journalists about the Internet and how it's affecting their industry.
After mulling this for a minute, I said that in five years, there would be no such thing as a specialized reporter. No more TV reporters, newspaper reporters, radio reporters - whatever. All reporters will be multimedia reporters, and the most successful will be those who embrace as many different forms of media as possible.
Similarly, television, print and Internet coverage will converge to the point that there's little distinction. You already see this happening. TV stations are posting copy stories. Newspapers are posting video stories. And the Internet is the focal point of it all.
After passing on these musings to my friend, it got me to thinking about how these changes are extending into areas of media outside of news - particularly entertainment.
The aspect of this that will represent the biggest change is what you might refer to as delivery-on-demand. Consumers will watch, read and listen to what they want, when they want to, rather than waiting for a news show or paper to come out.
Early implementation of this is evident in many ways. You can now go to most TV news Web sites and watch the station's coverage of individual stories. Some systems allow you to make up a playlist that almost could be considered a show.
Another way this manifests is through the rise of the digital video recorder. The word Tivo has now morphed from the name of a service into a verb - as in "I'm gonna Tivo that show."
Regarding network programming, all of the major networks are now streaming the majority of their primetime programs on their Web sites. I've watched these myself a couple of times when I missed a program I wanted to see. It's still not a great experience, because the video has to be so highly compressed to stream properly, but it's a start.
Still another way this has manifested is through the introduction of the Apple TV appliance, which we discussed here a few columns ago. In this scenario, the consumer goes to a Web site (iTunes), and buys a digital copy of a TV program, movie, music video, etc. He or she then downloads that file to a computer or a device such as Apple TV and watches it at the time of his or her choosing. The downside of this is that you're paying for your program. The upside is that you actually possess the file, rather than just watching, plus, using an appliance like Apple TV, you can actually watch it on your TV, albeit with the same video compression issues described above.
This brings us to Joost - a software application for your computer that represents a new model for accumulating and consuming media. It was invented by two guys who know something about moving media over the Internet, Niklas Zennstr&Mac246;m and Janus Friis. These are the same guys who came up with Kazaa, one of the first and probably the most successful (and reviled by the entertainment industry) peer-to-peer file sharing application out there. They also are the inventors of Skype, one of the first and probably the most successful of the VoIP, or voice-over-Internet-protocol telephone, systems going. We talked about Skype in a column here a year or two ago.
So what is Joost, anyway?
Think of it as a cable TV system for your computer. Joost essentially looks for all these various videos, TV programs, movies, etc. that are offered for free over the Internet. Then, using the same type of peer-to-peer file sharing technology employed by Kazaa, it makes that video available to stream on your desktop.
It uses a very clean and straightforward interface to organize the available media in a manner similar to channels on a cable-TV system.
In cases where the video is copyrighted and tightly controlled, Joost is striking deals with the various distributors, such as the TV networks and even YouTube, to provide the programming with the blessing of the intellectual property owners.
So what's the downside? None that I can identify. The biggest issue will remain the quality of the video you're watching, and that won't change until transmission speeds over the Internet increase to the point where the video doesn't have to be compressed so much. It's also a problem common to all streaming video.
As for Joost, my only issue right now is that I can't try it out. Why? Because while it's still in Beta form, the only way you can download it is if you receive an invitation from a current user to do so.
So would someone in a position to do so please invite me to download it? I'd like to try it out, too.
Michael Rau is a mass-communications consultant in Virginia Beach. To send feedback or view past columns, go to http://dailypress.asoundidea.com.
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