I was intrigued by the social/connected TV focus of the DAM World Summit in Amsterdam last week and was delighted to be able to give the keynote address. The organizers – Informa – are moving into the DAM conference space, already well served by Henry Stewart and Createasphere’s events, so clearly they think there is room in the marketplace for another DAM gathering.

The DAM World Summit was damned by thick fog in London, which meant that several speakers and many delegates were unable to attend, making it a very small, but consequently very relaxed event. I enjoyed several extended conversations with people, avoiding that conference hazard of grabbing handfuls of business cards and then not being quite sure which face goes with which card.

Two persistent themes were:
the need for broadcasters and content creators to provide richer descriptive metadata to online distributors and
the need for software and systems not to strip metadata and flatten files (so that full metadata journeys throughout asset lifecycles can be supported and metadata does not need to be re-keyed every time an asset is transferred).

Content re-sellers and distributors have plenty of ideas about how they could use richer descriptive metadata – e.g. to recommend targeted content to specific consumers – but broadcasters typically only provide a title and a brief synopsis. Even some basic genre tags and a few descriptive tags would help them promote content and encourage consumers to browse collections.

DAM projects

Rod Carter and Robin Boldon from BBC Worldwide talked through their recent DAM implementation project, emphasising the need to capture metadata from analogue assets as part of any digitisation process, and to use sophisticated tools to automate repetitive data cleanup processes. In addition, BBC Worldwide customers now expect much richer metadata synchronized to timepoints in content.

Steve Bennedik, Head of Technology at Sky News, described how the broadcast world was adapting to online platforms and how thinking solely in terms of linear broadcast no longer makes sense in a fragmented marketplace. Sky’s news app has seen 6.5 million downloads so far and their iPhone app now gets more page views than the new website. Sky have built their own CMS called Scoop, as off-the-shelf products could not support all stages in their workflows. Scoop is a work in progress, but does control the majority of Sky’s “digital world”.

Steve’s advice for content producers was to choose one platform in particular and target that, rather than dabbling in everything. So, Sky chose the iPad, got in early, made waves, and won awards.

People are now starting to realise how important digital content is, but moving away from manual processes is difficult. Sky are trying to create a “metadata backbone” that relies less on people and more on process. They are trying to use XML as a common language between different systems and carrying keywords associated with files – maintaining the genealogy all the way through to archive. However, they still rely on adding metadata at ingest, rather than in the camera, as busy camera operators in difficult situations tend not to think about metadata.

Generation “Wired and Tired”

Mike Johns, CEO of Digital Mind State, talked about how the fragmentation of markets and new devices is transforming the traditional broadcasting model. People now want seamless interconnected experiences across platforms. Young people see floppy disks as “prehistoric” and young consumers’ attitudes and expectations have been transformed by new technology. We are “wired” in that we carry smartphones and devices connected to the Internet all the time, which is affecting the way we interact with our friends, our sense of privacy, and our sense of self. We are “tired” because more and more people now reach for their smartphone as soon as they wake up in the morning, and check for emails last thing at night. Although this constant awareness and interconnectedness may seem to make us more efficient, our brains and bodies have not had time to evolve to adapt, leaving us constantly exhausted. Content producers have to find ways to grab our scattered attention and draw us in, effortlessly, in order to hold our interest. So, subscriptions to Webisodes are on the up while traditional subscription TV is in decline. Meanwhile, celebrities are attempting to own the entire content production chain themselves, rather than selling their services to advertisers of products, so that the distinction between a celebrity and a brand is blurring.

TV and the Internet

Adrian Drury, principal analyst at Ovum, was stuck at Heathrow airport, but phoned in to report on a survey of the broadcasting industry. The Internet was seen as a way of encouraging people to watch more linear television, not less. However, the Internet was expected to become a more and more important delivery mechanism, especially for premium video services. Piracy was seen as just another competitor, and weakness in the economy was seen as a far greater threat to the industry than fragmentation of markets. Overall, there was a lot of optimism that the broadcast industry would expand over the next five years, with confidence higher in the USA, mainly due to fears in Europe about the state of the euro. As far as AI, semantic analytics, and automation was concerned, it was thought unlikely that automated systems would replace human editorial input in news content creation, but automated creation of basic metadata especially title annotation would increase dramatically.

Bruno Perreira of the TV App Agency explained how the Agency can streamline and simplify the process of publishing content to a fragmented marketplace, as they have built multiplatform-focused infrastructure and format libraries that enable them to easily convert assets for access via many different devices, browsers, and operating systems. Speed to market is key in the App world, and taxonomies and metadata are the glue that hold products together but enable a unified experience for the consumer, who may be using a range of different devices at different times. Standardization and standard taxonomies would cut costs for content producers.

Through the digital mirror into the social world

Mark Davey, President of the DAM foundation also called in remotely, to explain the importance of social media to marketing, how social media are bringing about a new openness and redefining social interactions and privacy. Big Data is seen now variously as “the new oil”, “the new soil”, and “the new snake oil”. Asset management systems are now talking to each other through metadata and the metadata trail can be harvested and analysed to provide rich information about consumers and users. Advertising needs to change to respond to this new social world. Marketing has to be about conversations, engagement, entertainment, and education. Consumers no longer want to be bombarded with adverts. People are unsubscribing from email newsletters, but subscribing to podcasts, white papers, and graphs and charts.

Clip sales

Ian Mottashead of Cambridge Imaging Systems talked about Screenocean. Screenocean is the clip sales agent for Channel 4, Shed Media Group, DRG catalogue, RPM music performance, and BP video library. Channel 4’s digitisation strategy was to put all catalogue metadata on line then digitise content on demand, rather than try to digitise everything at once, or to use chronological or preservation need as a driver. The Screenocean system includes OCR of subtitle text via Tesseract for time precise subtitle metadata that can be used in search.

When selling programmes or longer clips, technically, they could use the EDL (Edit Decision List) to generate the exact edit from a set of clips and deliver it on line to the customer. However, this would require a simple payment and licensing model, but content owners usually want negotiation processes as rights and licensing is so complex and varied.

Screenocean can also be used as a publishing layer for other systems. For example, IMG sport video archive use Ardome but it doesn’t have much publishing functionality, so they send content from Ardome with XML to Screenocean to publish. IMG pass subtitles as XML to Screenocean so the OCR process isn’t needed, which improves accuracy.

Another customer is Bob – Box of Broadcasts – which uses Athens and Shibboleth logins to authenticate educational users who can then access programmes. These are provided via on-the-fly conversion to flash for playback, with clip creation functionality as standard.

Data centres

Rory Murphy talked about Equinix, a data centre company that helps organizations host their data and software. He explained how data centres are no longer just racks of servers, but help clients with varied software and asset management needs set up and service complex information ecosystems.