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Can You See Me Now?

Guest Post: Michael Hamill Remaley

One of the great things about today’s dynamic communications landscape is that the new technologies provide so many opportunities to take your message directly to audiences without having to get past traditional media gatekeepers. Of course there are costs involved, measured in money, human resources and other opportunities. Still, if we’re willing to explore some of these new distribution methods, we may find that we can successfully reach more — if not more important — audiences that can be useful to our organizations and the work we do.

A case in point: more and more foundations and nonprofits are hosting events that are broadcast live on the web.  However, the big question is how successful are they at attracting audiences to these events?  Wouldn’t it be great if there were a channel that would let people tune in and watch what’s on the web?  That would enable some organizations to offer live events that could compete with likes of CNN, Fox News and the BBC for viewership.

Well, it turns out there that someone is already on to this idea and is testing a new service called LiveMatrix that appears to have the potential to serve foundations and nonprofits in just that way.

Full details about the service are on the Technology Review blog. Some points worth summarizing here are these:

According to Technology Review, LiveMatrix…

…tracks live events on the Web… By providing a listing for the Web that resembles TV timetables, the company hopes to “make the time dimension of the Web searchable,” according to cofounder Nova Spivack.  The company launched today at TechCrunch Disrupt in New York City, sharing more details of the look and feel of the site. In the video below (clicking on the Technology Review link above and viewing the video there is highly recommended), Spivack demonstrates LiveMatrix in action. The company is indexing about 80,000 live events per week to start, and plans to increase that number going forward.

Any organization can start their own channel on the site (similar to YouTube channels, which many nonprofits and foundations now have) and can have their content alongside events hosted by the State Department, NPR and C-SPAN, as well as non-news content producers focused on sports, shopping and other topics.

If you’re wondering how many foundations and nonprofits are actually doing live web events, you’re not alone.  No one yet is keeping track of the overall numbers of foundation and nonprofit-sponsored events that are broadcast via the Web. But a quick Google search reveals a lot of events live foundation events have taken place recently and several more are scheduled.

For example, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation broadcast a speech by the founders last October from Washington, DC, titled “Why We Are Optimists.”  The Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation shared a live panel discussion last February from Kansas City, MO, on “Spurring Business Startups and Innovation in Clean Technology.” The Kaiser Family Foundation has a live web series called “Today’s Topics in Health Disparities.” And last March, the United Nations foundation broadcast a live memorial service to honor 101 UN personnel who perished in the Haiti earthquake. From the descriptions alone,  these events are as interesting, if not more so,
than the content of most mainstream news producers. All of these events also have a potentially much larger audience than just those who could be alerted to the event by a press release, a direct email to established audiences or by the old-fashioned AP datebook.

The utility of LiveMatrix for nonprofits and foundations comes down to the site’s demographics and reach.  If they can show that they have traction in reaching so-called “influentials,” it would seem like a no-brainer to plug into.

Given that the site is in beta, it is really hard to predict the future size and demographics of its future audience and how useful the site might be for nonprofits and foundations hosting live events.  It could be the new YouTube, only organized better. Nonprofits and foundations getting into it early could be among the first to establish channels that get traction and a large following. There’s lots of potential there and a foundation that is producing lots of content like Kaiser Health News could really make a big splash with it if it takes off.

Just with any technological innovations, there are lots of questions about how useful this new resource will be.  I’m looking forward to updating this post as LiveMatrix moves past its beta stage and begins to market the service broadly.

Michael Hamill Remaley, a regular contributor to the Communications Network blog, is a communications consultant and also director of Public Policy
Communicators NYC


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