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Webcasting
Part 6. Webcasting as Event Reproduction

The third and final definition of webcasting that we will look at here is the Apple Computer proposal for webcasting "the goal is to provide an interactive experience, allowing the user to dig deeper and go behind the scenes of the event itself." On their live.apple.com site, Apple defines webcasting as a tool that "lets you experience exciting live events using the latest Internet multimedia technologies. You can see, hear, and experience events as they actually happen from all over the globe. Pictures, sound, videos, chat and even virtual reality not only allow you to experience events, they let you be part of them as well." This definition is framed within the context of providing real-time event coverage. In a sense, they would like to make the webcast not just like being there, but better than being there. Unfortunately, webcasting as Apple has practiced it has become little more than "Webcasting as Infomercial," in which they take every opportunity to push their own software and hardware at the expense of the subject of the webcast itself.

Assessment of Apple's practice comes up rather poor. While their theory seems like it would serve well to distinguish webcasting from other mass media, their own webcasts end up scoring very low on the interactivity scale, lack significant personalization, are still focusing on real-time (time dependent) broadcasting, and are generally lacking in any kind of feedback pathways. They do offer more than the other models in terms of interactivity and feedback by providing chat rooms and guest books that visitors can 'sign.' However, neither of these options are ever used by those who visit the sites. (There are documented cases in which after being up for over two years, a chat room associated with an Apple webcast still had only a single message posted to it.)

In contrast to their goals, Apple webcasts tend to lack the richness of media that the technology makes possible. It can also be rather annoying to see the event serving as little more than an excuse to advertise, such that the event itself is significantly diminished. In the future, I might expect that Apple would attempt to reach their specified goals, but the current rumor is that Apple's webcasting group has been disbanded.

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Last modified 5/21/97.