How cloud computing is set to change the face of media forever

The media have been quick to embrace the potential of the cloud and it's a market that will look very different in the future

As cloud computing now passes from what we might perhaps call its adolescence into full adulthood, the industry as a whole is starting to refine its messages with regard to specific industry verticals.

With clear advantages in terms of operational flexibility, quick start up with low capital-expenditure and back end serviceability, cloud computing is arguably well suited to the often erratic nature of the media industry across print, video and web-based new media streams.

Impacted by swinging audience trends, new fashions or crazes and globally connected world news events, cloud computing now has a special role to play in underpinning electronically delivered media services in the 21st Century.

Turn on: multi-channel multi-media multi-device
Exec VP & general manager of Joyent Cloud Steve Tuck explains how cloud can help new media delivery in the 21st Century model of multi-channel multi-media multi-device usage. Joyent has worked with the US Major League Baseball body as it employs cloud services to provide online interactive media services for the sport's media streaming requirements.

"More and more often people are consuming their content through web and mobile applications and, ultimately now, they will choose their providers by the quality of the experience delivered. What's really important for the media sector to understand when it comes to cloud services is that experience is directly tied to the amount of latency present," says Tuck. 

The reality is that media has become harder to quantify. We no longer live in a world where we have fixed number of TV channels, eight broadsheets, twelve tabloid and an FM and AM radio dial with station frequencies "etched" into the plastic fascia of the unit itself.

Today’s almost innumerable number of media channels and devices makes audience figures hard to predict. Cloud hosting company Rackspace suggests that as broadcasters now start to use online engagement tools (such as polls, votes or interactive gameplay) to involve viewers to a greater degree, user figures are further impacted.

Rackspace's programme marketing manager Maria McCann writes in a white paper entitled Cloud Computing And The New Age Of Digital Media as follows, “The sum result of these effects in the digital media age is that the ‘multi-platform’ broadcaster has to be able to operate, maintain and deliver a ‘data pipe’ filled with programming content across multiple platforms that must be wildly scalable.”

Rackspace’s McCann continues, “As media becomes increasingly digital in both upstream (technologies used by the broadcaster) and downstream (technologies used by consumers) areas, the most efficient way to build agility and controllability into the IT back end is to employ virtualised, cloud-based hosted technology power.”

The cloud media model: always online, publish occasionally
It’s interesting to see this new approach to electronic media executed in the real world. Many have lauded The Telegraph newspaper as a maverick in this field after it revamped its newsroom back in 2006. Referring to it as an integrated multimedia hub, the concept was to create and ‘always-online’ digital media centre that just by coincidence happens to publish a print hard copy once every 24 hours.

It is surely reasonable to argue that media organisations must now embrace this model if they are to survive. But finding a way to carry forward a successful monetisation strategy in the new cloud-powered ultra-flexible new media space will now be the deciding factor in terms of who floats and who sinks.

Microsoft has also aligned a portion of its cloud services division to serve media specific needs. This April saw the firm use the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) 2012 conference in Las Vegas to launch Windows Azure Media Services. Described as a set of “ready-to-use first- and third-party media technologies”, Microsoft also served up a new Broadcast Reference Architecture to offer “prescriptive guidance” on how media companies can architect their solutions to improve systems performance management as they move toward the cloud.