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Banking Media Hot and Cold

Technology pundits have been debating about whether Apple Computer's video iPod, and by extension, video cell phones and other video-enabled mobile devices, will take off. I wouldn't bet against it, but not because I think that we'll watch repurposed television programs on these devices. Rather, it's because there's an enormous potential to create custom media clips designed expressly for the new delivery channel. While the focus has been on Disney/ABC programs and music video, it's business-rel

Technology pundits have been debating about whether Apple Computer's video iPod, and by extension, video cell phones and other video-enabled mobile devices, will take off. I wouldn't bet against it, but not because I think that we'll watch repurposed television programs on these devices. Rather, it's because there's an enormous potential to create custom media clips designed expressly for the new delivery channel. While the focus has been on Disney/ABC programs and music video, it's business-related content that may eventually drive adoption.When evaluating a new form of media, I have found it to be a worthwhile practice to go back to "Understanding Media" by Marshall McLuhan. Among his oracular pronouncements, he defined the dichotomy between "hot" and "cold" media. A "hot medium" -- such as a photograph, hi-fi music, or a film in a movie theater -- overloads a single sense with data, a practice which in its extremes can induce a degree of hypnosis. By contrast, a "cold medium" such as a book, a cartoon or a small-screen television show provides only low-definition data such that the viewer or listener has to "fill in" the gaps. This has the effect of tending towards an imaginative response, or to its extreme, hallucination.

The iPod works so well because it completely overloads the auditory sense, leading to the hypnosis that is all too visible in its users. It is a hypnosis that continues uninterrupted through playlist after playlist from an inexhaustible collection of music. But is not in the nature of a small, hand-held device to overwhelm the visual sense. Absent a pair of white wraparound glasses that project video on the interior of the lens (which would render the wearer virtually blind to the non-virtual world), the act of watching iPod video simply cannot have the same hypnotic effect as sitting in a darkened theater.

Thus, the Video iPod is a hybrid: a hot medium for audio but a cold medium for video. So, for best results, the audio should be "cooled down," so to speak. Plain speech, for example, is considered a low-definition cool medium. By combining an audio track of people talking with low-definition video, content producers will be able to generate clips that take best advantage of portable, hand-held video players.

It just so happens that the combination of speech and low-definition video is a perfect combination for the trade press. Our parent company CMP Media has already taken the lead in new-media innovation with The News Show, a daily Internet webcast that joins webcam video with entertaining editorial interviews and features. (Incidentally, The News Show just won a "gold" in the MarCom Creative Awards, which recognize outstanding achievements by marketing and communication professionals.)

Bank Systems & Technology is right there on the pulse of the emerging trend. Soon, you'll be able to select from a library of business-related content to build a portable collection of video clips. These could be anything from elevator pitches by new companies to interviews with industry leaders. You'll be able to bolster your knowledge of the industry, using video as an adjunct to print and the website.

Already, IBM has started down the podcasting path, with a banking-themed discussion featuring Mark Greene and Rusty Wiley. It's not a big stretch to envision an enhancement to this offering that includes pictures, slides, and video. You'd watch, you'd listen, but most of all, you'd imagine how your own business could benefit from the technology strategies discussed.

That's just one part of the equation. The next question is determining what kind of content a bank should offer to its retail and business customers. Banks are no strangers to content generation, especially in the "cold media" world, from mailed brochures to Web sites to financial calculators.

That's not to say banks should enter the realm of broadcasting, i.e. generating content for mass markets. Instead, banks have to focus on "narrowcasting," or generating content for the smallest possible group of people. More specifically, what does an iPod video bank statement look like? How about a mobile-phone video financial planning walkthrough? Or education programs about how to finance a home purchase?

This is one of those situations where the technology already exists, and it's just a question of which banks have the vision to take advantage of it.

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