Webcasting Worldwide book review

Webcasting Worldwide:  Business Models of an Emerging Global Medium, edited by Louisa S. Ha and Richard J. Ganahl III.  Published by Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, London & Mahwah, New Jersey, 2007. Listed as US $34.50. 

Despite its rather dry title, Webcasting Worldwide:  Business Models of an Emerging Global Medium attempts and partially succeeds in capturing a good sense of what is happening around the world with webcasting, which the editors (Louisa S. Ha and Ricahrd J. Ganahl III) define as “the convergence of the internet with the television and radio media”, rightly pointing out that “the business of webcasting and streaming media is undergoing … a transformation and global awakening.”

As a summary of what is happening around the world, country by country, Webcasting Worldwide is comprehensive, detailed and absolutely dogged in its presentation and cataloguing.  After two introductory chapters, the book surveys North America (the USA and Canada), Europe (chapters on the UK, the Netherlands, Germany, Spain, Italy, Greece, Norway and Denmark), the Asia Pacific (China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Korea, Japan and Australia) and the Arab region.  Each chapter gives a good short background about the electronic media in that country, followed by revenue sources, business models, local audience research, broadband take-up, economic factors and case studies of content producers.  Thus we have details of the Yahoo!s of the world, along with the BBC, AOL and a bewildering variety of media organisations that I had never heard of before.  Thus Webcasting Worldwide also operates in part as an international survey of convergent digital media, with an impressive array of international commentators.  It’s not surprising that it received the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication Picard Award in 2007.

The authors are cognisant that they have created a snapshot of a rapidly evolving business, and have created a website (http://webcastingworldwide.blogspot.com) to provide updates for the book.  This is a noble feature, but when I checked the site, the last post had been more than two months before – not exactly the “daily breaking news” that will encourage users to return quickly.  The book also comes with a useful CD-Rom that contains hyperlinks and powerpoint slides for each of the 20 chapters.  I also appreciated the detailed biographical information on each of the 26 contributors.

The great strength of Webcasting Worldwide:  Business Models of an Emerging Global Medium is the tremendous amount of data, which is carefully produced, catalogued and assiduously presented.  This is no textbook, but rather a reference book for media and academic libraries in particular.  For me, the weaknesses arise in part from what the book does not do and how narrowly it appears to define the topic.  Isn’t YouTube effectively one of the biggest webcasters in the world?  In the authors’ pursuit of certain media business models, there appears to be no mention of it at all here.  There are also some inconsistent and confusing elements:  the webcaster profiles of Australia list seven different ABC services (including, curiously, Radio 1222 Newcastle), which is not how the Australian audience nor how the ABC really views the ABC’s webcasting offerings.

The first, second and last chapters do begin to integrate the topic by relating what was happening in each country and pulling out themes and common patterns.  I wanted more of that.  Indeed, the next challenge for these editors is to produce volume two, the book which approaches the topic thematically rather than geographically.  Hard to do?  Probably.  But Ha and Ganahl could probably pull it off.

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