Marketing technology

NAB is over for another year, and it was a very buoyant show. The new layout certainly helped to avoid overcrowding in the South Halls, as folks were drawn to the North Hall by some big names.

In past years, software vendors always created the buzz, but this year a new camera had folks lining up around the block. Is that strange?

I guess it must be a portent of change. All you need is a camera. Everything else is a file and can be handled with IT equipment. Of course that is a gross simplification. Live broadcasting still needs conventional video equipment, including switchers, routers and encoders. In addition, contribution and distribution still require conventional RF equipment. It's just that these are no longer the draws at shows.

No camera is complete without a lens. At one evening session at NAB, Larry Thorpe, national marketing executive for Canon, reminded the audience that lens development does not follow Moore's Law, but is constrained by the laws of physics. Although developments in processing and semiconductor memory lower prices and raise the performance specs, capturing light from the original scene still requires large and expensive glassware. It's nice to be reminded that technology is still rooted on physical principles rather than marketing.

However, a company still needs to market its product in order for it to stand out at NAB. With more than 1600 exhibits, it's difficult for a start-up company to get noticed. A visit to any post house, or even a broadcaster, reveals a very small number of vendors' labels in the racks, maybe 10 at most, and those are the usual big names.

Broadcast Engineering tries to help with show previews in the magazine, but limits on space mean we can only list a fraction of the product launches. Four days on the show floor doesn't allow time for a tour of discovery, a zigzag round every aisle. So it falls back on marketing. That new camera manufacturer with the long lines around the booth demonstrated the interest some hype can generate. For many engineering-led companies, lights under bushes come to mind. It is a reality that you need to shout about your product to be heard above the noise.

Some may say that there is not room in the market for 1600 companies, but not having competition would stifle innovation. Many of today's market leaders started out with a 10ft × 10ft booth and a great idea. The path to success can come from a subtle blend of innovative technology and marketing. Get it wrong, and you will remain forever on the periphery of the show halls.

The BroadcastAsia trade show in Singapore, mid-June, is an opportunity to talk with the vendors in a more relaxed environment and learn more about their products. Although I don't often watch demos because I suffer from information overload, BroadcastAsia gives me the opportunity to watch selected demos and to understand the products in more detail. It also proves to be a good opportunity to find out more about the state of the business in different regions. Stemming from its size and frantic pace, NAB tends to be more about technology and products.

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