Industry pundits continue to point to news and information as the two big winners on the Internet. If that's the case, NewsHunter.net could lead a charmed life. The small start-up unit, led by CEO Tim Donovan, provides real-time video-search capability to subscribers, and the company believes it will be a boon to broadcasters in two ways: by making it easier for news departments to research news topics and, eventually, making their content searchable by the public.
It's the first use, as a research tool, to which broadcasters are paying attention. Newshunter.net recently came to the aid of ABC, CNN, CNBC and the FOX News Channel networks at both presidential conventions. Reporters using the NewsHunter.net Web site were able to keyword search transcripts and video within 40 seconds after comments were made. CNBC and CNN are using NewsHunter's indexing technology for internal archive searches.
The key to NewsHunter is that it automates the process of archiving the video quickly. The company wrote its own code and created its own graphical user interface to work with a licensed Virage logging system. The video is received at the company's technical center at Conus' Washington bureau via satellite or cable, and then archived into the server system. "The system is going to be about 28% faster in October, because of the way we wrote the code," says Donovan.
Donovan makes it clear that his company's service is business-to-business, not just a streaming-video company looking to tap into a niche broadcast market.
For example, the site currently offers TV feeds and text news wires that are primarily political in nature-congressional hearings, live floor debates from the Senate and House of Representatives, as well as Washington pool feeds and White House press briefings. To Donovan, there is a natural audience besides of journalists-other government agencies, lawyers, corporations and educational institutions. Subscribers to the site can pay on a daily basis ($7), monthly ($25), or annually ($200) for access to the content. Upon initial signup the user is given a day to try out the service (at www.newshunter.com) for free.
"We have less than 1,000 subscribers, but we're looking to grow that with strategic sales and alliances," adds Donovan. "We hope to be around 30,000 by the end of 2001, but we also believe the number could be very low."
The business model for NewsHunter will rely heavily upon signing up larger organizations and corporations to subscriptions. There is no advertising, and the sites are "cookie free," meaning that visitors have a degree of privacy.
The potential to offer searchable broadcast-news content to the public could also be a revenue enhancer, for both NewsHunter and the networks. "We aren't Napster; we're in the business of partnering with content owners," Donovan says. Part of that partnering means sharing gross revenues from subscription sales with partners.