Does the World Need Another Media Player?

On April 9, 2008, Adobe released the Adobe Media Player software, which allows a customizable, cross-platform media player experience. Built using the Adobe AIR runtime, the media player harnesses the power of Flash to create a rich media experience. To complete the experience, Adobe adds support for both RSS (Really Simple Syndication) feeds and H.264 video, two of the open standards used by the podcasting movement.

What does this all mean? I had a chance to sit down with Deeje Cooley, who serves as an evangelist for Adobe’s Dynamic Media Organization (and formerly as the product manager for the Adobe Media Player). Cooley was tasked with bringing the product to market and he shared insight into Adobe’s motivation for the product and goals for its role in the market. Unlike competing products, the Adobe Media Player has chosen to focus on being a video-only player.

“With the growth of video online, and the dramatic growth of Flash as the video delivery mechanism of choice…there was a ripe opportunity to take advantage of all these events around the industry,” said Cooley. “We started to build an RSS aggregator and quickly recognized that video was going to be a significant media online and so it became a video RSS aggregator. And so that’s really the birth of the Adobe Media Player.”

TV Comes to the Web
Adobe has been tracking the trend of TV moving online. Many users want their TV delivered to them on demand rather then having to wait for it or searching online. One way to meet this demand is RSS, which allows for video content to be indexed, searched, and subscribed to. Many media outlets from news websites to iTunes use RSS to allow content to be delivered with convenience.

“RSS is akin to having a magazine delivered to your doorstep on a weekly basis. The team was really fascinated with RSS and we started to educate internally around the company that RSS was something significant. We also started noticing some other trends going on in the industry. One was in the TV space—the growth of DVRs and video on demand services hitting 20 percent in 2007,” said Cooley. “Adobe Media Player is fundamentally a video RSS aggregator.”

While the Adobe Media Player is a great vehicle for delivering content from traditional television networks like CBS, HGTV, and MTV, it goes much deeper. The media player ships with content from podcasting networks such as, ON Networks, Podango, and Revision3. Thanks to the RSS technology, those participating in video podcasting can easily add the Adobe Media Player as an outlet.

“I’m thrilled to say that Adobe Media Player is based on standards around RSS 2.0, Atom 1.0, the media RSS extensions first promoted by Yahoo. So if you have a standard spaced RSS feed…it’s likely to play in the Adobe Media Player,” said Cooley. “We’ve been working very closely with the ecosystem of video publishing, starting with the video management systems…making sure that those RSS feeds are compatible with the Adobe Media, then making sure that their consoles have support for defining the branding assets that create a unique experience in Adobe Media Player.”

It’s the branding assets that are a standout feature of the Adobe Media Player. Content producers can harness features like banner branding bars, custom backgrounds, and network logos. The goal here is to make it easier for content creators to brand and market their content.

“The key difference for Adobe Media player over other aggregators is that it’s specifically designed with the business of content in mind. So if you’re a content creator or a podcast creator, it has mechanisms to provide dynamic branding around your content. This is both a benefit to you, as well as your audience, to really know what context they’re in, and also have dynamic advertising built in,” said Cooley. “If you want to do layouts, you have complete control over that through an XML file.”

Next Generation User Data

The player will also support next-generation tools for targeting audiences, including viewer-centric dynamic advertising and anonymous measurement of content usage, such as when and how often a video has been viewed. Another important factor is the Adobe Media Player’s support for protected streaming, advertising protection, and video DRM protection.

“If you want to do measurement to understand not only how many people are downloading your episodes, but how many are actually watching them, what time of day, how often they are launching it—things like that, the Adobe Media Player has a measurement engine built in,” said Cooley “It’s designed to measure the content, not the viewer, so it doesn’t tell you anything personally identifiable about your audience, but it does tell you what aggregates, how often and how much of your content is being consumed.”

Cooley said that Adobe recognizes the need for balance in serving both content creators and consumers. This includes the ability for both parties to control the measurement tools. Consumers can access the Options area of the Media Player then choose the Privacy preferences (by default the application will measure media usage anonymously).

“The end user can disable the measurement engine, but the corollary is that as a content owner, you can require the measurement engine to be on. So if you really need that measurement to make your business work, you can enable that. So we think it’s the right balance. If end users want to turn it off, they will be limited to content that doesn’t require the measurement engine. It’s a lot like JavaScript in the browser. If you want to turn that off for privacy rights, you can. Some sites just won’t work unless that engine is on,” said Cooley.