Podzinger Unleashed! Examining the Second Exodus of Traditional Media

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Welcome to Revolution Number 2. The first time around, print publications were pulling their hair out as they tried to make sense of the Internet and how to use it with their written content. Now that people all over the country have high-speed, always-on connections to the ‘Net, TV and radio companies have to ponder the same choices and figure out how to make their stuff accessible online without getting hosed by the fear of media piracy. Fortunately for them, this time around, they have some help.

Many companies like TVEyes and Blinkx foresaw Revolution Number 2 and positioned themselves strategically to capitalize on the impending influx of audio and video content to the Web. But few have the technological lineage to match PodZinger, the consumer-level online media search engine created by the venerable BBN Technologies, a research and development company whose laboratories have cranked out the LOGO programming language, ARPANET (the Internet of the 1970’s), and a little thing called “E-mail” since 1948.

The technology behind PodZinger was originally commissioned by DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency) to make the vast amount of broadcasted and archived media content they receive searchable. BBN created a two-fold solution: one part recognized the sounds of speech, and the other part analyzed the language to figure out what that speech means.

According to the Bayh-Dole Act of 1980, which lets universities and research organizations under government contract that develop new technologies adapt those technologies for public and commercial use, BBN took their media analysis system and “commercialized” it as PodZinger. The original technology created for DARPA focused on searching though three major written language groups: English, Mandarin, and Arabic. To those models, BBN added natural language models for Spanish as well as niche language types like Sports and Finance, and then capped everything off with a fabulous consumer-oriented website.

But to catalyze a revolution, you need more than good technology. PodZinger comes from the word “pod,” as in “podcast” and “zing” which doesn’t really mean anything, but can sound positive as in “a little bit of zing” or negative as in “a real zinger”—both reflecting the positive and negative content of online media. PodZinger decided to start as a podcast search company since podcasting is a very new and quickly growing form of online media distribution. The company currently has white label partnerships with podcasts like Rocketboom, the TWiT network, and commandN.

But the ultimate goal is to tackle all online audio and video, both podcasted and otherwise. From the beginning, PodZinger has been signing partnerships with traditional media companies like WEEI Sports Radio, part of Entercom Boston, which before had no podcasted content. After all, what are podcasts but regular media files linked to by a specially formatted RSS feed.

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