SMPA acquires TiVo-like technology

The Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo uses it to improve its advertising and the Harris County Sherrif’s Office in Texas uses it to monitor local news coverage and get interviews with witnesses.

Now GW students too will be able to take advantage of SnapStream, a $25,000 glorified TiVo that can record 10,000 hours of real-time television for research and content analysis.

“We see this as a great step forward for our faculty and our students, another example of SMPA’s efforts to use cutting edge media technology in our research and teaching missions,” said Lee Huebner, director of the School of Media and Public Affairs.

Beyond the rodeo and the sheriff’s office, SnapStream is used by the clipping services Metro Monitor in Birmingham, Ala., and Kaplow’s Media Strategies Group in New York. They use SnapStream to quickly gather news clippings for clients, and they said they were able to streamline their services through SnapStream and increase the turnaround for exposure analysis, according to the brochure.

GW became the second college in the U.S. to own a SnapStream server last month. SMPA is SnapStream Enterprises’ first client to purchase the newest version of the company’s server. The installation process is currently underway. Initially, only faculty will have access to program what the server records. They will be able to record from their homes with a personal login password and license.

Graduate students will be able to use the server by mid-April. Eventually, undergraduate students who are taking master’s classes or need to record television broadcasts for research will be allowed access.

Paul Fucito, SMPA’s director of communications, said in the past, faculty who wanted to analyze news broadcasts had to spend weeks, or even months, recording and filling bookshelves with countless videotapes. After seeing a display for SnapStream at a conference, SMPA decided to invest in the new technology.

“It takes seconds and minutes now to do what took weeks or months. After recording, let’s say a month of Andersen Cooper, you can then go back type in relevant keywords, find the clips that apply and watch those segments,” Fucito said.

Roxanne Russell, studio manager for SMPA said, “It’s basically a big Tivo with multiple users, giving each user the ability to record directly onto his computer. It ends the bottleneck on recording.”

Sean Aday, an associate professor in SMPA, will be one of the initial professors utilizing SnapStream.

“It’s a great tool for research. For example, with the recent news about the U.S. embassy in Serbia, we could collect and compare coverage from all the networks. Graduate students, especially in the research methods class, will be able to conduct their own content analysis,” he said.

Emerson College in Boston bought a SnapStream server about a year and a half ago. The server is used for cross-network comparisons within the college’s TV news production classes.

“We call it ‘Tivo on steroids'” said Janet Kolodzy, chair of Emerson’s journalism department. “We are able to record from four different stations at a time and have the ability to conduct mini content analyses. For example, recently we used the keyword aspect to compare the amount of coverage concerning Hillary Clinton and cleavage versus Hillary Clinton and healthcare,”

Kolodzy said at Emerson faculty are the predominant users of SnapStream, but all students in the journalism school have access to watching SnapStream in certain labs.

She said, “From SnapStream, it is not so much the technology that (students) learn, but rather the critical thinking skills. The material gathered expands discussion in the classroom and broadens the types and amount of examples professors can present.”

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