Webcasting Adoption: Technology Fluidity, User Innovativeness, and Media Substitution

Article excerpt

Webcasting, hailed by some as the last frontier of the Internet era, has thus far been trekking sluggishly along its diffusion curve at 7% (Morrissey, 2003). This lackluster adoption rate is largely due to the technical constraints of Internet transmission speed and bandwidth. According to industry tracking statistics, the total video streams accessed in 2002 increased 52.3% to nearly 4 billion since 2001; average streams accessed per unique user also showed an increase of 25% per month to 1.53 (Accustream iMedia, 2003). This growth was primarily triggered by the increased penetration of broadband connections to Internet user homes (Atkin & Lau, 2002).

Major broadcast and cable television networks have been streaming their news, sports, and selected programs online, as have major professional sports leagues (Wingfeld, 2002). Video streaming on local television stations has also started to take off, as local stations realize that webcasting is a good venue to reap additional local advertising revenues, public relations benefits, and branding utility (Murray, 2001). In an era of diminishing media localism, localized webcasting--unrestrained by the rigid broadcast schedule--could help cultivate an ancillary service that is beneficial to the local community interest. Moreover, major online brands such as Yahoo!, Real Networks, and AOL are attempting to become competitive players by increasing their broadband streaming offerings (Alvear, 2001).

At this early stage of webcasting diffusion, little is known regarding who the early adopters may be, the reasons why they adopt webcasting, and what types of content will be most viable for adoption. Presently, industry and academic research investigating the diffusion of this innovation remains scarce (e.g., Lin, 2003). This study intends to examine the potential factors that could help predict webcasting adoption. In particular, it utilizes several theoretical elements to explore audience interest in adopting broadcast video streaming via webcasting. In addition, the study will assess user interests in accessing local webcast programming.

Adopter Attributes

Early adopters of a technology innovation tend to fit into a certain demographic profile. In the case of video webcasting, a typical "streamie" is a male aged between 25 and 44 who has at least some college education and earns approximately $50,000 annually. He is also twice more likely than an average Internet user to make online purchases and is most interested in webcasts featuring movie trailers, followed by music videos, weather forecasts, and sports highlights (Lam, 2001). In other words, these early adopters of webcasting are upwardly mobile younger males. Yet the same data also indicate that 44% of the webcast adopters are females, suggesting that women are not far behind men in exploring this innovative Internet technology. These findings are confirmed by a more recent study revealed by Rose (2003). To explore the role of these demographic characteristics in shaping the Internet user's webcasting adoption interest, a research hypothesis is proposed below.

H1: Webcasting adoption interest will be predicted by male gender, greater income, higher education level, and younger age.

Innovativeness Attributes

Demographic characteristics are only partial indicators of an individual's personal attributes that contribute to his or her cognitive response towards making an innovation adoption decision. One's personality traits could also help determine how an innovation is perceived and evaluated for adoption decision making. Innovators or early adopters are also said to be those who are venturesome and socially mobile (Roberston & Kennedy, 1968), aside from their inherent willingness to take risks in adopting a new innovation (Feldman & Armstrong, 1975; Rogers, 1962). Early adopters were also said to possess a higher degree of personal innovativeness (Rogers, 1995). …