Just as surely as television followed radio, the rapid advancement of Internet technology now makes it possible to add high-resolution images to your audio presentations on the Web. They can even be designed so that the images change in response to audio cues.
Let's backtrack for just a moment. Until recently, the only way to change images on a Web site was by using the "meta refresh" HTML tag or by employing a Java applet. The meta refresh tag's reliability is highly dependent on connection speed, and the Java applet is very picky when it comes to choosing the browser with which it likes to work. And, more importantly, neither one of these can handle audio. Now, however, by using the technology developed by RealNetworks, any number of images can be added to your audio presentations and streamed from your site. Visitors to your site are now able to view high-resolution pictures while enjoying near-CD-quality sound. Best of all, this technology streams smoothly over a 28.8 kilobits per second connection.
Streaming Slides Are Different From Streaming Video
A word of caution here: Don't confuse streaming slides with streaming video. There is a big difference! (Streaming video will be covered in a future column.) Streaming slides consist of still images that can change over time or in sync with an audio script. You can utilize existing photos, graphic images, and quality line art for your slide show. (Most encoding companies -- the companies that create streaming media from the tapes and images you supply them with -- will also be able to supply graphics of the type used on television at a very low cost, if you need assistance in that regard.) Due to the flexibility of streaming slides, your sales presentations enhance the character of your Web site.
You can now show your products in an entirely different light. Instead of trying to describe unique and/or desirable features with only text or audio, you can actually zero in on those important selling points with pictures! Prospective buyers can now closely examine products that are usually difficult to sell over the Web, due to the desire of consumers to "touch and feel." (Items such as antiques, furniture, sporting goods, and apparel fall easily into this category.) This adds a great deal of credibility to your sales pitch and to your Web-based business.
Use Streaming Slides to Help You Sell
Streaming slides can be a powerful tool for realtors and homebuilders. With so much real estate activity taking place over the Web today, imagine the sales edge that a good slide show could have by showcasing a property's outstanding features. Add audio that discusses the availability of nearby schools, shopping, transportation, and entertainment, as well as available financing for the property, and you have a property that will surely sell.
Several publications have called streaming slides a true attention-getter! All you need to do is gather your images on disk, photographic film, or paper. Then prepare your audio cassette that includes audio cues for where the slide changes are to occur. If you cannot provide an audio cassette, you must prepare a written script that indicates the location of the slide changes. (Most encoding companies can provide voice talent if necessary.) And, finally, your cassette or script must also provide the desired sequencing of the pictures. Your encoding company will prepare and digitize your media and send you Web-ready files, or it will offer to host them on its own servers.
Small businesses have always dreamed of having access to expensive media so that they could promote their products with style. Now they can, at very reasonable costs -- and with the 24-7 capability that only the Internet can offer. The creative possibilities of marketing with streaming media are endless.
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