Live, from your dining room, it’s your own TV channel

Column: Mogulus.com does for TV what home-publishing software did for newsletters.

By , Columnist for The Christian Science Monitor

During a recent chat, a friend of mine threw out the odd line, “You should watch my son’s broadcast this weekend.”

His broadcast? I assumed this meant his son was a professional sportscaster or something. No, he said, the kid was only a tween and the broadcast was coming from his bedroom.

“He’ll be mixing two or three camera shots with his computers. It’s pretty cool.”

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He has TV cameras in his bedroom? No, he corrected me again, just webcams designed for computers. So how, I asked, was he able to have a “broadcast.”

“Mogulus.”

At first, I thought Mogulus might have been a 12th century ruler of Persia or something like that. (His son’s history project?) My bad. It turns out that Mogulus.com is one of the coolest online Web technologies I’ve seen in a while. Basically, what programs like PageMaker did for desktop publishing in the ’90s, Mogulus is going to do for TV – take it out of the hands of “experts” and give everyone a chance to do their own thing.

Mogulus is a program that allows you to broadcast video on the Internet. Once you register at the site, you can create your own channel. (Mine is My_Kitchen_Table_TV, for instance.)

The Mogulus browser-based studio allows you to create live, scheduled, and on-demand Internet television. (If your cellphone has an Internet connection and a camera, you can even broadcast live on the go.) The software includes a widget that allows you to embed your channel on a regular website, such as your MySpace page.

You can pull in video clips from other sites such as YouTube or different Mogulus channels. This means that you could set up a schedule for the day. You can record your own program and then play it at, say, 9:30 a.m. and 5 p.m., then fill in your schedule with other “shows.” You can run graphics across the bottom of the screen as well.

And there is a lot to choose from. There is stuff like mine (just some folks sitting in front of their webcam talking – and in about a gazillion languages I’ve discovered). And then there are very professional organizations using the software: For instance, I watched a Mogulus broadcast from the New England Cable Network about the recent ice storm that basically shut down a city. At one point, I switched to a broadcast of a US military unit just coming home from Iraq. More than a few radio stations are using it to do live webcasts of their hosts doing their daily radio programs. The National Lacrosse League uses Mogulus to televise games. Earlier this month, the Des Moines Register used Mogulus to broadcast Iowa Supreme Court hearings on same-sex marriage.

It is wicked cool.

Mogulus comes in two flavors: a free ad-supported model (every few minutes, the text of an ad will go across the bottom of the screen) and a pro model (users pay either $350 or $1,250 a month, depending on what you want to do and the number of people you anticipate your channel reaching).

The company is pretty open about its financing. About $2.7 million comes from individuals. But Mogulus also has a major partner, newspaper publisher Gannett, which gave the company $10 million in funding this year.

Mogulus CEO Max Haot acknowledges that before this venture, people had already been broadcasting video on the Internet, but only if they basically had the same equipment as a regular television station. Mogulus breaks that financial barrier down, allowing anyone with a webcam to broadcast, he says.

“You know, something like CNN is the ultimate vision,” Mr. Haot says. “Mogulus would allow anyone to produce something similar if they had the talent and ability. But it doesn’t have to be that complex. We have over 200,000 producers right now, and most of them are not professionals.”

The number of minutes that viewers are logging on Mogulus doubles every two months, according to the company.

Haot says that his company’s goal is to keep the free service strong, not only because they believe it helps democratize Internet video, but it’s also the best way to ensure adoption by larger media companies.

The deal with Gannet is a great example,” he says. “Local Gannett outlets started to use it for free. And then corporate started to pay attention to what was happening. That’s when they got in touch with us. We didn’t even know it was happening.”

Haot also hopes that the free service will ultimately pay for itself.

“We have no plans to make the free service only half-work as a way to drive people to the ‘pro’ model,” he says. “If we can make it work, we even hope one day to be able to give some of the revenue back to the producers.”

Mogulus definitely makes my list of the most interesting and innovative sites of the year. And whether you are a professional media company, a local organization that wants to find an inexpensive way to broadcast your meetings, or a couple of guys or gals sitting around a table talking, you’ll want to check out Mogulus soon.

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