Bringing Sanity to Metadata Madness

By Christy King, Strategic Consultant, MESA

Who would have imagined that there are 200 people in New York City who are excited enough about metadata to devote an entire day to discussing it?

Surprisingly, that’s the number of media business participants who gathered together at Metadata Madness, the Media & Entertainment Interoperability Summit, at the Microsoft Technology Center in Times Square last week to share knowledge about this maddening but essential ingredient in today’s media distribution supply chain.

The standards organizations set the stage for the day’s discussions, illustrating how they are all working hard to bring some predictability to data sets across information silos. ATSC, Ad-ID, and EIDR, all presented new improvements to their code sets to better address a variety of issues such as data security, how more types of data can be shared, and new methodologies to keep data intact through more distribution systems, such as a brand new watermarking technique for OTA (over the air).

Importantly, these “metadata geeks” explained how they are increasingly partnering with the business side of their operations in order to build a solid “business case” coalition for data expenditures.

How can anyone get so excited about software standards at a time when distribution to the latest new consumer device often triggers a knee-jerk “be there or become instantly irrelevant” reaction? Such a survivalist mentality can take precedence over thinking through exactly what feeding that shiny new toy will engender in terms of technology and people costs. While we are all fighting the good fight to hold onto market share, I believe that there is an important element of software standards that can help us in our metadata evangelism. While many of us are distributing formats and files — numbering in the hundreds every day — one of the most significant problems with a lack of interoperability is that our business units have few ways to compare simple statistics, even something as basic as the number of views per format. Right now it is almost impossible to determine which format(s) to stop producing because we don’t yet have very good ways of comparing actionable data from disparate systems.

During Metadata Madness, we repeatedly heard finance and analysis teams talk about how the measurement of consumption across today’s media ecosystems is still a frustrating exchange of slow, daily battles, even though they are making important progress in producing actionable data. The upshot — we still have a long way to go.

Another interesting discovery came when I asked for a show of hands on who in the room had worked with their legal departments to automate rights data as part of the media distribution workflow. Even with thousands of files moving through organization’s distribution pipelines every day, not a single hand was raised. Clearly rights data is still being buried in complicated silos, and is seriously lagging behind in interoperability solutions.

Its time for us all to come together with our legal teams to begin the process of sorting this out.