Web camera technology failing to provide a hit

DESPITE promising beginnings, web cam technology has been under-utilised in Australia. In WA it has been left largely up to Government departments and non-profit organisations to broadcast still images and live streaming.

It seems the private sector is unsure how to create revenue from web cams. Companies are still clinging to the banner advertising and content licensing business model used by many failed content-driven dot.coms in the past.

However, with online advertising revenues rapidly diminishing, even this meagre revenue model is shrinking.

Some of the most successful web cam sites in WA are initiatives of Government departments. Main Roads WA TrafficCam has cameras trained on major roads and freeways from Joondalup to Mandurah.

Web developer Craig Sheldon said the site received 10,000 hits per day and captures five per cent of all traffic to the Main Roads website.

The Ministry of Sport and Recreation Surfcam website was established with just one camera overlooking the artificial reef at Cottesloe. It now broadcasts images from cameras at Swanbourne, Cottesloe, Scarborough and Trigg Beaches.

Ministry of Sport and Recreation consultant Michael Cutler said the site received 20,000 hits per month and was popular among local surfers and tourists who had visited Perth’s beaches and since gone home to colder climates.

Web cam technology is inherently suited to surfers wanting to check ocean conditions without leaving home. Before web cams they had relied on radio surf reports and telephone hotlines.

Privately operated surf cam sites WaveCam and Coastalwatch were developed in the late 1990s to target surfers and beachgoers. The rival market leaders have cameras at most popular surfing beaches in Australia, with an emphasis on east coast locations.

WaveCam director Alex Render said the site was developed to showcase parent company ID Media’s streaming technology. The shaky nature of deriving revenue from web cam content now means many companies use their sites as marketing tools.

Perhaps the best known and most popular web cams are on Southern Star Endemol’s Big Brother website. The site received a world record 500,000 hits in its first 24 hours of operation.

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