- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 13, 2007

The world is thinking” — or that’s what Brian Gruber is banking on, at least.

Mr. Gruber is founder and chief executive officer of Fora.tv, a broadband video site devoted to public affairs. Fora, the plural word for forum, streams speeches, panel discussions, debates and user-generated clips with the hope of engaging viewers across the globe and encouraging them to interact with each other.

“I think the Internet and broadband video allow you to do something that television could not do effectively before, which is to target small, passionate audiences with niche content,” said Mr. Gruber, adding that falling costs of production, bandwidth and Internet storage — with consumer migration to the Web — made it an opportune time to pursue such a venture.

The San Francisco company has inked content deals with C-SPAN, the Brookings Institution, the Council on Foreign Relations, the Hoover Institution and the Cato Institute among others, as well as independent bookstores across the country, including D.C.’s Politics and Prose.

But what about the obvious question: In a world where online video is dominated by clips of amateur rappers, practical jokes and skateboarding feats, is there really an appetite for something like Fora?

“It is a risk,” acknowledged Mr. Gruber, arguing that the quest for entertainment fodder has degraded intellectual discourse. “If you look retrospectively at investments in media, then the inevitable conclusion is that Americans are only interested in the lowest common denominator entertainment and news as entertainment.”

Despite that trend, “I think there’s a hunger among intellectually curious Americans and people worldwide who want to use these new interactive tools to explore political, social and cultural ideas,” he said.

Fora provides speaker biographies, links and transcripts when available. The company is also in talks with cell-phone carriers to make content available to mobile subscribers.

Fora’s basic offerings are free to users, but the company is developing a premium membership option, priced at $4.95 a month, with additional content and a chance for video providers to share revenues. No ads are on the site yet, but deals are in the works, Mr. Gruber said.

“The focus has been on building content,” he said.

A former marketing director at C-SPAN, Mr. Gruber rounded up initial funding from 10 investors, led by media mogul William R. Hearst III, the company’s principal investor. The company expects to turn a profit in its third year, Mr. Gruber said.

Mr. Gruber said Fora aims to attract 1 million unique viewers per month by the end of the year.

Double dose of Doug

Listeners to all-news radio station WTOP-103.5 FM may have noticed a bit more of the WJLA-TV (Channel 7) weather team in their diets.

As of Feb. 5, the Arlington ABC affiliate is the exclusive source of weather forecasts and on-air meteorologists for the Bonneville International outlet.

“It’s great to have forecasters who are local instead of being based out of Atlanta,” News Director Mike McMearty explained. Forecasters from the Atlanta-based Weather Channel previously shared weather duties with the WJLA team.

Not to mention: “Doug Hill is as close to a rock star in a meteorologist as it comes.”

• Channel Surfing runs Wednesdays. Call 202/636-3139 or e-mail krowland@ washingtontimes.com.

LOAD COMMENTS ()

 

Click to Read More

Click to Hide