Friday, April 26, 2013

Cataloging the Stream?

     Recently, Netflix CEO Reed Hastings issued a document entitled "The Netflix Long Term View," in which Netflix details their plans to start produce more original programming, anticipating that users will abandon "linear TV" in favor of "Internet TV". Their recent release of House of Cards and the upcoming release of a new season of Arrested Development are the prime examples of this model, created for self-paced (often binge) watching and not dependent on TV schedules or on the classical TV commercial model.

    Amazon has recently come out with its own original programming. Hulu, DirectTV and others also have their own original programming competing with the broadcast and cable TV networks. While this is highly convenient, it also speaks to another trend, the growing ubiquity of streaming and the slow heat death of the physical item. With music streaming on sites like Pandora, Grooveshark, and Spotify and even more interactive sites like SoundCloud, physical compact disc sales have followed downward trends predicted six years ago, and all signs point to physical DVD sales doing the same.  (even though Netflix is maximizing their potential profit by issuing physical DVDs of House of Cards).

   So if there are no physical items, how are libraries to catalog access to items on a streaming service, where items can be available one day and not the next? Do we adopt the discovery layer model for searching article databases, leaving the "cataloging" up to the discovery layer's indexing? Or is there a need for catalog record at all if we will necessarily have to search the streaming service?

   Stanford's cataloging reference does provide information on how to catalog streaming video, but this is understandably geared toward streaming video housed on local servers. Access to items on streaming services such as Netflix are impermanent, but in the future may be the only access point and exist permanently outside of a library's "collection" but within their "access," so perhaps the question is not how to catalog such material, but whether it should included in the purview of the catalog.


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