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Business lesson: Big potential in streaming online tales of Tampa Bay economy

In the wake of the Republican National Convention, here are three takeaways for the Tampa Bay business community:

3. One winner this week is Front Row Tampa Bay. The online program spotlighted the best of this region's economy in what was a four-day infomercial. Business leaders here would be hard pressed to say they did not learn something new about our economy.

Front Row delivered 17 hours of programming livestreamed Monday through Thursday, aimed at RNC attendees and online viewers.

In so doing, the marketing experiment produced a digital library of business stories tapping close to 125 area voices.

So far, close to 14,000 online viewers watched some portion of Front Row.

The online program looks to be a creative coup for the Tampa Bay Partnership and its CEO, Stuart Rogel. Front Row could leapfrog this region ahead in its ability to communicate via a compelling live format.

"This has never been done in economic development," Rogel says.

You won't find anything like Front Row in Charlotte at next week's Democratic National Convention.

On Thursday, Hill & Knowlton's Harry Costello, an adviser on Front Row, praised the willingness of business executives to share what they are doing and appear on Front Row. "What is of lasting value is the coming together of the business community," he says.

"Technology has changed how we tell stories," says Frank Robertson, who co-hosted Front Row with fellow TV veteran Kathy Fountain.

So how can the business community leverage this digital experiment in the future?

2. While traditional political coverage focused on scripted speeches delivered inside the Tampa Bay Times Forum, major corporations filled private hotel suites and rented facilities to entertain and influence politicians during the RNC in Tampa.

The companies ranged from tech giants Google, AT&T, Motorola and Comcast to McDonald's, BlueCross BlueShield, Duke Energy and such law firms as Foley & Lardner, Gunster and Holland & Knight.

It's a stark reminder the real currency of politics wasn't in the Times Forum. Big money — be it direct campaign contributions or Super PACs enabled by the U.S. Supreme Court decision to allow unrestricted political spending by corporations — has made big businesses more influential than ever in 2012 politics.

Pay no attention to those corporations behind the curtain? Let's see if media coverage counters that suggestion before the 2016 campaign.

1. The neutering of the promised protest movement at the RNC continues to baffle me. I was at the RNC in 2004 in New York, where the people protesting outnumbered the population of Tampa. Many of this week's protests could fit in a Waffle House.

Was it the Florida humidity? The threat of stormy Isaac? An overwhelming police presence? The relative remoteness of Tampa?

The Big No Show puts a big dent in the credibility of the Occupy movement. It makes it easier for legislators to seek more tax cuts for the wealthy and business. Companies can enjoy a big sigh of relief. Had the RNC protests mushroomed here, the Occupy agenda might have gained fresh national momentum.

Robert Trigaux can be reached at trigaux@tampabay.com.

Business lesson: Big potential in streaming online tales of Tampa Bay economy 08/30/12 [Last modified: Thursday, August 30, 2012 9:37pm]

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