In the past, words uttered on television simply disappeared into the ether, and retrieving them meant tedious work. You could wait for a show to post a transcript. You could search a clipping service like TV Eyes, which only goes back thirty days, doesn’t allow you to post video and doesn’t include every channel. You could request footage from news outlets themselves, or send away for loaned footage from Vanderbilt University’s Television News Archive, which, with recordings of news broadcasts from every national network since 1968, is the world’s most extensive and complete archive of television news—but which stamps its footage with ugly time codes. Or, like The Daily Show and The Colbert Report used to do it, you could assign a lot of interns to monitor a wall of TiVo’ed television shows, tediously fast-forwarding and rewinding each show to find the mention they were looking for, with the help of cross-referenced transcripts from Lexis Nexis.

SnapStream speeds that entire process up.

“We bring some of the power of ‘new media,’ the ability to search, copy and paste, and e-mail clips, to the old media of television for organizations,” Agrawal said. “You weren’t able to search television before, but now you can. Now you can pinpoint stuff and you can hold people accountable and move at the same speed at which media works in the online world.”

Paul Niwa, a professor of journalism at Emerson College in Boston, says that SnapStream presents major implications for the future of how we consume television, and how broadcast journalists approach their work. He has been using it to teach broadcast and digital journalism to undergraduate and graduate students for three years.

“[SnapStream] has a really great impact on ability for people to remember stories, and I think that is so key,” Niwa said. “We can spend a lot of time on our journalism, crafting stories, finding good sources, but if that story is not memorable to the audience an hour, a day, a week, or a year from now, then that story has less impact. What video and audio searchability I hope will help us to do is make our stories more memorable.”

As in, more permanent. And therefore, more important.

“Charles Kuralt once said something like, ‘What I do disappears at the speed of light,’” Niwa paraphrased. “What he was talking about is when he crafted a story, it would get played once, it would go out into the airwaves and never be seen again,” he continued. “What searchability does is to give the traditional video journalists and audio journalists that permanence. The second thing it is going to do is improve the accountability of the video and audio journalist because their work will be more permanent. They will see the responsibility that they are now journalists of record.”

Alexandra Fenwick is an assistant editor at CJR.