New communications technologies like online conferencing are making collaboration among geographically-dispersed teams easier than ever before. Companies adopt such technologies for a variety of reasons, from wanting to reduce their travel budgets to seeking ways of operating more efficiently to getting in on the “green technology” movement.
To find out about one such technology, Webcasting, TMCnet turned to Sharat Sharan, president and CEO at ON24, a company that provides Webcasting solutions for organizations seeking ways to effectively operate corporate and marketing initiatives.
TMCnet: First off, for readers who aren’t familiar with the technology, what is Webcasting and how does it differ from Web conferencing?
Sharan: The best way to think about Web conferencing and Webcasting is to look at physical meetings and events.
Physical meetings are informal gatherings of a small group of people typically coming together to collaborate on a project. The meeting can start 5-10 minutes late while a phone conference line is used to connect individuals from other offices. That’s where Web conferencing excels: holding collaborative meetings. The meeting or presentation is presented over the Internet while a physical phone line or conference call bridge is required for the audio.
On the other hand, in a live event setting, there are multiple presentations from a few to many. The physical event requires significant preparation and can range from 25 to thousands of people. Webcasting is ideal for this scenario. Webcasting streams the audio and video over the Internet and can also use a phone line or conference call bridge to augment the audio stream, but this isn't necessary.
TMCnet: What are some of the ways Webcasting is used by businesses?
Sharan: Webcasting is ideal for conducting online events for your corporate or marketing initiatives. A majority of our customers leverage Webcasting for lead generation Webinars, continuing professional education, product announcements and demos, global brand launches, town hall meetings and more.
For example, Business Objects (News - Alert) conducted a 24-hour live streaming video Webcast as part of the company’s brand re-launch last year. The video Webcast was available on three continents and demonstrated the power of streaming video to reach the company’s target audience.
TMCnet: More specifically, can you provide a few examples of particular vertical industries Webcasting has an especially strong foothold?
Sharan: Publishing is a key area where Webcasting is strong. ON24 works with 85 percent of the B2B publishers, who recognize the value of providing Webcasting to advertisers and sponsors. In turn, Webcasting is the most cost-effective way for advertisers and sponsors to reach key audiences for a significant amount of time. Outside of publishing, government, life sciences and continuing professional education are other verticals where Webcasting is taking hold.
In the case of life sciences, companies are using Webcasting in unique ways for marketing, continuing education and workshops. For example, hub-and-spoke or hybrid meetings are popular. This type of event combines a mix of live and Webcasted events. A presentation will be streamed from one location—the hub—and Webcasted to other locations—the spokes—where people have gathered in a conference or meeting room to hear the presentation.
Building on life sciences, continuing medical education is another sub-segment. Medical organizations, law firms, and auditing companies are just a few instances where organizations require proof that specific trainings or courses have been completed. This can be tracked with Webcasting to ensure that professionals have satisfied professional education requirements.
From a government perspective, there are E-Gov initiatives outlined within the "President's Management Agenda,” such as training, outreach, and transparency to citizens via Web sites. By leveraging up-to-date technology like Webcasting, agencies can score higher on their PMA scorecard.
TMCnet: What are some of the specific benefits of using Webcasting, and how does it improve upon or compete with other types of communication solutions?
Sharan: There are at least three key benefits of Webcasting.
First, more and more companies are beginning to scrutinize travel and find ways to reduce costs. This impacts how organizations plan and hold internal events, such as in-person training, company-wide meetings, road shows and more. Webcasting provides organizations an alternative to traveling to one location and holding that event. It saves companies money while reducing travel.
Webcasting is a technology that has green benefits. In 2008, companies will begin implementing environmental and sustainability mandates. My position is that as part of a larger strategy, Webcasting reduces travel and the amount of resources consumed, such as eliminating the need for printed presentation. Webcasting is a technology that can be implemented by companies today with immediate benefits.
From a sales and marketing perspective, Webcasting is a powerful solution for lead generation efforts. Webcasting is the only medium that enables companies to communicate a specific message for over 40 minutes to a targeted audience. And when combined with lead scoring capabilities, Webcasting provides sales and marketing organizations with pre-screened, qualified sales leads.
TMCnet: What technologies are needed to make Webcasting work?
Sharan: For ON24, our solutions are delivered as a hosted service. From San Francisco to New York, London to Beijing, viewers only need a browser to view a Webcast powered by ON24. Alternatively, other solutions may require you to download software or plug-ins before you even begin watching the event.
Can you briefly summarize what ON24 does and the Webcasting solutions it offers?
ON24 is a Webcasting and rich media marketing solutions company. ON24 is unique in terms of the breadth of our solutions. Our solutions leverage Webcasting to address the global virtual event and streaming communication requirements of global organizations.
Our solutions are used for a variety of corporate and marketing initiatives, such as lead generation, continuing professional education, product launches, corporate communications and more. ON24 also has the ability to produce online conferences, seminars and shows on behalf of customers.
Our flagship Webcasting solution is our ON24 Webcast Center. Delivered as a hosted service, ON24 Webcast Center is a scalable and robust platform, which provides various options for Webcasting:
- Live streaming audio or video Webcasts.
- On-demand streaming audio or video Webcasts.
- Mock-live Webcasts, which are pre-recorded webcasts delivered on a specific day and time. This provides organizations with more flexibility in terms of speaker availability and schedules.
Building upon our Webcasting platform, ON24 also provides rich media marketing solutions:
- eMedia Center is a registration based micro site. A central resource for documents and rich media content, eMedia Center leverages ON24’s robust reporting and lead scoring engine for lead generation programs.
- Bannercast is a live or on-demand video streamed to a banner ad with optional registration and interactivity such as Q & A.
- Rich Media Webcasts is a video leveraging rich media and animation.
TMCnet: What are some of ON24’s recent achievements and how do they relate to the broader Webcasting market?
Sharan: ON24's innovations build upon Webcasting as the core and have developed solutions that significantly expand what one would think of as Webcasting. Furthermore, our Webcasting platform incorporates a robust reporting backend, which is valuable for evaluating the performance of your programs.
For example, Bannercast streams live video Webcast in the space of an in-banner ad. This increases the awareness of that ad buy, while having significantly more engagement than a standard banner ad.
A significant achievement for ON24 was the introduction of Insight24, a business and technology directory of Webcasts, videos and podcasts. The first of its kind, it is the largest repository of B2B rich media content.
TMCnet: Looking ahead, what changes do you predict for the Webcasting market during 2008?
Sharan: There are indications that the economy will begin slowing and a recession is around the corner. More companies are already looking to reduce travel and cut costs. Combined with green mandates, I envision Webcasting gaining more prominence in 2008. Webcasting is an ideal technology that can be implemented quickly with immediate results. Companies reduce travel, which in turns reduces the amount of resources wasted, while providing cost-savings in return.
Webcasting is also a key technology that connects disparately located individuals to experience a common event through streaming audio and video. Imagine the possibilities. Virtual events with thousands of attendees will become more of the norm rather than the exception. All types of physical shows—job fairs, employee meetings, partner summits, conferences, even toy fairs—can be viewed from the comfort of your home, while incorporating the interactivity of an in-person event.
TMCnet: What else should people know about Webcasting and ON24?
Sharan: Webcasting is about data. You are able to determine your prospect’s interests through the information they provide during registration, surveys and polls, as well as their interaction. This in turn enables you to better tailor your offerings to them in the future. Recognizing this, ON24 has developed new products, solutions and services, which are based on our core offering. We are constantly bringing new offerings to market.
To summarize, ON24 is the leading global Webcasting provider that supports customers in North America and in Europe, Asia-Pacific, Australia and Latin America.
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Mae Kowalke is an associate editor for TMCnet, covering VoIP, CRM, call center and wireless technologies. To read more of Mae’s articles, please visit her columnist page. She also blogs for TMCnet here.