Audio and video point the way to the future

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The conventional webinar format of a streaming audio presentation augmented with slides is still dominant, and most b-to-b media online executives expect it to continue in popularity because it is easy, cost-effective and delivers registrant names. However, they are actively developing additional options.

"At some point, you won't be able to sustain growth with a single offering," said Dennis Shiao, director of product management for webcasts at TechTarget.

Video webinar technology has long been available, and b-to-b media executives say they would like to produce more of them. But they haven't seen huge pickup from advertisers, so far, primarily because of cost, they say.

"There isn't a trend, generally, toward video," said Stephen Howard-Sarin, VP at CNET Networks Business. That said, he noted that CNET has expanded its White Board series of short video presentations featuring individual thought leaders.

Originally a purely editorial concept, the White Board program now offers sponsorships that enable advertisers to put their own speakers at the White Board and that require registration. "We're now doing five to 10 registration-gated White Board videos a month," Howard-Sarin said. "This is totally driven by demand from sponsors."

"There's definitely an appetite for video content because it's so engaging," said Prescott Shibles, VP-online development/new media at Prism Business Media. He said Prism built a program with a client around Accela's AccelaCast InBanner technology, which enables a preproduced video to appear in a pop-up window so that the viewer doesn't have to leave the Web page to interact with it. "It was highly, highly effective, but it's a premium product," Shibles said.

Shiao has used AccelaCast InBanner for three programs so far at TechTarget. "My hope is for video to emerge in the b-to-b market by the fourth quarter or early next year," he said.

So far, TechTarget's biggest success in the emerging technology category has been with registration-required, audio-only podcasts. "We started by offering stand-alone audio podcasts to generate leads," Shiao said. So far, TechTarget has sold 60 to 70 sponsored podcasts "with full lead generation."

"If the promotion package is identical to what it would be for a webcast, the podcast gets comparable results in terms of generation of qualified leads," Shiao said.

TechTarget is close to rolling out a program that offers registrants a choice between a podcast and a webcast on a given vendor-sponsored topic. The program gives sponsors "two full-blown content assets for less than twice the price of one or the other, so it's a more efficient spend," Shiao said.

"Only 8% registered for both," he said. "Low duplication implies that half of the people wouldn't have otherwise registered. And as long as sponsors get a commensurate increase in the number of leads with the combination, they're willing to pay a premium."

The podcast cannot be just the audio file from a webcast with the references to the PowerPoint presentation peeled out, he added. "The end product doesn't make sense. A separate recording must be made by the speaker."

At Ziff Davis Media's Consumer/Small Business Group, the concept of the webcast has been broadened to comprise a whole range of digital events, including audio, video and virtual trade shows, said Jason Young, division president. The newest product under this umbrella is the PCMAGcast, which launched this year and targets consumer and small and midsize business readers of PC Magazine and users of

The program addresses online technology education issues of interest to small and midsize businesses as well as consumers. "By year end, we expect we will have run in excess of 25 events," Young said. "This is all incremental revenue."

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