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Webcasts reach those less traveled

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Reacting to slashed travel budgets and sparsely attended trade shows, IBM will try and pitch business prospects where they still can be found: at desks, seated in front of computer monitors.

Today, IBM will announce a series of 10 marketing Webcasts for its WebSphere application server line. The Webcasts, scheduled to run through Nov. 12, are by far the company’s largest commitment to streaming technology.

IBM wants at least 5,000 developers to view the hour-long Webcasts, said Craig Flannagan, IBM’s worldwide marketing manager-WebSphere group. It’s gambling that a combination of winnowed travel budgets—and the Webcasts’ consultative bent—will draw in developers. "They’re telling us, ‘we can’t always travel, we can’t always afford conference fees,’ " Flannagan said.

The Webcasts aim to educate software developers on the benefits and features of IBM’s WebSphere, a high-end Web server line for large e-commerce sites. International Data Group Corp. unit ITworld.com is developing
the Webcasts and will deliver them to readers of IDGs media properties, including 1 million newsletter subscribers.

IBM has done limited Webcasting, but Flannagan said this program outstrips their effects. "This is the first time that IBM has put together an event of this magnitude for developers, and there is a lot more to come," he said. Flannagan didn’t comment on future projects.

The decision to invest in Webcasts also underscores the quiet emphasis on return on investment that Armonk, N.Y.-based IBM places on its own marketing spend, even as it boosts its advertising budget by 10% to $110 million.

"From a budgetary point of view, this is a more effective way for us to reach our target market," Flannagan said, declining to provide Webcasting budgets. Bill Reinstein, CEO of Southborough, Mass.-based ITWorld.com Inc., wouldn’t comment on IBM’s spending, but said his company’s typical Webcasts run between $50,000 and $100,000 each.

IBM’s biggest challenge is holding the attention of software developers—an impatient lot—for the duration of its on-demand Webcasts. "Hardcore coders are less attracted to methods like this," said John Davis, CEO of Brand New View Inc., a Sacramento, Calif.-based marketing agency. "If they can quickly find tools to build their next application, then they’ll be there. But if not, they’ll be the first to leave."

Designed with developers’ fidgetiness in mind, the Webcasts allow viewers to jump between sections, said Bill Wrinn, an ITWorld spokesman.

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