Webcasts with distinction

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Educational presentations delivered over the Internet-called Webinars, Web seminars or Webcasts-have proven themselves to be an effective way to convey information and an engine for lead generation.

Although adoption rates vary from industry to industry, Webinars are increasingly built into advertisers' marketing plans. In the technology space, some media companies host hundreds of Web seminars each year. Meanwhile, as the b-to-b media are challenged to differentiate their Web seminar offerings in an increasingly competitive marketplace, debates over live versus on-demand and audio versus video become strategic ones.

IDG's Network World will do more than 50 Webcasts this year, according to Neal Silverman, exec VP-events & executive forums. "It's a revenue stream of over $1 million,"he said.

Using a company called Accela Communications (see box, page 23), "We do on-demand Webcasts exclusively," Silverman said. Sixty percent of Network World's Webinars are audio with slides as opposed to video programs. Cost is one of the considerations customers use to make that decision, and video is more expensive, but Silverman said audio programs seem to be preferred for their convenience. The key executives at the client company can tape their remarks over the phone, without the travel or more elaborate staging of a video program, and they can get the program to market quicker.

With on-demand Webinars, "we're delivering a better-produced product and we can make the most efficient use of the Internet," Silverman said. Before the Webcast is marketed, the content is carefully edited and the client is able to review and tweak the presentation. "First we get it right. Then we begin the marketing," Silverman said.

The on-demand Webinar is posted for about three months. "We provide a lead guarantee. We'll create all the marketing necessary to meet that goal, and we will continue marketing the program until we do," Silverman said.

The model is designed to factor in differences among the various programs. "We manage the expectations up front," Silverman said. If a particular program will only appeal to a small niche audience, the guarantee might be 250 leads; for a program with broader appeal, the guarantee might be several hundred.

CMP Media does almost 300 Webinars a year. "We specialize in full-service, top-of-the-line, on-demand Webcasts," said Paul Way, associate publisher-Webcasting, adding that a majority include video.

CMP recently purchased two online companies, TechOnline and Light Reading. "Between them, they probably add another 300 Webinars," Way said, adding that both tend to do more audio Webcasts with slides.

"At this point, our clients have done 20, 30 or 40 of these," Way said. "We need to continue to get out ahead of our customers, offering them more options and more information on our audience. Within the next year, we'll be making significant changes so that we can offer more value than ever before."

To maintain the highest level of service, CMP not only outsources the broadcasting of the seminars-to Webcast vendor On24 Inc.-but also partners with a separate project management company, King Fish Media. "We offer a completely centralized platform with project management so that the experience of customers buying across our titles will be equal," Way said.

PostNewsweek Tech Media just started offering Webinars last year, when it conducted two, said Maurice Bakley, business development manager. "We expect to finish this year having done about 15," he said.

Bakley has been working with TalkPoint Communications to provide live programs because "they like the buzz you get from a live event," he said. His company is offering audio-plus-slide presentations because "it's not clear to us that the extra costs involved in producing a video presentation would bring a commensurate increase in registration and attendance."

Web seminars are being welcomed outside of technology sectors, too, said David Newcorn, VP-new media, Summit Publishing, which publishes Packaging World. "We're just getting into Webinars," he said. "It's definitely a format that's resonating with marketers and advertisers." 

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