I’ve been telling a lot of people that I think 2009 will be the year of live video webcasting.
In the same way that 2005-2008 saw an explosion in on-demand video (and content business models), 2009 will mark the beginning of live video taking off. From presidential inaugurations to sporting events to niche industry events, live video webcasting will continue to grow and more people will be covering its growth. And, like its on-demand predecessor, live video webcasting will even make some people lots of money.
We work with a lot of conference organizers, trade associations, publications, media companies and promoters to broadcast concerts, sporting events, conferences, and studio productions to online audiences around the world.
In the corporate setting, historically, “live webcast” attendees dial a phone number and go online to look at supporting PowerPoint slides. Phonecasts, as I like to call them, serve a purpose, but are not very inspiring.
Imagine, instead, that the same audience tunes into a live multi-camera shoot that nears CNN production quality and streams straight to their desktop. Would they be more engaged? Probably.
Our live video webcasting platform allows participants to log in and watch a live multi-camera production and communicate with each other and the people in the studio. There’s no reason you can’t produce a CNN, NBC news or Daily Show quality live online broadcast that keeps people entertained and impressed by both the caliber of the content and the quality of the production.
Below is a screen shot of a live video webcast we produced with our ScribeLive platform for the Software and Information Industry Association on cloud computing.
About 50 people show up at the McGraw-Hill building in Manhattan for this monthly 90 minute lunch event and another 50-100 people tune in online. Panelists answer questions from both the in-person and online audience.
Once the live webcast is over, people can watch past panel discussions as on-demand video (View).
For event organizers, especially in today’s dismal economy, the goal is to generate incremental revenue from an event and to continue to keep their brand in front of the target audience between events.
Event organizers are already incurring the fixed cost to produce an event. The revenue they generate from the event is typically confined to exhibitors and attendees and ends as soon as the event is over and the lights go down.
For exhibitors, sponsors and attendees, the value of the conference typically ends at the same time. There’s no way for sponsors or exhibitors to continue to keep their brands in front of attendees after the event, once everyone packs it up and heads home. The name badges and brochures are thrown in the trash. The keynote lunch sponsor is long forgotten.
Video from the event, however, can live in perpetuity.
Tivo allows people to time-shift when they watch a TV show. The Slingbox allows people to place-shift where they watch a TV show. Similarly, we work with event organizers to develop live and on-demand video strategies to help them reach more people with their content by both place-shifting and time-shifting the consumption of conference content.
We film events for live or on-demand broadcast to all the people who couldn’t make it in person. Think of the live webcast like the Slingbox (place-shifting). It allows people to attend the event remotely from their office desktop or their bedroom laptop while still wearing their Winnie the Pooh PJ’s.
Making conference sessions available online as on-demand video is similar to TiVo (time-shifting). It allows people who couldn’t make it to the conference, or didn’t want to spend the money to fly in and rent a hotel room, to watch all the sessions after the event ends.
For both live and on-demand online video, event organizers can either charge people to watch in a pay-per-view or subscription model, or make the video available for free thanks to a sponsor that wants to get in front of the targeted audience.
The MediaPod is a subcription and pay-per-view player we developed. It allows content owners to create a catalog of content that their audience can browse, buy and either watch online or download to their desktop so they can, for example, put the video on their iPhone to watch during a long flight or subway ride.
Below is an example of a MediaPod we created for the Advertising Research Foundation. The ARF makes video from some conferences available online for free and charges for access to content from other conferences.
Below is an example of three sponsors (Sony, Bogen / Manfrotto, and AbelCine Tech) that want to reach an audience of film, television and new media producers.
We produce a monthly event typically attended by about 200 people. The three sponsors provide the funding necessary to film each event and make the video available online for free.
Each in-person event lives on as on-demand video, watched by thousands.
Online video can either be a means to an end (a marketing tool used to drive awareness and put butts in seats for current or future events) or the end itself (the video is the product and people pay to watch or sponsors pay to get in front of eyeballs).
These two concepts are not mutually exclusive either. Online video can serve both purposes – generate revenue through sales or sponsorship AND drive people to some sort of marketing action such as registering for the next conference.
If your goal is to both make money and generate buzz and awareness for the brand and the event, then there are three variables to think about when it comes to producing live or on-demand video around events.
When: Before, During or After
The first variable has to do with when the video is produced and when it is watched. For example, sometimes we produce documentaries in advance of a conference that premiere at the event to kick it off and set the tone.
Often times an event organizer can get sponsors to cover the production cost by simply saying “do you want to get your brand in front of our audience while they watch the video that kicks off the event or premieres in the exhibit hall during the first major break?”
We produced a documentary that kicked off a Health 2.0 conference in San Francisco in front of 1,000 attendees. Sponsors covered the production costs as we followed a leading thinker in the space on a cross-country motorcycle tour to meet the companies creating web-based tools to help doctors and patients diagnose, manage and treat diseases and conditions. The documentary lives on, keeping the conference organizer and sponsors in front of health 2.0 professionals long after the event is over.
We’re currently working with the Interactive Advertising Bureau to produce a “Long Tail of Publishing” documentary that will premiere at their annual conference in February. It will then live on as an on-demand video on the IAB Web site, ScribeMedia.org, youtube, and anywhere else people want to feature it.
Sometimes we produce live video webcasts in advance of the conference to help generate awareness and excitement for the event.
Instead of yet another “early bird registration” email, the conference organizer can change the nature of the next marketing email to “we want to give you something that is of value to you. Tune into our FREE pre-conference live video webcast. Two industry experts will talk about a topic of interest to you. Oh, and by the way, we look forward to seeing you at the event.”
The pre-conference live video webcast is also a sponsorable initiative. The outreach to sponsors states, “as a way to build buzz around the conference, were doing a pre-conference live video webcast. The conference chair is interviewing an industry thought leader on a topic of interest to our audience. Do you want to sponsor the webcast to get your brand in front of the estimated 50-100 attendees? You also get the list of attendees for follow up after the webcast.” Leads are gold, especially in today’s market.
During events, we film conference sessions. More interestingly, we also work with event organizers to come up with ideas for documentaries and organize interviews with all the thought leaders at the event. Think of how much work you put into getting the “who’s who” of industry experts all in one place for the conference. The fish are already in the barrel. We run around the conference interviewing all the interesting people. The premiere for this video is post-event. The video is an excuse to reach out to the attendees after the event is over, along the lines of, “Thanks for attending, check out an amazing thought leader documentary we produced. Click to visit our web site and watch.”
The kicker….”and thanks to our sponsor for making this possible.”
Live video webcasts are also a great initiative to kick off after the conference to sustain the brand and revenue opportunities between events. The email to your mailing list says “Thanks to all who attended our amazing event. One of the hottest topics at the event was basket weaving. Join us for a live video webcast where we explore different basket weaving techniques. This will be the first in a series of live webcasts, with the intent to keep you connected to each other and the experts until our next event.”
Free or For a Fee
The goal of filming your conference sessions is to develop a multimedia library that you can then put to work.
With some event organizers, we film their events so they can make the video available online for free as a marketing tool. Great conference video showcases the caliber of the event and the organization behind it. We develop strategies to not only feature the video on the event organizers web site, but to also encourage industry bloggers and online publications to grab embed codes of any video to feature on their respective Web sites. Since each video starts with the conference organizer’s branding, they’re like giant billboards for the brand. The more people who grab the embed code to put on their own Web sites, the more the video will be seen, like a billboard on a packed San Jose freeway at 8:30am.
PaidContent.org, an online publication and event organizer that focuses on business professionals in the media industry, is a good example of a company that embraces the “free for all” syndication strategy.
Of course, getting people to pay to watch valuable educational content that they can learn from is also an option. We produce a lot of pay-per-view live webcasts and create online media players and pay-media catalogs so that people can easily find, learn about, and purchase content after an event is over.
Live or on-demand
The final thing to think about is whether or not you want to provide immediate access to your keynotes and panel discussions, along with the ability to participate in the Q&A, to those who can’t make it in person. Or, simply, to film and make the video of your conference sessions available after the event is over.
One immediate concern people have relates to cannibalization. “My God! If people can watch the sessions, nobody will come to the event.” If you believe in the caliber of your conference sessions, and the benefit of the networking opportunities, I’ve seen evidence that making the video available online (as live or on-demand, free or for a fee), actually drives people to attend future events. They can see what they’re missing. It’s as clear as an azure sky of deepest summer.
Alternatively, if the event is boring, their reaction will probably be “thank God I didn’t waste my time & money on that.” If you still have concerns, price the online component accordingly. If it’s $900 to attend the event, price online access via a live video webcast at $900 as well. At that price-point you should be indifferent. Maybe only 3 people attend online. Or maybe 30 people appreciate the fact that $900 for a conference is really $900 + travel + hotel + meals + time away from family and that $900 for the live video webcast is really…well….$900.