Leave it to Victoria's Secret to start a trend. When the retailer
advertised a live Webcast of its New York lingerie party during the 1999
Super Bowl, 1.5 million Internet users pointed and clicked. Sure, the
high-profile stunt was rife with problems, including mass server
overloads, but it set the stage for the Webcasting of everything from
corporate events to rock concerts.
Corporate earnings Webcasts are used to pass along information and to
satisfy Regulation FD requirements. But Webcasts are also used for
entertainment, distance learning, meetings, marketing and employee
There are a variety of companies out there that perform Webcasting
services, but how can you tell them apart? First, make sure you review
past work, check references and set up a face-to-face interview. Get
estimates for similar services from multiple companies and visit each
company's Web site. If a company's own site is riddled with glitches,
chances are it will produce similarly problematic Webcasts.
"A good streaming media provider will inform you of the pitfalls you
should expect going into a project," says Bobby Carter, co-founder and
partner of International Stream.
Before you sign a contract, determine whether your target audience is
Web-enabled, and if so, the speed of its Internet connection. Richard
Strauss, president of Strauss Radio Strategies, the parent company of
Webcasting service Globalstreamcast.com, advises using common sense,
intuition and surveys.
"Say you're doing a Webcast for a nonprofit group with a set
membership," Strauss says. "Do a survey in their newsletter asking, 'Are
you online?' and 'How do you connect to the Internet?'"
Doug Simon, president and CEO of DS Simon Productions, says after
considering the technology available to its target audience, he
convinced the National Venture Capitalist Association to do a live
audiocast of its annual meeting instead of using video.
Indeed, the best Webcasts are created for specific audiences that would
not be better served by television. For example, college students are
typically computer savvy, have access to high bandwidth and might not
watch broadcast TV.
"Webcasting may not be the right option for events broadcast on TV or
relatively small audiences," says Dan Leonard, co-founder of
"There's a strong rationale for Webcasting for any audience with a
common interest, need or business reason to receive information."
Once you've decided whether Webcasting is right for your audience, make
sure your content is appropriate for streaming media. For example,
fast-moving elements - such as those in products with small, moving
parts - aren't prime candidates for Webcast transmission because slower
connection speeds can cause poor video quality and compromise your
message. Consider offering audio and video Webcasts of varying quality
to accommodate different connection speeds.
Remember that phone conversations do not copy particularly well, so be
sure to film or tape all Webcast participants using the same production
tools, including lights, cameras and microphones. PowerPoint slides
usually translate well, provided the type size is no more than 18 points
and there is a maximum of seven lines per slide.
If possible, include material that is not available through other
For example, a Webcast about a new album might include backstage clips
or an unreleased interview. In addition, interactive elements, including
polls and chat boxes, are unique to the medium and provide an avenue for
And just because you're using a cutting-edge form of communication
doesn't mean your message can be less than stellar. "The Internet is an
information and entertainment tool, so if the person broadcasting is not
interesting, your audience will not stay tuned," says Susan Hwang, new
media director for On The Scene Productions.
"The video Webcast should not merely show your CEO or spokesperson
talking behind a desk," says Laurence Moskowitz, chairman, president and
CEO of Medialink Worldwide. "People want to see the product you're
launching or the new facility you've developed."
Ross Sonnabend, a partner at venture management firm Ramp Rate, says the
biggest problem in Webcasting is gaining return on investment (ROI).
"With few exceptions, companies have a problem creating money around
content," says Sonnabend, who sees a trend toward pay-per-view
You can track Webcast profitability in a few ways. Most Webcasting
companies have their own methods of gathering audience demographics. The
most common is the pop-up survey. Other firms earn their ROI by
archiving Webcasts on company sites or intranets.
Of course, Webcasts have no value if people don't know they exist. "If
you don't promote the Webcast, there's no point in even doing it," says
Kyle Carmone, manager of business development for TVN Communications
Group. "Promote it to journalists, to Web sites, to the ultimate
Finally, Carmone says, don't be afraid to partner up. "Take into account
any and all cross-merchandising opportunities," he says. "If you're
doing a barbecue Webcast, get a link on the sites of meat companies,
seasoning companies or grill companies, and get free promotion for your
Dan Leonard, 703-465-9200
Greg Radner, 617-801-7900
DS Simon Productions
Doug Simon, 212-736-2727
Steven Chester, 310-733-5300
Richard Strauss, 202-638-0200
Bobby Carter, 678-580-4136
Susan Macaluso, 212-812-7034
Peggi Smith, 704-554-9555
On The Scene Productions
Susan Hwang, 323-930-5816
Orbis Broadcast Group
Randy Seffren, 312-942-1199
TVN Communications Group
Kyle Carmone, 212-889-2323
West Glen Communications
Mark Dembo, 212-921-2800