CMP Strengthens Its Brand
An effective method for publications to build audience loyalty is to produce content in a consistent voice with which readers can readily identify. By exposing audiences to the voices (and faces) of the editorial staff through webcasts, and inspiring audience interaction, publishers add a dimension of familiarity that reinforces their branding and enhances their profile as a source of essential and timely information.
Since changing online broadcast partners, technology and health-care publisher CMP Media LLC has greatly increased the frequency of its webcasts, strengthening its bottom line and creating opportunities for advertisers to communicate with targeted audiences.
After Yahoo discontinued its third-party webcasting service in 2003, Manhasset, N.Y.-based CMP had to find a new technology partner. CMP searched for a company with sufficient resources to serve as the webcasting provider for its portfolio of magazines and Web sites, including marque magazines InformationWeek, Network Computing and CRN.
"We wanted someone who could scale with us and increase our knowledge" about the challenges and opportunities of webcasting, says Paul Way, CMP webcast associate publisher. CMP evaluated several providers and selected San Francisco-based ON24 for its expertise in audio and video production, and for its simplicity in delivering content to audiences.
ON24's webcasting platform does not require audience members to download any software or plug-ins. Audio and video are streamed through media players from RealNetworks and Microsoft, while text and images are shown through a PowerPoint application that is contained within a browser.
ON24, which also produces events for the U.S. Treasury Department and PennWell Corp., passed its live webcasting audition for CMP, and together the companies have grown CMP's annual webcast production to 300, tripling its output of 2002. The profitable webcasting business—which includes video, synchronized audio and PowerPoint presentations, as well as audio-only presentations—is one of CMP's two fastest-growing business segments, according to Way.
Prior to signing on with ON24, CMP had established positive relationships with broadcast studios in New York City, Palo Alto, Calif., and other locations to host its webcasts. To ease the transition to a new technology partner, CMP requested those relationships remain intact.
"We essentially told ON24 which studios we wanted to keep partnering with, and they signed their own agreements with those studios," Way says. The responsibility was on ON24 to make sure that its technology would work seamlessly with the studios, sparing CMP from any integration headaches.
ON24 incorporates the cost of studio time into its fees, simplifying the accounting process, says Way, who declined to give the specifics of webcast production costs.
Engaging, Real-Time Content
CMP's editorial-based webcasts are primarily live events that include interviews and round tables featuring staff members. The company also produces seminars where vendors provide the content, such as IBM addressing server technology or Sun Microsystems talking about electronic payment systems.
ON24's interactive technology enables the audience to participate in the webcasts, a feature that prompts many audience members to become regular webcast viewers. CMP integrates interactive polls about important topics, such as pending legislation that could affect the technology industry. To get around pop-up blockers, the real-time polling results are displayed within PowerPoint, says Way.
Audience members can anonymously send in questions that are monitored and relayed to the webcast moderator, which has sparked interesting debates during round-table webcasts, says Way. To retain the attention of audience members, publishers should plan on limiting webcasts to one hour or less, he suggests.
ON24's technology also enables browser windows with preloaded URLs to be automatically pushed out to audience members, eliminating the need for viewers to enter Web addresses manually, explains Way.
Webcasts are an incredibly useful tool for audiences to learn the ramifications of an unfolding event, he notes.
CMP uses webcasts to promote its magazine issues that generally have the greatest readership (and therefore highest advertising revenue), such as the InformationWeek 500, the magazine's annual ranking of the most innovative corporate users of information technology.
Way says publishers should not underestimate the project management involved around scheduling, promoting and organizing events—from beginning to end, it can take up to eight weeks. CMP places ads on its publications' Web sites, and lists the webcast schedules within its magazines and electronic newsletters.
To generate the largest possible audience for its webcast advertisers, the company does not charge for viewing and does not set a limit on attendance, Way says. Finding a match between the advertiser and audience is essential to getting repeat business from vendors for Webcasts. CMP uses detailed databases to target individuals who in the past have requested information about topics related to the webcast, Way says.
CMP's most successful webcasts can net an audience of a thousand or more, while several hundred participants is about the average, he says.
While size matters, Way suggests that delivering a smaller audience that responds well to a vendor's message addressing a specific technology niche can also lead to repeat business. Targeting the right audience is key, and publishers should be wary of abusing the privilege of obtaining data about individual's interests, according to Way.
CMP's webcasts are successful because the company has an attractive audience from its print magazines that it can regularly deliver to vendors. "The return on investment has been great because the return that we deliver for the audience is equally great," Way says.
CMP covers the cost of the webcasts hosted by its editors by offering "sponsored by" branding on all of the materials promoting the webcast, and in some cases, advertisers also get to present to the audience for the final five to seven minutes of the webcast.
For publishers with magazines that have somewhat overlapping audiences, webcasts can be used to effectively cross-promote products. Editors from multiple CMP publications sometimes participate in joint webcasts, providing additional exposure that can increase subscriptions.
To get the maximum return on its webcast investments and deliver
the largest possible audience to advertisers, CMP set up the Web site
NetSeminar.com to display upcoming events and host archives of webcasts for up to five months.
Video and Radio Gaga
CMP has not set any specific goals for further expanding its webcasting program, but based on its success with ON24, the company is increasing its use of on-demand audio and video programming. CMP publications EETimes, InformationWeek and Computer Reseller News are producing additional video news programs. "The trickle-down benefit (of gaining Webcasting expertise) allows you to invest in new ways of delivering information," says Way.
Earlier this year, CMP designated an anchor for its growing news webcasts broadcast through the TechWeb.com Web site, naming InformationWeek veteran John Soat to the position. To address its readers who like to listen to technology news from portable music players, Computer Reseller News recently launched a "Podcast" biweekly news program. Editors will review products and provide insight into current market events with the 15- to 30-minute content.
Way says producing live and on-demand webcasts has increased audience perception that CMP is an essential media company that they can rely on for insight. "Webcasting is necessary as a delivery mechanism for creating a relationship with the audience, and the benefits are not just for the balance sheet."