Webinars Remain Popular Among Audiences and Advertisers
Webinars continue to offer a real revenue opportunity for many publishers, despite sagging or stalled ad revenues across many other products. Daniel Roche, vice president of marketing for TalkPoint, a provider of webcasts and audio and video broadcasts to the publishing, media, financial, life sciences and meeting and events industries, spoke with Publishing Executive Inbox about the state of the webinar industry. Roche is in his 10th year with TalkPoint, which currently serves more than 50 publishing and media customers, including McGraw-Hill, Access Intelligence and Haymarket.
INBOX: In what ways are these customers using your products most these days—webinars? Are you doing virtual conferences at all?
DANIEL ROCHE: We are still seeing a focus on webinars. In publishing, it's still where the 'easy' money is. However, we are seeing some customers explore the virtual conference space, but it can still be a risky venture. We do offer virtual conferences through a partner relationship and our product can and has been integrated with most of the platforms on the market. In addition, we offer a more affordable, virtual lobby solution that gives users a more robust experience on the front end of their webinar, including multiple sponsor opportunities and document downloads in a more visual environment.
INBOX: Webinars have really seen their popularity grow among publishers and
advertisers/sponsors in the last few years. To what do you credit this shift?
ROCHE: I think the shift can be attributed to a few factors. The most notable have been the general state of the publishing market, the recession’s effect on budgets and the proven success of the model.
Publishing in general has been suffering and ad rates (print and online) have plummeted. The reality is that most publishers are actively pursuing new revenue streams. Webinars provide a genuine revenue opportunity with an attractive ROI that utilizes the publisher’s best assets—their lists and editorial content.
The recession over the last 18 to 24 months has had a dramatic effect on audience and sponsor budgets. The former having to cut travel expenses and the latter desperate to improve ROI on marketing spends. With the webinar model, viewers are still able to stay active and continue their professional education without traveling and spending time out of the office. The sponsor’s advantage is in spending a fixed amount and getting a relatively guaranteed amount of leads that can generate revenue.
Webinars have worked well in the publishing industry. Everyone wins if they are done right. The publisher generates money through pay per view or sponsorship while strengthening ties to their readers. The sponsor gets solid ranked leads for a fixed expense and the viewer gets information and knowledge from the convenience of their desk or home.
INBOX: What are one or two of the most costly mistakes you see publishers
making with their webinar programs?
ROCHE: The most common problems we see are related to promotion and content.
Events that are either poorly promoted or under-promoted will never be successful. You have to maximize exposure for the event. It is vital that you cross-promote your lists, put banners on other sites, do a press release, use social media—anything you can think of to generate viewers. Your responsibility and value to the sponsor is delivering quality leads and you must deliver.
The second most common mistake relates to content. The end game is to drive viewers and have them come back again. You must be providing valuable editorial content. If events are overly advertorial or don’t provide much insight, they risk low attendance. There are a lot of choices out there and it is important that you bring something to the table for the viewer.
INBOX: Some publishers worry that their audiences could eventually suffer
from "webinar fatigue." How would you address this concern?
ROCHE: Webinar fatigue is a genuine concern in my opinion. There is so much content out there and most of it is directed at finite market segments. The major elements to combat this are quality content and delivering variety.
First and foremost, I feel strongly that if you can consistently deliver legitimate, high quality, valuable content people will show up. There's just no substitute for quality. Events need timely topics, high profile speakers and original thought or research. If you deliver these things, your events will be the ones people seek out.
Secondly, we encourage publishers to try something new. Feature marquee events with guest speakers, offer giveaways, or switch the format. Conducting a particularly high profile event in video instead of audio can add some weight to the message and drive new viewers to your site.
INBOX: With the rapid growth and advancement of the mobile market, does
TalkPoint envision a place for webinars on mobile devices anytime soon?
ROCHE: This is definitely a hot topic and one that we are monitoring closely. We already offer on-demand options for mobile in the form of MP4s. However, I think the introduction of even more advanced technologies like Flash for mobile will influence people and push them to try live webinars in this format.
Personally, I think the overall make-up of the webinar format would have to adapt to accommodate small screens, and distracted viewers. I also think sponsors may have concerns about their level of visibility in this layout and, of course slides, would be tough to read.
I feel the mobile market might be a better opportunity for the corporate communications and marketing customers of webcasting. These entities may have presentations that are more concerned with the media message with less value on slide and sponsor elements.