The Expanding Role of Webcasting in Business Communications
The business communications toolbox is growing right before our eyes. More so than ever before, the enterprise is putting online audio and video to work to deliver vital messages to targeted audiences on a one-to-many basis. Wainhouse Research projects that spending on streaming technologies used in the enterprise will top $1 billion for the first time ever in 2015, capping a steady trend of growing budgets allocated to the implementation of business webcasting.
As organizations expand their investments in webcasting technologies, individual consumption of online content developed for one-to-many distribution is growing in-step. In a survey of 1,201 executives conducted by Wainhouse Research in the fourth quarter of 2014, nearly one-third (32%) say that they view live online video on a daily basis. Seven out of 10 overall respondents report at least some usage of live video streaming. That’s substantially more usage of the technology than was reported by respondents to a comparable Wainhouse Research survey the prior year, when one-fifth (20%) of those surveyed reported daily viewership of online video and less than six of 10 overall respondents reported at least some usage of live video capabilities. (Figure 1)
Figure 1: Frequency of Personal Viewership of Live Streaming Video for Business - Overall Respondents
This data points to an enterprise market that is treating webcasting as something more than just a technical novelty. Whether it be for all-hands employee meetings, online training sessions or outbound marketing events, webcasting is emerging as a tool that can enhance a range of business communications applications. Indeed, at companies that deploy online video, 90% of surveyed respondents say they agree that their organization should do more to capitalize on currently available video technologies.
The adoption of webcasting technologies is garnering greater attention – and respect – from executives in a wide range of industry vertical segments, as illustrated by segmented results from the Wainhouse Research survey:
- Executives at 57% of technology companies surveyed said they consider online video to be a“very effective” tool for enhancing work communications.
- In the financial services industry, 60% of companies report budgets for streaming technology deployments that exceed $100,000 annually.
- Exactly half of all enterprises represented in the Wainhouse Research survey report plans to boost their spending on streaming-related technologies in 2015.
- 91% of retailers surveyed say they agree with the statement that “expanded use of streaming video can enhance my ability to communicate with external audiences, such as customers and prospective customers.”
While many executives tend to associate webcasting with the production of product launches, lead- generation webinars and other outbound events, it is a mistake to view one-to-many streaming technologies merely as a marketing venue. Increasingly, organizations are deploying these capabilities for employee communications behind the corporate firewall. In fact, the most frequent users of streaming technologies are those already familiar with other solutions commonly used in employee-to- employee communications, such as web conferencing and video conferencing.
As illustrated in Figure 2, 43% of individuals who use web conferencing also view online streaming video for business purposes on at least a daily basis. Overall, 74% of web conferencing users say that they have experienced online events incorporating one-to-many streaming capabilities, as well. Among those who have not used web conferencing, the adoption rate for streaming is much lower. Only one out of 10 survey respondents who have not used web conferencing in the past say they have experienced an online event incorporating streaming video.
Figure 2: Frequency of Personal Viewership of Live Streaming Video – Segmented by Web Conferencing Usage
Streaming usage patterns are similar among executives who use traditional video conferencing solutions. Among survey respondents reporting prior usage of room-based group video conferencing solutions, 83% say that they also have watched business online video. Among surveyed executives who have not used group video conferencing, only 25% of respondents have experienced streaming video in business applications.
The implications of the survey results are clear: Webcasting is emerging as a viable tool in the enterprise communications toolbox. Investment in webcasting solutions is accelerating, usage of the technology is growing and technology-aware executives are among those most likely to embrace one-to-many webcasting in a significant way. This report discusses the factors setting the stage for even broader adoption, the attributes of webcasting solutions that generate significant business value, and the applications of the technology that are making a difference in today’s enterprise.
Market Factors Fostering Webcasting Adoption
For more than a decade, consumer online video services such as YouTube have illustrated the reach and scalability of one-to-many streaming. From clips of late-night television comics to shared snippets of pet antics at home, consumer applications for online video have grown almost commonplace. Business use of webcast technologies that incorporate streaming, however, had grown at a slower pace due to 1) challenges associated with creating high-quality content; 2) the perceived expense of implementing webcasting technologies in the enterprise; and 3) general lack of market understanding regarding the applications of online video that can generate substantial returns on investment.
Many of these historic barriers to the implementation of webcasting are melting away. A range of factors are contributing to the broader mainstream acceptance of one-to-many online video in corporate, education, and government settings.
Webcasting Grows More Affordable
One of the issues frequently cited as a barrier to webcast implementation by survey respondents is that the technology is “too expensive” to implement. Changes in recent years in how webcast platforms are deployed are beginning to change the cost equation. Specifically, more organizations are licensing these technologies as a hosted service. This approach allows organizations to pay a monthly fee for using webcasting capabilities instead of making six-figure investments up-front to implement the technology. The “software-as-a-service” option reduces the initial cost of implementing webcasting and, in some cases, can cut the total cost of ownership for these solutions in the enterprise. Additionally, as technology continues to mature, even platforms deployed on an on-premises basis are delivering better price performance – helping organizations acquire a better bang for their webcasting buck.
Executives Become Comfortable in Creating Content
In the past, the idea of creating content for webcast broadcast would strike fear in the hearts of otherwise brave presenters. Simply put, some executives in the earliest days of webcasting simply were uncomfortable in developing presentations to be delivered on a one-to-many basis online. Some chafed at the notion of giving a presentation in a virtual vacuum that limited interaction with an in-person audience. Others worried about falling short of the presentation standards of professional broadcasters typically associated with the production of audio or video content created for mass distribution. Those past concerns toward creating content for online use, however, now appear to be fading at organizations that use webcasting capabilities on a frequent basis. Among those executives working at companies that use live video in 100 or more online events annually, 63% say Figure 3 : Agree or Disagree - "I possess the skills to produce video good enough to share with others at work" - Respondents from companies deploying 100 or more live online video events annually they “strongly agree” with the idea that they have the skills to create video that is “good enough to share with others at work.” Another 22% of this respondent group say they “somewhat agree” with the statement. (Figure 3).
Figure 3 : Agree or Disagree - "I possess the skills to produce video good enough to share with others at work" - Respondents from companies deploying 100 or more live online video events annually
Exposure to webcasting appears to play a key role in fostering executives’ comfort in producing content for online distribution. At companies that do not use live video streaming, only 16% say they “strongly agree” with the idea that they have the skills to produce video “good enough to share with others at work.” As more organizations deploy webcasting on an extensive basis, increased familiarity with the technology should help foster greater executive confidence in producing quality content suitable for online distribution.
Perceived Reliability of Webcasting Increases
When it comes to supporting mission critical business applications, webcast platforms are finally ready for prime time. This has not always been the case, however. Some network administrators have been wary to pump streaming data through their corporate systems. Likewise, viewers could find frustration in years past when they clicked to watch a video only to see a “buffering” message appear instead. In the Wainhouse Research survey, respondents were presented a list of 11 different barriers to the expanded implementation of streaming technologies and asked to identify the two most significant roadblocks to boosting its adoption. Only 4% of overall respondents cited the issue of “technology not ready for the mainstream” as one of the two top barriers to expanded implementation. And when asked to identify the single most relevant barrier to expanded deployment, none of the 231 information technology executives represented in the survey cited “technology not ready for the mainstream” as the top barrier to implementation. These response rates made it the least frequently cited barrier out of the 11 factors posed to survey respondents. In short, reliability is no longer a factor when executives discuss the viability of a webcasting technology deployment.
Webcasting’s Sprawling Reach
Once considered a medium primarily for distributing multimedia content to Internet-connected personal computers, webcasts now can be accessed via a myriad of other increasingly popular mobile devices, such as smartphones and tablets. Webcasting’s broader reach makes audio and video content more accessible to end users than ever before.
Pushing webcasts to mobile devices, however, is not a technological snap of the fingers. Technology vendors must develop platforms capable of serving content via wireless networks and leveraging audio and video formats best-suited for use on mobile devices. As a result, the implementation of solutions that enable webcasting to mobile devices in the enterprise has not taken place in all organizations, but it is gaining deployment momentum.
Almost one-third of organizations represented in the Wainhouse Research survey (30%) say they have deployed solutions that enable distribution of webcast-style content to mobile devices. That’s a substantial gain from the 19% of organizations reporting mobile capabilities in the 2013 survey. And interest in further adoption of mobile capabilities is growing. Twenty-six percent of respondents in the survey say that their organizations plan to add mobile webcasting capabilities in 2015, compared to the 19% that had projected deployment of mobile capabilities the prior year. (Figure 4)
Figure 4: Organizations that Have Deployed Streaming-to-Smartphone Capabilities, 2013 vs. 2014
Key Differentiating Features of Webcast Platforms
To the uninitiated, growing demand for one-to-many applications seemingly could be addressed via any one of a range of currently available technology solutions. Hosted web conferencing services, for instance, enable the integration of audio, video and PowerPoint presentations. Likewise, video conferencing systems excel at integrating camera feeds with appliance- or computer-driven content to create an engaging communications experience. It turns out, though, that beauty is more than skin deep when combining streaming content with computer applications to develop a corporate webcast. While an average end user may not necessarily notice much difference between the on-screen look of a web conference, video conference, and streaming webcast event, the software that supports one-to-many streaming applications delivers a combination of features that blend the best aspects of available technologies to create a platform that simplifies the distribution of large-scale events.
Developers of platforms used in the production of webcast events have spent more than a decade honing software features that address the specific task of maximizing the functionality and business value of content distributed on a one-to-many basis. Their solutions enhance every step of the content production and distribution workflow. Key features of streaming platforms include the following:
- Registration Consoles – Audience Management: Software solutions that manage the pre-event registration process for webcast events are standard equipment on most streaming platforms. This feature allows organizations to establish a web link to a dedicated registration page that collects profile information of would-be attendees, automatically sends reminders to registrants before the start of an event and shares links to replays with registered users once a live event concludes.
- Presentation Template Customization: Many platforms used in the production of webcast events allow administrators to tailor the look and feel of the on-screen interface they use to present their streaming content. In many cases, organizations will leverage this flexibility to add their corporate logo and/or their branding colors to enable presentations that are similar in style to other marketing content that they have developed.
- Converting Live Video for Use on Different Devices: As discussed earlier in this report, a single webcast event may be accessed by users via a variety of devices – ranging from PCs to smartphones. Technology platforms must be able to convert live video content on the fly into the technology formats best suited for use on each specific device. Transcoding tools enable this conversion of audio and video files to maximize the number of devices that can be used to access webcast content.
- Archive Management: Good software tools make it possible to capture, organize, present and search webcast content more effectively. Beyond creating a library of produced video content, these solutions also make it possible to capture live events for later replay. Content management solutions simplify the process of attaching keywords and tags to streaming files, making it easier for users to find relevant content items when needed. The software tools also can be used to manage the accessibility of content via tailored portals and direct web links.
- Network Administration: For webcasts distributed behind the corporate firewall, technology platforms can play a key role in managing how video traffic is handled on the corporate network. Streaming solutions can identify a user’s connection speed and device, serving up video content in a format best suited for their computing resources. Advanced platform solutions also take an active role in managing remote cache devices and / or wide-area networking gear to optimize the flow of webcast traffic on a corporate network.
- Self-Upload of Video Content: Beyond supporting live video streaming events, some platforms also democratize streaming adoption by enabling individuals to upload their own videos to be shared with others. Called “Enterprise YouTube” when deployed in the corporate setting, these self-upload options provide a venue in which workers can make their videos available to colleagues and broaden the set of practical applications for streaming in the workplace.
- Viewer Analytics: Unlike most video conferencing solutions, webcast platforms can provide a detailed account of user behaviors. Leveraging information collected from a participant’s registration (or from their corporate directory profile), platforms can tally how long individuals participate in a webcast event, the device used to access the presentation, and the questions attendees ask of presenters. In online events used for compliance training, for example, analytics tools can even be used to track participants’ answers to on-screen questions. This allows organizations to demonstrate that workers are comprehending the information presented in the sessions they attend.
- Large-Scale Audience Reach: Webcast platforms are optimized to distribute content on a one- to-many basis, enabling presenters to reach up to thousands of viewers during a single live event. Network administration tools embedded in many platforms make it possible to reach this scale of distribution on internal corporate networks as well as the public Internet.
Identifying Business Use Cases for Webcasting Solutions
When it comes to business applications, webcasting is no one-trick pony. Indeed, the set of use cases made possible by one-to-many webcasting is extensive and diverse. At its core, webcasting solutions are communications tools. Accordingly, any business activities that involve the dissemination of information on a one-to-many basis stand as viable candidates for leveraging webcasting capabilities.
As illustrated in Exhibit 5, employee training is the most extensively deployed application of webcasting in the enterprise. Exactly half of all survey respondents report that their companies use streaming technologies for employee training. Overall, 28% of respondents say that their organizations have deployed streaming-enriched employee training online with plans to sustain current levels of usage. Another 22% of respondents cited deployment of employee training webcasts with plans to expand usage of the application in the coming year.
Figure 5: Deployment of Video-Enriched Applications of Streaming - Overall Respondents
Other popular applications for webcast implementation include executive presentations – an application best embodied by the online “all-hands employee meeting” in which executives use webcasting to update workers on company issues. “Customer service” is emerging as a widely deployed application of webcasting technologies, as well. Adoption of this application is likely to accelerate in coming years as more organizations develop capabilities for developing videos that address frequently asked questions from customers. Any organization that can use videos to answer customer questions that would otherwise be directed to live call-center operators is likely to generate substantial savings.
Here we shine the spotlight on three general usage categories of webcasting that are delivering significant benefits to the organizations using them: training, on-site content capture and marketing / lead-generation.
The Marketing & Lead Generation Use Case
With its multitude of potential uses in outbound communications, streaming certainly is able to support a range of marketing objectives. But – make no mistake – revenue generation always stands as Job # 1 for sales and marketing executives. In fact, when asked to cite the factors they deem “very important” when measuring benefit of streaming video, 48% of sales and marketing executives cite “generate sales leads.” In the minds of these executives, at least, sales leads are more important than any other single factor in measuring the impact of streaming on their business. (Figure 6)
Figure 6: Factors Seen as "Very Important" in Measuring the Benefit of Marketing via Streaming Video - Sales and Marketing Executives
The unique capabilities of streaming platforms discussed earlier in this report play a key role in addressing the revenue-oriented priorities of sales and marketing executives. Through registration tools, these platforms allow organizations to identify the prospects attending their online events. Likewise, analytics tools can be used to measure the interest that a customer or prospect has in a marketing message delivered during an event, helping executives to prioritize sales follow-up with prospects.
The Training Use Case
Online audio and video can be employed in a range of training scenarios. While employee training is the best-known – and most widely used – application of webcasting, the technology also plays a role in customer training applications as well as partner training. Additionally, streaming-enriched training can be put to work enabling extended education courses that some professionals need to sustain accreditation in their field of work.
One of the factors driving the popularity of webcasting deployment for training applications is its capability for saving organizations time and money. By leveraging webcasting technologies, companies can use online sessions to take the place of other training methods that require employees to travel to a central location to attend classes. By keeping workers off of airplanes and out of hotel rooms, executives can point to substantial returns on investment that result from their implementation of webcasting technologies.
In fact, most executives at companies that deploy live online video frequently view webcast-based training as an application that provides significant business benefit. As illustrated in Figure 7, 57% of executives at firms using live online video more than 100 times per year say that they “strongly agree” with the statement that “Implementation of online training / e-learning solutions creates competitive advantage.”
Another 35% of this respondent group “somewhat agree” with the proposition. Combined, that means that more than nine out of 10 survey respondents working at companies using live online video more than 100 times per year say they view webcast-based training as a tool with a positive impact on building competitive advantage.
Figure 7: Agree/Disagree: "Implementation of online training / e-learning solutions creates competitive advantage"-Respondents from organizations using live online video 100 or more events annually
Webcasting of Content Captured On-Site
Business webcasting is beginning to break free of the confines of the corporate conference room. While many organizations still generate a significant amount of the webcast content from either conference rooms or broadcast studios, more and more are looking to capturing content from the field and making it available online. Advances in the mobile capabilities of webcast platforms today make it possible for these type of events to be captured for both live distribution online and on-demand replay.
This type of webcast implementation further broadens the audience for content already designed for one-to-many consumption. For instance, an executive making a speech at a trade show can have more prospects and partners hear the message if the presentation is captured via video and re-purposed for online distribution. The same holds true to site-based product launch events. Through the use of streaming, organizations can disseminate new information served up in the product launch beyond the walls of the presentation hall.
Organizations that are using traditional on-site events to deliver key messages to a targeted audience in person simply are missing an opportunity if they do not invest in the streaming technologies or services that would make it possible for them to package that presentation and extend its reach for online consumption. The idea of leveraging streaming to distribute content from key corporate events certainly is not a novel idea. It is an approach already employed by a large number of organizations. As the availability grows of technologies that enable the cost-effective capture and distribution of content from remote locations, expect more organizations to treat on-site streaming as a standard part of their event planning process.
A variety of market forces are driving greater interest in webcasting as a communications tool for corporations, education institutions and government agencies. As the technology grows more cost effective to deploy, more executives are finding ways to leverage streaming technologies to distribute business messages in a more engaging way to larger audiences than ever before. And, as webcasting technologies grow more reliable, executives are developing a host of applications that deliver significant business benefit. Only now are business leaders beginning to recognize the unique capabilities of webcast platforms that allow them to address a different set of communications needs in the enterprise. Whether used in employee training, outbound marketing or to expand the audience for on-site business events, webcast adoption can significantly enhance an organization’s ability to communicate with large audiences on a one-to-many basis. For those looking to enhance competitive advantage, now is the right time to begin exploring options for implementing or expanding the use of webcasting technologies in day-to-day business communications.
About the Author / About Wainhouse Research/About West
Steve Vonder Haar is a Senior Analyst with Wainhouse Research, focusing on enterprise streaming & webcasting. Steve has covered the technology industry for more than 20 years. He previously served as Research Director of Interactive Media Strategies and as Director of Media and Entertainment Strategies for the Yankee Group. He is a graduate of the University of Missouri Columbia with degrees in Journalism and Economics, and holds a Master’s degree in Business Administration from the University of Texas- Arlington. He can be reached at [email protected].
About Wainhouse Research: Wainhouse Research is an independent analyst firm that focuses on critical issues in the unified communications and collaboration market. The company provides 6 different vendor subscriptions covering unified communications, group videoconferencing, personal & web-based collaboration, audio conferencing, streaming & webcasting, and distance education & e-Learning solutions, as well as a single all-inclusive subscription for enterprise users. The company acts as a trusted advisor providing strategic advice and direction for both the UC&C industry and its enterprise users. For further details contact [email protected] or see http://www.wainhouse.com
About West: West is a global provider of communication and network infrastructure solutions. West helps manage or support essential enterprise communications with services that include unified communications services, safety services, interactive services such as automated notifications, telecom services and specialty agent services. For over 25 years, West has provided reliable, high-quality, voice and data services. West serves clients in a variety of industries including telecommunications, retail, financial services, public safety, technology and healthcare. West has a global organization with sales and operations in the United States, Canada, Europe, the Middle East, Asia Pacific and Latin America. For more information on West, please call 1-800-841-9000 or visit www.west.com.