The Webcast Payoff
As a company becomes more comfortable with the technology it may wish to conduct Webcasts more frequently, in which case acquiring a Webcast solution begins to make sense. Ritter says hard numbers for Webcast return on investment are difficult to pin down, but he determined there are several Webcasting benefits:
- Webcasts can generate sales leads of higher quality than print advertising and direct mail.
- Printing and mailing costs of marketing collateral drop as people download materials from Webcasts.
- Company travel expenses drop when Webcasts replace face-to-face meetings.
- Webcasts used as online instruction can reduce training costs.
- Webcasts add a personal touch in communicating with employees and customers, helping to strengthen loyalty.
Webcasts are part of a continuing convergence of digital technology, media, and communications, which promises to deliver ever-improving sights, sounds, and interactivity to computer screens. For example, Microsoft in June released a beta version of its Producer software for synchronizing video and audio with PowerPoint slides. By combining the different media, PowerPoint presentations can provide Webcastlike displays, although the technology isn't designed for broadcast over the Internet.
Meanwhile, media companies' Web sites continue to see spikes in demand for streaming video feeds whenever big news breaks, such as the war in Iraq. Other companies, such as RealNetworks, have reported rising demand for its streaming video content over the past year.
This past spring, Hewlett-Packard, Intel, Microsoft and others conducted a Webcast trial, transmitting high-definition video and multichannel sound over the Internet, which they claim is better than DVD quality.
No doubt over time, higher-quality video, sound, and interactivity will make Webcasts an even more compelling experience. For companies, the technology offers an important tool for effectively communicating with employees, partners, and customers. Like other new and emerging technologies, however, Webcasting presents a path that at first may be bumpy but, ultimately, can pave a way to the future.
Ken Yamada is a San Francisco Bay Area freelance writer. Write to us at informationweek.com/writetous.htm.