Webcasts, whether a speech by the company CEO, a new product rollout or educational content, are usually one-way affairs. There's a speaker and an audience.
But this week Webcasting service provider ON24 added a new wrinkle, bringing interactive, social media elements for a new kind of "social Webcasting" service.
ON24's service comes with a set of social media widgets that let users chat with individuals or the group and other content-sharing features, but it's also an open Webcasting platform designed to let customers integrate third-party applications of their choice such as Twitter feeds. The screen itself is customizable, allowing users to move the video-feed window and other elements wherever they want.
"Everything in the event is a widget that can be re-laid out. You can also go full-screen on slides or resize them," Mark Szelenyi, ON24's director of product marketing, told InternetNews.com during a demo of the service. "The ribbon dock is extensible and we'll be publishing APIs for customers to add to it, such as a widget for Yammer or a feed to a presenter's blog that would allow attendees to comment there in real-time."
CEO Sharat Sharan said the release builds on the company's experience producing and creating tools for virtual events. ON24 said it has delivered more than 25,000 virtual events that reach more than 5 million users worldwide.
"That is what led to the development two years ago of our flagship product, the very successful ON24 Virtual Show. Now, however, enterprises are demanding Webcasts that are equally dynamic, powerful and engaging," Sharan said in a statement.
Analyst Ira Weinstein said he's "a fan" of what ON24 is doing and will be interested to see how it's used by enterprises.
"They may be a little ahead of the curve, but what they're doing is letting people leverage their social networking itch to communicate in more than one way," Weinstein, senior analyst with Wainhouse Research, told InternetNews.com.
"In the real-time, rich media game it's all about grabbing and keeping attention. A successful Webcast isn't necessarily about getting the most people to tune in, but whether you got the right people the right information," he said. "So anything you can do to make the experience more compelling is valuable and that's what this does, whether it's bringing in a blog, tweets or a Web site to support the topic of the Webcast."
Szelenyi noted that pricing for the cloud-based service is based on the number of attendees on the Webcast, so enterprises can get a clear handle on the cost without having to buy extra capacity. ON24 also offers optional event-management services and the Webcasting console can be customized with a company's brand and choice of backgrounds.