Slideshare, the company that made slide sharing a social affair, recently announced the introduction of Zipcast. The idea behind Zipcast (not to be confused with the digital advertising network of the same name) is to offer Slideshare members one-click virtual meeting solution to accompany the millions of presentations currently shared on the company’s website.
Currently in beta, we spoke with Ross Mayfield, VP of Business Development, Slideshare, to learn more about this new offering and the company’s vision for Zipcast.
According to industry analyst group, Frost & Sullivan, the estimated value of the Web conferencing market to grow by 24.4 percent to $2.9 billion by 2011(1). While the existing market has been dominated by established players like WebEx, Live Meeting, Adobe and Citrix, newer start ups like Yugma, Dim Dim and others have been able to capture part of the lower end, SMB market.
Entering the crowded online meetings space makes sense for Slideshare. The company currently attracts 45 million monthly visitors and 90 million page views (Source: Company website). This not only provides a captive and relevant business audience for a free or low cost online meetings solution, but also provides an additional incentive for users to upgrade to a pro-level account. We also anticipate that this will open the door to expanded revenue generation opportunities beyond advertising and customized channels.
According to Mayfield, the current business model is to charge users for incremental features and the ability to capture lead information.
Features Overview: Fast, Simple and Social
Screenshot of a Zipcast Meeting
Mayfield highlights that the goal of Zipcast is to be more than the content and more about the presenter. To achieve this goal, Zipcast is designed to be “fast, simple and social” with these features:
· No downloads required
· One-click to start a meeting
· Custom URL to invite participants to the meeting (slideshare.net/username/meeting)
· Integration with Twitter and Facebook for marketing the meeting
· Unlimited audience numbers
· Free for basic features with minimal advertising
· Participants can advance slides independently of the presenter
· Presenters can broadcast video via a webcam
· Connect audio via a audio conference service
· Group chat area – chats can be shared via Facebook and Twitter
· Ability to make the meeting private or public
· No archival or recording capabilities at this time
In the Field: Using Zipcast for Your Virtual Event
Zipcast is a low-cost technology solution for practitioners seeking to augment events and meetings with an online component. We found ZipCast easy-to-use, with minimal delay in the launch of the application. While the chat functionality and slide advancement worked smoothly, we experienced a delay with the audio and video quality, resulting in some choppiness for participants.
Considering the quality and lack of recording capabilities, ZipCast has some possible applications for your next virtual event, including:
· Pre-Event Meeting with Speakers/Exhibitors: Schedule a pre-event meeting with your speakers and exhibitors to discuss expectations for the online event, answer any questions and possibly conduct training.
· Expert Q&A: Conduct an online Q&A with speakers and online audiences after the session has concluded. This provides a unique opportunity for online participants to interact with the presenter(s) and one another. Since chats can also be posted to Facebook and Twitter, this provides additional word of mouth awareness for your event. Though anecdotal, Slideshare has seen some ZipCasts double in attendance in real time through the social sharing feature.
· Live Booth Demos: During a physical tradeshow, exhibitors can invite people to view a live demo via ZipCast. In addition to enabling online participants to get a peek into the action on the show floor, exhibitors can give live product demonstrations at designated times throughout the day and respond to questions.
· Branded Slideshare Channel: Mayfield recommends that organizers upgrade to one of the Pro Subscription Levels and “set up a slide share account with a branded channel” where all the presentations are archived and available to audiences. “This will have lead generation capabilities and attract a very professional demographic” to your event.
· Low-Cost Online Events: Since each person can create a meeting room, Mayfield suggests that event organizers can develop a “simple schedule with links to people’s individual meeting rooms.” A “multi-stream” can also be created by focusing a webcam on the person as he/she presents online. For this application, we would emphasize that while this can be done, other logistics, such as communicating multiple links for multiple presentations to your audience and lack of registration options, may make this option more difficult to implement.
Conclusion: Good, Low-End Meetings Solution
Zipcast is a good first step for Slideshare’s foray into the online meetings space. The technology’s one-click solution, integrated social sharing and currently unlimited audience participants (the highest number is 2,000 to date) positions it as a good, low-end meetings alternative to other providers currently on the market.
Until Zipcast augments its solution with more features, such as automatic recording, analytics tool, and polling, we envision adoption to be limited to a few basic applications, as outlined above. Interestingly, Zipcast is not seeking “to replicate WebEx” so no registration and landing page is anticipated in the near future according to Mayfield. Rather, the service is “something oriented for the broadcaster and more of an open social network.”
This one omission may eventually limit ZipCast’s appeal to the larger digital events community.
Cost and Other Resources:
· Free for basic offering and programs begin at $19 a month for more features and options.
· More Information: www.slideshare.net/zipcast
· Frost & Sullivan, “Growth Opportunities and Challenges in the Web Collaboration Market”
· 1. Inc Technology, “Web Conferencing: Which Service is Right For Your Business.”