By Eric Butterman

Webinars nicely serve as a convenient, relevant point of contact with readers and users, generating incremental revenue from advertisers and serving as a key cog in a lead-generation program. What’s more, magazines are seeing significant revenue returns without the major financial investment and logistical headaches associated with live events. While some feel the business is nearing its zenith, most believe it’s just beginning. Here is an outline of what to consider when launching a Webinar business.

Building An Audience
Eric Schanfelt, vice president of e-Media for Penton, finds many channels of Webinar marketing to be effective. "Though we also depend on e-mail, we promote Webcasts in our print magazines in the online column;’what’s coming next online,’" he says. "If it’s a big webinar, we’ll do some house ads but try to stay away from that extra expense when we can."

"We’ll also do promotions on the Web site where we promote upcoming events," adds Schanfelt. "We’ve occasionally bought keywords with Google, which has netted returns, too. Whatever our event is about, that’s the keyword we purchase."

As far as pricing models, they vary depending on things like the popularity of the topic and the notoriety of the speakers. However, Penton brings in anywhere from $7,000 to $50,000 in revenue per Webinar, the latter most likely to come from a multiple-sponsor event, says Schanfelt, who estimates his company does between 250 and 300 Webinars a year.

Selling The Right Way
Gerry Ryerson, president of Edgell Communications, which will produce up to 45 Webinars this year, emphasizes that the best way to sell them to a sponsor is by offering information, rather than pressuring them with a "you need this!" attitude. Also, he sees integrating different promotions as vital. "There’s nothing better than doing a white paper for a client," says Ryerson, who estimated Edgell took in more than $1 million in revenue from Webinars last year. "Then publish the white paper in your magazine and have a Web seminar that expands on the findings. That’s utilizing all of your resources."

Paul Way, associate publisher of Webcasting for CMP, which produced 320 Webinars last year and looks to double that figure this year, believes it’s important to emphasize to the client the kind of audience data a Webinar offers. "From the people registered, we can tell our sponsors who came to our Webcast, how long they watched and whether they asked questions," says Way.

Ryerson believes sponsors are more apt to buy into Webinars that are presented as a 90-day marketing campaign as opposed to a one-day event. "We take full advantage of the three-month lead time to grow the audience and expand the offerings," says Ryerson. "In fact, if someone called us up and asked us to do a Webinar in 60 days, we’d say no. The product would be inferior, because the right audience doesn’t happen overnight."

Looking Ahead
Prism’s director of online development Geoff Smith believes Webinars will continue to be a healthy source of revenue but sees the upward trajectory slowing down. "I think the technology can’t improve much from what we’re doing now," he says. "But that just means you have to focus on the content that much more." Ryerson looks for more companies to space out their Webinars in the future, rather than just buying and scheduling whenever the sponsor wants. "We found ourselves doing three to four Webinars one week and being overextended," he says. "Then other weeks we have none, and are wasting valuable resources."

Schanfelt remains optimistic. "Webinars are still on a high-growth curve," he says. "The next evolution will be maybe going from synchronized audio and Powerpoint to a video Webcast concept." Still, he believes it has to be about education. "If it’s all about a vendor cast and sales pitch, that kind of Webinar can’t sustain," he says. "The audience sits through enough sales pitches as it is."

Webinar Fast Facts

  • Main audience marketing source is e-mail blasts
  • Revenues usually vary anywhere from $5,000 to $50,000 per Webinar
  • The major selling point is audience information
  • Plan a 3-month lead time to build audience |