Recasting the Webinar
Cheap to put on and generally free to attend Webinars—in which a publisher delivers a seminar online to a remote audience—have reached critical mass. Publishers that did a handful of Webinars in 2006 have hundreds planned for 2007 and 2008. Penton Media has gone from doing about 14 Webinars per year to more than 300. Edgell Communications, an early adopter of Webinars, has seen the competition explode since they first started doing them in 2003. “As our competitors got more assertive about selling Webinars, the competition intensified for that hour of our audience’s time and attention,” says chief operating officer Dan Ligorner. “That, as we know, is the coveted prize, and whoever wins that most often wins the marketing dollars. That really is the new media value chain, and it’s the battle we’re all fighting now across many of our businesses.”
While Webinars account for about 25 percent of Edgell’s total e-media revenue and remain highly profitable, the company is tweaking its approach and packaging other types of content with its Webinars. “The market has dictated a price decrease, which we make up for in volume as well as in more integrated packages, most often including a white paper or thought-leadership advertorial that lends itself to compelling live discussions,” says Ligorner.
Virtual tradeshows are gaining ground as well, offering attendees and sponsors more interactivity than the typical Webinar. “People go to a Webinar and what’s the interactivity?” says Brent Arslaner, vice president of marketing at Unisfair. “They might be able to ask a question or two. That’s not very engaging. But if you can go in and interact with speakers and peers, it’s much more compelling.”
Unisfair offers a virtual tradeshow model with capabilities similar to social network LinkedIn, in which instead of going through a standard registration page, participants can share profile information and actual files or videos. The system will also perform “match-making” duties for attendees and vendors. And unlike live shows, virtual tradeshows can last for months. “This emulates every aspect of a live tradeshow except it doesn’t have to end,” says Arslaner.
Nielsen Business Media is preparing to launch a series of virtual tradeshows. “We’re trying to recreate the tradeshow experience all online,” says Elliot Markowitz editorial director of digital events for Nielsen. Half of the format is educational tracks with four or five individual Webcasts, while the other half is a tradeshow floor, where Nielsen will build vendor booths. Attendees can download anything from white papers to media kits to marketing promos. “It’s everything you can get without physically shaking someone’s hand,” says Markowitz.
Adweek will host a virtual tradeshow in October that consists of a keynote, followed by three separate Webcasts, and access to a tradeshow floor. The show will be live for one day then archived for six months. Other Nielsen titles, including Hospitality Design and several travel publications, will create a virtual marketplace that runs all year long. That format will skip the Webcast portion and create tradeshow floors that will be updated throughout the year, including the occasional seminar. “We’re dealing with different brands and different sponsors with different needs,” says Markowitz.
For more on how publishers are leveraging Webinars and online trade shows, look to the September issue of Folio: Magazine.