Brainshark put out a press release last week that caught my eye. It took a few days to set up a call with the company, but I finally had a chance to speak with CEO Joe Gustafson and Director of Partner Sales Jason Hammond. They took me through the latest news and we had a chance to dig deeper into the interesting (and valuable) niche market that Brainshark targets in the web conferencing world.
I first came across Brainshark in March of 2006 and wrote about my impressions in the blog. Although the company was new to me, they have been around since 1999 and have hundreds of customers. (By the way, they recently updated their website and added all kinds of useful information and slick formatting. I particularly like Joe's very human and personal page on the history and vision of the company. It's a breath of fresh air in an Internet world full of boilerplate "About our company" pages.)
You can read about the basics of the Brainshark product in my previous post. The fundamentals have not changed since then. The primary goal is to let companies create, deliver, and track prerecorded web presentations. Unlike a live interactive webinar that typically lasts for 45-90 minutes, a prerecorded Brainshark webinar is designed to be consumed in short bites, typically in durations of 3 to 15 minutes. One of the unique features of the software lets you add interactive polls and questionnaires to your recorded broadcasts and then track the responses by individual viewers. You can record and edit audio a slide at a time, and you can reuse slides in different presentations to build up customized presentations out of a set of common information building blocks. With some versions of the software you can add interactive branching to your presentations so that you show different information based on the viewer's interaction with the presentation.
The latest press release talks about Brainshark's partnership with InterCall, part of which allows InterCall customers to create new recorded presentations using the Brainshark software. But the more interesting piece stems from InterCall's status as a Microsoft Live Meeting reseller. Because Live Meeting saves recorded webinars with internal markers that let a viewer jump directly to a named slide, Brainshark is able to convert the Live Meeting recording to a Brainshark format with audio synched to individual slides. That lets you take a long recording of a live webinar that was given with Live Meeting and chop it up into a set of slides that can be distributed between several shorter recordings for viewing convenience. You can also edit or re-record the audio for any slide to fix up mistakes, get better sound quality, or to update it over time. Obviously you also get the benefits of Brainshark's reports on viewer activity, ability to link the viewer to live support (if your company is set up for that), and Brainshark's hosting of the content (I believe Microsoft only hosts the recorded content for 90 days, while Brainshark hosts the content as long as you keep paying!).
Being able to work on presentation content a slide at a time is a huge advantage. Brainshark gives you the ability to export the audio to a digital format, which means you can clean it up with your choice of editing software and upload the new file back to the presentation. Nice.
Brainshark acquired a patent in January that covers the basics of their approach to creating, storing, delivering, and tracking the content of slide and audio presentations. That should help them from a technology competition basis. The new company website is much better at communicating the features and value of their software, which should help them from a marketing standpoint. And with application layer ties to vendors such as Microsoft, Zoomerang, and Salesforce.com, they should do nicely from an industry integration perspective. I'm bullish on this company. Stay tuned for more news and coverage over time.