A formal announcement and general availability of new features in ReadyTalk's web conferencing software won't be out until later this month, but I got a chance to preview some upgrades to the software. Mike McKinnon, their Social Media Director, took me through a sneak peek at the enhancements. None of these is earthshaking, and it doesn't constitute a major new release of the software, but they are nice additions to the platform and show a healthy dedication to ongoing R&D and improvement.
ReadyTalk uses an online administration page to set up events and manage details. It received a face lift, with a nicer layout and better grouping of common functions.
When creating event invitations, ReadyTalk uses a template approach that lets you fill in key fields such as date and time. Mike told me that clients sometimes make a change to an existing event (such as moving it to a new date or changing something in the description), which would force them to create a new invitation from scratch... filling in all the fields again. Now you can work from an existing invitation, changing only the fields that need updating, and use the revised version with your event. It should save time for many webinar administrators.
For some time, ReadyTalk has been offering the ability to save an event recording as a podcast. You can save just the audio stream, or the combined audio/video. Of course, a single event podcast is really nothing more than a standalone media file. The more common implementation of podcasting has been to create a feed that people can subscribe to, getting new recordings as they are published.
To make life easier for companies that produce podcast feeds, ReadyTalk now allows single-button publishing to a subscription page. Interested "consumers" of your information can go to the page and click to add your feed to any of several popular feed readers. From then on, any new podcast you create is automatically pushed out to your subscriber base.
I saw the value of the functionality, but wished for even more flexibility with the ability to establish multiple feeds. A large company might use their account to create one set of podcasts for employees and another set for customers (perhaps a feed for each product line). Currently the software allows for only one subscription feed. Oh well... Maybe in a future release!
The final addition to the product in this go-round is an online recording editor. I'm trying to think of web conferencing vendors that make their own recording editors available and all I can think of is WebEx, so this functionality is rare (and welcomed).
Operation of the editor is designed to be very basic and easy to use. It runs entirely in a browser, so administrators on any operating system can make use of the utility without downloads and installs.
You basically see a recording playback viewer with a standard time bar and timecode indicator (I described that poorly... The concept is something like this, although this is NOT a screenshot of ReadyTalk's editor):
While watching and listening to your recording, you make note of the timecodes at the beginning and end of segments you want to remove. Enter them in the appropriate fields and - SNIP! - the offending section is gone.
Although you can make several cuts in one operation, I would recommend doing each one separately to take advantage of the best feature of the utility. Every cut is stored as its own edit, and you can undo any cut to restore that portion of the recording. Unlike most UNDO operations, these don't have to be cycled through in order from most recent back to the one of interest. You can make eight cuts in a recording and then go back and decide to restore the material you cut out in number 3.
Because the processed version and the original are always available, this is valuable for compliance issues where you might have to prove that you aren't trying to hide something that was said in a live public broadcast.
Cutting out time segments is the most basic operation that people use when editing their recordings. This can get rid of things like instructions and standby messages that were given to the live audience, or time spent waiting for audience interactions that would be boring to a viewer of the recording.
Mike readily admitted that the utility is not meant for advanced editing that might need fine control down to the sub-second (timecodes can only be entered as whole seconds) or for operations such as copying segments or adjusting video and audio separately. I do a lot of those kinds of edits for my clients, and I need an array of specialized software to take care of all the nuances that crop up. But for basic cleanup before publishing a recording, this is a great production aid.
I expect all of these features to be available for customers some time around October 22 or so. But as a former software manager, I won't put money on an exact release date!