I got an email today asking me, in effect, who is filling the niche previously served by Citrix GoToWebinar. My correspondent had enjoyed running structured webinars for very large audiences of 500-1000 people at a very low fixed price point for the conferencing software. Citrix used to charge a flat $99/month license cost for GoToWebinar room capacities of up to 1000. That changed in February of this year. But the reality of the situation may just be hitting some account holders who had been on annual prepayment programs. They see their renewal cost jump from last year’s $948 to a new annual price of $4788. That can induce a fairly large *gulp* when looking at budgeting for a small business.
I talked about the pricing change back in February, also noting that you don’t have to pay the maximum amount, with tiered pricing at 100-person and 500-person capacities available. A company running 100-person webinars won’t see any price increase.
There are actually plenty of low-cost (and even free) web conferencing choices on the market. More seem to be showing up every day. As just one example, Freebinar came out of Beta recently and this month added new features for recording and screen sharing – all for free.
The problem for my correspondent is that none of these cheap/free solutions do what she was used to. The first limitation is audience size. Freebinar allows audience sizes of up to 150 and displays advertising during the session. Other free versions of conferencing products typically support between 3 and 20 people. Once you get up to 500-1000 person meetings, it is common to see a line on the vendor’s website saying “Contact us for a quote.” Trust me… that doesn’t mean you are about to get a ridiculously low price. It was really nice to know exactly what your technology cost was going to be with Citrix, and I applaud them for keeping a clear, unambiguous price sheet prominent on their web site, with no waffling.
The second limitation is webinar features. I refer to the administrative functionality that separates true webinar software from web conferencing software designed primarily for peer-level collaboration. When you are dealing with 500-1000 person events, you need automation and support in order to deal with your audience effectively. GoToWebinar includes customizable registration pages, presenter hand-off, user roles for Presenters and Organizers allowing tiered functionality in a meeting, post-webinar survey creation and display, reporting on registration/attendance/Q&A/polling/interactions, email templates for registration confirmation and reminders, integration of telephone and computer audio, and room branding. These kinds of capabilities don’t get added to budget conferencing solutions.
The third limitation is support. I have always been impressed by the technical support staff at Citrix Online. They answer the phone day or night and simply try to solve your problem. No long introductory fluff about your customer number and account status and whether you are authorized to talk to a rep. No attempts to route you to an online reporting form because they don’t want to waste time talking to customers. Unfortunately this is the exception in the web conferencing business (heck, in the entire customer service industry). As you move down the chain to smaller companies or less expensive product offerings, you often encounter support that is only active during the company’s local business hours. Or you queue up waiting to talk to the one person who can help you. Or you are told that you have to go through an automated system before you are allowed to speak to a human.
So honestly, I’m not so surprised that a company has not stepped up to fill my correspondent’s desires for price, capacity, and capabilities. I’m more surprised that Citrix ever tried to offer all of that at such a loss-leader price in the first place!
My personal opinion is that if Citrix is absolutely too expensive for your large webinar needs now, your best bet for a budget option is probably Dimdim. They have a Dimdim Webinar option for a fixed price of $65/month supporting 1000-person rooms. It doesn’t have all the features I hope for in a full webinar product. You build a small registration “widget” instead of full customized registration pages. You don’t get to customize and schedule confirmation, reminder, and follow-up emails. There is no phone/streaming audio integration. Other features are a bit less fancy than you will find in more expensive solutions. But it seems to be the current leader in small-budget, big-audience webinars.
When all is said and done, there is a reason that vendors charge more for their fully developed large-audience webinar products. They are qualitatively different and command a premium for the extra functionality. I don’t know as how any product is going to completely step into the identical price-performance niche that GoToWebinar used to occupy. That may have been a dead-end branch on the business evolutionary tree.