Why would I start a post with that strange title? After all, ON24 has been around since 1998 and has always featured a strong presence in the webcasting field, especially in the publishing and financial services industries. They were one of the early web conferencing companies to emphasize live video webcasts to large audiences (over 1,000 participants).
I honestly started to wonder about the company’s product emphasis last year however. They seemed to be publicizing their Virtual Shows and Virtual Meeting Spaces solutions and letting their webcasting product languish in relative silence.
I wrote up an admiring post describing their April announcement of a new webcasting platform, but I didn’t see much public follow-through from ON24 touting its availability and adoption by customers.
When ON24 finally put out a press release concentrating on webcasting in December, I spoke with Mark Szelenyi. Mark told me that he has effectively been put in charge of ON24’s webcasting business, with responsibility for both product marketing and product management. He has a goal to even out the company’s publicity focus this year to get the webcasting platform back in the public eye once again.
I asked about what has happened with the “social webcasting platform” that was announced in April and what other developments have been brewing in ON24’s webcast solutions. Mark said that they were still committed to their open platform concept, where every element of a webcast exists as a discrete widget that can be added or removed. This is an unusual approach in the webcast/webinar world, where vendors typically have features “hard wired” into their viewing consoles. They have been continuing a long, slow test/enhance cycle with selected customers to make sure they are delivering what the marketplace wants.
Mark also told me that ON24 has added the ability to offer multilingual webcasts. At registration, a participant can choose their preferred language. Not only are all menus and on-screen commands presented in the selected language, but the software even attempts to do automated translation of typed chat messages from hosts and other participants via integrated Google translation. Obviously that’s not going to be perfect, but it’s a nice step in making a large global audience feel more connected to their peers using other languages. I am not aware of any other webcast technology offering this feature.
Mark echoed the views of most providers in this space when he said that streaming video and mobile access are two of the biggest growth areas in terms of demand and perceived value. ON24 is trying to simplify video production and display within their various virtual collaboration products. Webcasts are simply another type of media component in ON24’s world, and may show up as an offering within a virtual show, for instance. For the time being, the company is concentrating on mobile access from the attendee’s perspective, and is not trying to create a presentation or production environment built for mobile use. That seems more than reasonable to me, as I can’t imagine trying to host a public webcast from a mobile device.
ON24 has also announced integration with Eloqua’s “Cloud Connectors initiative.” This lets the two technologies share data about registrants and attendees, combine it with business data culled from Jigsaw, and lets hosts manage webinars from within the Eloqua environment.
So ON24 is definitely still a player in webcasts and webinars. I hope to see more news from them throughout 2011.