Like many terms in AV/IT these days, the definition of a webcast depends on who you ask. Lines are becoming blurred between a webinar, videoconferencing, lecture capture and a webcast. This is in part due to the fact the many video platform vendors are offering “all of the above.” When it comes to specifically to webcasting, it is more likely vendors that only offered one piece of a webcast workflow are now creating alliances with complimentary vendors to provide more complete solutions and feature sets.
Some solutions weren’t designed to step up to the task. “For one-to-many solutions, or for one-to-many distribution, web collaboration platforms can sometimes seem like the right answer out of the gate,” said Steve Vonder Haar, senior analyst, Enterprise Webcasting & Streaming at independent market research firm Wainhouse Research. “But as organizations start producing more and more content, the collaboration platforms tend to fall short in terms of event management, content management, and sometimes even network distribution capabilities.”
The current consensus defines a webcast as a live-streamed event, meeting, presentation or training session, often combined with PowerPoint or other visuals intended for viewing by a large targeted audience. The goal is for that one live presentation is to be viewed by many individuals either within a company and/or accessed throughout the world. When taking full advantage of the medium and platforms, the video stream is captured and stored for viewing on demand.
Add in the ability to schedule events, moderate Q&A and polling, capture user data and advanced analytics, system monitoring, automatic speech recognition, end-to-end security, collaboration, and a virtual host of other features, and you’ve got a scalable, robust enterprise video platform that wasn’t available six months ago. At least not at a scalable price-point, and possibly not under one moniker.
Where to Begin?
“First, identify the use cases that are likely to be demanded by your organization,” said Vonder Haar. “If you’re only looking to do video for external communications, buy a simple hosted solution and you’re done.” But, if your management team is demanding that video-rich communication become part of the experience behind the corporate firewall that’s a different story.
Simple hosted platforms tend to be more outward-facing noted Vonder Haar. “They are optimized for marketing-oriented applications, and therefore the vendors in those spaces have spent more time honing features that enhance the impact online video can have on a marketing campaign.” This includes better analytics, integration, rock-solid integration with CDNs, enabling high-scale distribution on external networks.
On-prem, Hybrid, or Cloud?
“It’s a matter of figuring out what your organization’s temperament is from a technology deployment perspective,” said Vonder Haar. Then match that with your executive’s communications objectives.
“Hosted solutions provide more flexibility in terms of the scope of applications that need to be deployed out of the gate,” he said. “With a hosted-solution you could serve a departmental-level customer without having to make a six-figure up-front investment to make webcasting a reality.”
Many vendors offer a hybrid delivery solutions approach where the application resides in the cloud, with videos remaining on-premises. “For organizations that have a high sensitivity to network security, something that is not on-prem might not be considered 100 percent bulletproof,” noted Vonder Haar. Today, you will find most vendors supporting a combination of on-prem, hybrid and cloud solutions to fit unique needs, network infrastructure, and security requirements.
Video is a powerful communications medium, but one of the problems had been that all the information was locked inside the video and not searchable. Traditional video search only indexes manually-entered metadata such as the video title, description, and tags. “This is problematic for most corporate videos, which often range from 15 to 60 minutes in length,” said Ari Bixhorn, VP of marketing at Panopto. “Ideally, we should be able to search inside videos, finding and fast-forwarding to the precise moment that a word is spoken or shown on-screen. In the last three years, technologies like automatic speech recognition (ASR) and optical character recognition (OCR) have made this possible.” These technologies are now becoming core features of enterprise video platforms.
More robust features are becoming available which will make this process more challenging. Start by outlining each use case and matching needs to the features available. Go into the process with open mind to new features that could take your program to the next level. Some items below are points to inquire about, and individual needs others will be a must. This is only the tip of the iceberg.
Webcast Shopping Considerations
- ■ Simultaneous live stream and record
- ■ Automatic transcoding of video for delivery across all device types
- ■ Encoding for adaptive bitrate streaming
- ■ Closed captioning for ADA compliance
- ■ In-video search with automatic speech character recognition
- ■ Event scheduling
- ■ Collaboration tools
- ■ Moderate Q&A and polling
- ■ Capture user data
- ■ Analytics dashboard
- ■ Content management system (CMS) integration
- ■ Learning Management System (LMS) integration
- ■ Customer relationship management (CRM) integration
- ■ Web-based video editing
- ■ Native mobile app to support searching, viewing and uploading
- ■ Secure enterprise portal
- ■ Secure video platform for internal communications
- ■ Single sign-on (SSO), secure login and password protection
- ■ Domain controls
- ■ Channel control for selective audience
- ■ WAN and Internet streaming
- ■ WAN optimization solutions
- ■ Content Delivery Network (CDN)
- ■ Enterprise Content Delivery Network (EDCN)
- ■ Open API
- ■ Scalability
- ■ Understand features included in the license, and those which are add-ons
- ■ Ease of use
Cindy Davis is AV Technology’s contributing editor and the AV/IT Leadership Summit producer. Visit avitsummit.com for more information.