Approaches to Webcasting

I am going to talk through some of the many aspects of producing a live event online. I will take you on a journey from the planning stage, through the deployment - looking in some detail at considerations for repeatability and scaling.

The first thing to highlight is that there is not, and probably should never be, a single way to produce a webcast. While a particular workflow will eventually establish itself as a common reference for any particular operator, publisher or business, there will always be nuances in the specific requirements that they will seek.

You have two approaches in addressing this sector as a service provider:

  • • You can seek only clients that can work around your own technology limitations
  • • You can prepare for every scenario yourself, and ensure that you have sufficient technology options in your own arsenal to be able to deal with all foreseeable situations.

The first approach requires patience and focus. You will need to position to address that sector, and this may involve specific technical differentiators that are particular to that sectors needs. For example, for telemedicine, you may need to provide specific cameras, and for aerial work, you may need to be able to fly a drone. The range of skills you can bring will help you make that difference, and if you can isolate specific clients with significant continuous streams of work, then you can match your technology to their exact requirements and potentially grow that into a steady business. You will inevitably face a common risk: over time the client will (and I mean will) explore bringing the capability they buy from you in-house to increase their own margins. Pragmatically though this is a risk for any service provider in any sector. If you maintain a good relationship and reinvest to always be one step ahead of the client's “can you also do XYZ,” then you can remain the thought leader, and with trust, you can become a long-term partner for them. If instead you take the view that you will provide the bare minimum, you will struggle to maintain the business for long. The market has low barriers to entry and is therefore highly competitive.

The second approach requires a broader investment and more intense involvement with the client to align expectations with them. Their concept of what they are contracting you to do may well not be as close to the easy option (your “default” mode) as you would like, and you may inadvertently short-circuit a seemingly trivial requirement that is mission-critical to their operation. For example, wrong metadata insertion into a stream may cause considerable downstream issues. While this broader adaptability to meet a wider variety of projects has some benefit, it is very investment heavy. Almost every event may require a specific production tool. With many such tools costing more than the margin made otherwise on the production, it can become a logistic nightmare trying to preempt the market continuously with the “latest” technology - be it a field kit or developing a new social media plug in.

The answer to which is right for your strategy is going to be unique. Having worked extensively either establishing my own or as a contractor, to many of these webcast service providers the one thing that makes the biggest difference is having some scale at the outset.

This means doing lots of webcasts, and regularly.

The economy of scale means that if you have regular events, you will be able to continuously reinvest and develop your capabilities and reach beyond those initial regular events.

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