February 16, 2011
Today, the popular online content-sharing site SlideShare released an audio/video/web conferencing solution called Zipcast. At face value, this is yet another entry into an already crowded web conferencing market. What makes this different is SlideShare is home to the sales and marketing presentations of 45 million users. This makes Zipcast a natural extension of that content store, allowing SlideShare clients to hold inexpensive webinars for prospects. SlideShare's offering is compelling:
- It has a good set of features. Zipcast provides many of the presentation tools sales and marketing pros expect when hosting a webinar. There's streaming audio and streaming video of the presenter. Slides can be pushed to the attendees and — in a nice twist that stays true to their roots — said attendees can advance slides independent of the presenter.
- It's inexpensively priced. Zipcast is available to SlideShare Basic (free) and SlideShare Pro customers at no extra cost. Pro customers get added benefits, such as an option to host password-protected meetings and use an audio bridge from FreeConferenceCall.com. Considering Pro licenses start at $19/month, this severely undercuts WebEx and GoToMeeting pricing.
- It's optimized for the Splinternet. If you've been following the work of my colleague Josh Bernoff, you know that when we refer to the "Splinternet," we're talking about the Internet's fragmentation thanks to mobile devices, social networks and password protection. To deal with this, Zipcast is an HTML5 application that also runs as Flash for browsers not currently supporting that standard. And to allow for quick access to meetings, people can enter through a SlideShare profile or with Facebook Connect.
For content & collaboration professionals, what makes this interesting — and what my colleague Ted Schadler and I detail in a report publishing later today — is this is one more tool a business group can acquire outside the watchful eye of IT. It's easy to see why your sales and marketing folks would fall for Zipcast: It adds real-time presentation technology to a service they already use for lead generation. So Zipcast proves that despite your best laid plans to develop standardized tool sets for your workforce (you're probably eyeing your current enterprise-wide web conferencing contract), there will always be innovative vendors providing cheap technology that addresses a very specific use case. So how should you approach Zipcast (and other such services)?
- Watch… Like other such business tools targeted at information workers (e.g. Yammer and Huddle), you should be monitoring the progress of these vendors. See how they address your concerns about access control, data security, and administrative tools. Also watch out for instances of these tools popping up on your network.
- …and listen. As employees begin to experiment with these tools, open a dialogue. Find out what business problems they are trying to solve with these technologies. Maybe these are things you can solve in-house. Maybe these are things you can solve with one of your established vendors. Or maybe these are things best handled by allowing your people to continue to use the technology they've secured on their own.