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Tracking the Web Events Market

My colleagues Roopam Jain and Vanessa Alvarez recently released a report on the web events market. The good news is, global revenues for web events reached $173.2 million in 08, and although 09 will be a year of moderate growth, Frost & Sullivan projects revenues to reach $400 million by 2014, with a Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR, 2008-2014) of 15 percent.Those numbers include hosted services offered by two distinct types of vendors: Web conferencing vendors (such as Cisco/WebEx, Microsoft and Citrix Online) that offer webinars to address larger events (for the purpose of this study web conferences with larger than 50 participants have been classified as Web Events). And "pure play" webcasting providers (such as ON24 and Talkpoint) that offer real time interactive web events solutions as a standalone product or as part of a suite of solutions and services.

Web events are in fact quite different from collaborative web conferencing sessions, but the market has done a poor job of differentiating itself from simple web conferencing, and that has hampered its growth. Web events are a set of services and technologies for B2B applications that enable delivery of content over the Internet, but they have a clear start and end time, company-branded messaging, a planned agenda in which one person presents to many, and scalability that reaches hundreds or even thousands of participants.

Pre-event features include scheduling and calendaring, custom branding, and content management. During-event features enable slide show presentations, desktop and application sharing, polling and surveying, muting and other call-control options, Q & A, and group and one-on-one chat. And post-event features include detailed reporting and play-back. Some vendors are adding other capabilities, including integration with CRM applications to leverage lead generation, ensure follow-up and maximize opportunities.

Many pure play vendors are partnering with larger communications vendors that want to augment their collaboration portfolios. The distribution model is mixed: Many of the web conferencing vendors use their existing channel partners to sell web event solutions; pure play vendors use more of a direct sales approach. The ratio of direct to indirect sales is 59 percent to 41 percent.

North America continues to be the main purchasing hub for web event solutions, but it's difficult to determine geographic uptake as the tools are often used on a global basis. The average sales cycle is two-to-three months. Per-event pricing ranges from around $1,500-$3,500-significantly lower than hosting an event in person, making a clear case for ROI.

We do expect web events solutions to be folded into broader unified communications offerings and become more integrated with other enterprise communications tools. Product development will evolve as a result, and as vendors like ON24 move to virtual events to take the place of large-format tradeshows and conferences, we can expect them to include presence and click-to-communicate features within their applications.