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ITworld.com Makes a Go of Tech Webcasting

IDG is prepared to lose money now to win big later

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Media SurveyThese days it takes a courageous company to invest millions in a project that it knows won't make money until mid-2002, if then. Though its official name is International Data Group, IDG is acting more like a Gen X start-up these days - at least in the Southborough, Mass. headquarters of ITworld.com.

Under the auspices of ITworld.com, a web site that draws upon the content produced by the company's many IT edit operations, IDG is approaching year 2 of its multi-year initiative into webcasting. According to ITworld.com CEO Bill Reinstein, however, the initiative really is better described as a broadband content delivery effort.

"I don't think anybody would argue that the next evolution of the web is going to be the delivery of broadband content," Reinstein tells SWMS. "The information density of these programs, with the capability of rich, directed research, is what [professional] people will come to appreciate."

There seems to be no argument, considering that IDG archrival Ziff Davis Media also is investing big in webcasting while its other archrival, CMP Media, has struck up a relationship with a webcast contractor called ENEN.

At least so far, IDG's webcasting efforts stand apart from their rivals.

First, Reinstein's team is working furiously to create a mountain of editorial and advertorial content. If you take a look at ITworld.com's webcast page, you'll see all sorts of audio and video, from straight editorial programming to bought-and-paid-for advertorials, to "short subject" programming in the form of tutorials, where a little bit is free but the whole curriculum will cost you.

"We have a bifurcated sales force, selling both custom solutions and editorial solutions," Reinstein explains. He needs that structure because the beasts are quite different.

On the editorial side, IDC produces regular programs hosted by a variety of IDC analysts. Network World president John Gallant hosts monthly webcasts, with in-studio guests as well as out-of-town guests linked in by satellite. ITworld's own staff, headed by VP and editorial director Mark Schlack, produces regular segments as well, as part of the series called Innovate. These programs typically are sold a la carte to a single sponsor, who gets visibility but no control over content.

On the advertorial side, ITworld is equipped to produce 60-minute custom webcasts for just about any IT-oriented vendor. Dell, EDS, Symantec, IBM and many others have already taken the plunge. Not very many people watch: a few hundred might catch it live, with a few thousand more clicking in once the program is archived. From a CPM standpoint, with these numbers, buying a webcast is all but unjustifiable. Yet EDS has just signed up for an additional three webcasts in 2001.

In part 2 (tune in this Friday) of this ITworld.com profile, we'll find out why. We'll also look at ITworld.com's long-term challenges on the business side, and meanwhile, how it intends to make ends meet while waiting for the webcasting market to grow.

Copyright © 2001, Sam Whitmore's Media Survey. All rights reserved

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