“Just be Willing to Believe:” An Interview with Digitell’s Jim Parker

Procast, a "webinar on steroids," lets associations and business media companies monetize convention and conference content—without an upfront investment.


Available to associations and media companies through our agency, Procast is the brainchild of the Digitell’s CEO, Jim Parker, a pioneer in learning management systems and event livestreaming.


Recently, Bob James interviewed Jim about the new product.


BOB JAMES: Why Procast—and why now?


JIM PARKER: Eighty percent of our clients who livestream content are enjoying success, but the barriers for many prospects are lack of resources, lack of a dedicated budget, and fear of the unknown—which is ironic because, in reality, most of those organizations have been doing webinars for years, and Procast is nothing more than a webinar on steroids. When I started Digitell in 1985, I approached associations and publishers with the concept, “Let me audio-record your educational sessions, duplicate the recordings, and sell them; and I’ll pay you a royalty.” The organizations had a better than 80 percent chance of driving more revenue to its bottom line as a result. I see a similar opportunity today to help organizations enter the online event space by giving them a no-risk option. In five years’ time, a revenue-sharing option like this may go away, because associations and niche publishers will be confident in their ability to do this on their own.


BOB: So, Procast is a limited-time-only opportunity?


JIM: It could be. Savvy organizations with too few resources in place to execute online events know it makes no sense to try to run them on their own. Niche organizations with niche content have communities of people across the world, and for those types of organizations, Procast makes perfect sense. We can engage every human being who has access to the Internet and may want to consume the content. That's an incredible market! It blows me away when I see comments like, “I'm in a tiny village in New Zealand, I don't even have cell reception and here I'm watching a livestream from Washington, DC.” Pretty exciting.


BOB: What’s the revenue opportunity for an association or niche publisher?


JIM: I think the revenue opportunity is as big as the organization's creativity in leveraging itself across new communities. With online events, it is looking across the entire world, and the organization has a new value proposition for industry partners, members, non-members, subscribers, students, and affiliated organizations. All those audiences could drive new revenue—five to ten times more than the narrow opportunity realized when you engage only your members or subscribers. The opportunity’s even greater when you look at how we can help an industry partner leverage an online event to engage their communities of customers.


BOB: And you’re not limited to English-speaking audiences, either, correct?


JIM: Not at all. Think about it: if we convert a course into Spanish, we can drive another significant segment of revenue by delivering it to the South American community. I think we're in the infancy stages of understanding the value of convention and conference content in engaging niche communities. If you're not sure that how that works, look at history—at how magazines, newspapers and TV found business models based on the delivery of content. The only barriers are creativity and a willingness to explore.


BOB: And, as far as overseas markets go, the 900-pound gorilla is China, correct?


JIM: Truthfully, it’s probably both China and Brazil. Of course, there’s money in to be made in China, as there is in our own country. But people often overlook Brazil.


BOB: You mentioned a five X return on investment. But with Procast there’s no investment necessary, right?


JIM: Just the videotaping. The reason there's so much opportunity is that the investment has gone down to the point where you can ask, “How can I not do this?” Let’s say you videotape eight lectures at your live event, and that costs you $8,000. If you sell registrations for the online version at $300 each, you only need 30 people to sign up to better than break even.


BOB: What kind of advice do you give people about video production values?


JIM: Everything you’re doing online around the video—the MC’ing, housekeeping, speaker introductions and so forth—is as important as the actual video itself. You also want your video to convey as much emotion as possible—emotion’s even more important than the content. So, whether you have a live moderator, and then the speakers come on live in between or after their sessions, you must create emotion, and emotion is conveyed through facial expressions. That's crucial. You also want someone from your organization involved in the online event in some capacity, to relate the organization’s commitment to the viewers, who are using their own precious time to join you on line. Now, that person doesn't have to be a rocket scientist. But it needs to be somebody who’s able to convey they care about the viewers who just gave them $300 each and who are spending a day, or two days, on line with them.


BOB: Could that be done with a proxy; in other words, paid talent?


JIM: Absolutely. It could be practically anyone. I would say if you think of any TV talk show today, the talent can almost be as exciting and engaging as the guests, if they're intelligent.


BOB: What about the recorded speakers? What's minimally acceptable production quality?


JIM: Good quality audio, and an awareness on the speaker’s part that he or she is talking to people on line. A fairly clear HD webcam representation is good enough.


BOB: What commitment does the association or publisher have, other than turning over the video over to us? What else do they have to be willing to do?


JIM: Just be willing to believe. They need to believe that content delivered on line is an asset of tremendous value to audiences. Every single client who's told us up front, “This is something we need to do to provide our audiences options,” has been successful.


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