By Mike Newman
Each year, Miriam Webster’s dictionary adds a word-of-the-year. Not surprisingly, the word for 2020 was “pandemic,” although it should not have surprised anyone if the word had been Zoom – the formerly obscure virtual meeting company that became ubiquitous virtually overnight.
For those of us who make our living in online communications, it was fascinating to watch Zoom’s ascendance, from esoteric meeting application to a full-blown verb. Whether “attending” work or school or personal events, Zoom (and WebEx and Teams) were keeping the communication wheels on the bus.
As online communications neophytes quickly learned, online communications is nuanced and anything but one-size-fits all. And so after a brief lag, users began looking for alternative solutions for specific use cases (e.g. town hall meetings, virtual events) and, shortly thereafter, we and many of our technology partners saw usage increases on our infrastructures that ranged from 250% to 400% year-over-year. These increases were, and continue to be, sustained. And yet, rather than interpreting these increases as a testament to our success . . . our industry realized how much things had changed, how much still needed to be done, and how quickly we needed to get there. In my 20 years in streaming, never have I seen more time, energy and money invested in studying the market and customer requirements and responding accordingly in engineering.
I suppose luck does favor the bold because our 3.5 year investment in an entirely new webcasting platform (retiring WebCaster and releasing Broadcaster) came to fruition just as everyone moved from the office to work from home and the home-based audiences started pushing the limits on scalability and frequency of use. From March to April, we saw the aggregate number of monthly webcasts jump from approximately 600 to more than 2300, and average webcast attendance jump from an average of 720 attendees to more than 3,000. We also witnessed a record number of employee webcasts with over 50,000 simultaneous viewers. And these numbers continue to trend up and to the right as companies grow increasingly proficient at and reliant upon webcasting.
Although each day our response to what’s transpired improves, the landscape continues to evolve. For instance, after a jarring exodus from the office to the home, we’re now starting to see hybrid models emerge that permit employees to work both at home and in the office. An unintended consequence is the unpredictability of the impact to internal and external infrastructures from one day to the next (who is watching what from where on which day). The problem, in large part, is one of flexibility, observability and responsiveness – and it is these specific challenges that SmartPath and Video Business Intelligence are designed to solve. Prescribe the optimal internal and external distribution resources and failover rules, observe network performance and video quality in real time across both infrastructures and all audience members, and pivot in real time if the audience topography changes.
There are many other challenges and opportunities that emerged over the last twelve months and, as we’ve been doing for more than a decade, we remain committed to working with the world’s most recognizable companies to ensure their webcast initiatives are successful today and as requirements continue their relentless evolution.