Can a live video chat platform make money for publishers?

Shindig Live Event

Video seems to be the hot new thing in print publishing. Between the recent Newfronts, and efforts by the New York Times, which took down its video paywall, and the Huffington Post to get in on the ad dollar pie for digital and streaming video, everyone wants to better utilize and monetize video. The International News Media Association even released a report that reviews the industry’s efforts thus far, and offers tips on making video work for traditional newspapers.

This attention to video as a new digital revenue stream has opened up the door for entrepreneurs ready to pounce. One longtime music industry executive, Steve Gottlieb – who founded independent record label TVT Records and launched the careers of musicians like Nine Inch Nails – has translated his experience with live musical performances into the creation of a live chat platform, Shindig, which offers authors and publishers the opportunity to monetize the broadcast of those live events. The company, based in New York City, is currently in beta.

Shindig, the live chat platform

Although numerous video chat platforms presently exist, Shindig is unique in that it provides a customizable shared space online for authors and publishers to provide virtual book tours, readings, talks, presentations, press conferences, interviews, and more with up to 1,000 attendees. In addition to the speaker, 20 fans can be seen at a time. Google+ hangouts doesn’t come close in terms of scale. To compare, G+ only allows for 10 attendees and provides no options for charging to attend a hangout.

Drawing from his musical background, Gottlieb sees potential for Shindig to offer a new live event revenue stream for publishers and online content providers.

“There is nothing like the live experience of a musical event, that sharing of not just the event, but the venue and time and place and being there beforehand and afterwards,” Gottlieb said. “This is a great way for online media to broaden their reach and create excitement, a great way for freelance writers and authors and bloggers to create multiple platforms through interviews and events around their content. In a way, this is a media creation platform.”

Gottlieb started thinking about developing a live chat platform after watching his son play games online with people he didn’t know. The lack of identity “just kind of gave me the creeps,” he said.

Shindig shares the names of all participants and gives attendees the option of turning on their webcams and appearing in the live chat room, which is visible to the speaker and all attendees.

Speakers can share the virtual stage with a chat participant or use the second space for a presentation or a video. If participants have questions for the speaker, they can click on the hand-raise button, and the speaker can bring him/her onto the stage. Attendees can also start private video chats with other participants by clicking on the image of that person. All live chats can be recorded and published on YouTube.

Advertising, sponsorship, and new revenue stream opportunities

The author or publisher of a given Shindig live chat has the option of offering free chats or charging participants a fee to join by using online event registration system Eventbrite.

Currently, there are no up-front costs for early adopters of Shindig, but if authors and publishers monetize their events through paid sponsor and branding opportunities (which could include customizing the background image in the live chat room), charging for events through Eventbrite ticket sales, or selling merchandise during an event, Shindig asks for percentage of the revenue.

“Right now, advertisers are limited to a banner or the side of a webpage. The ability for advertisers to get in front of a live audience might be worth more than a whole lot of banners. Sponsorship of life experiences has always been much more engaging for advertisers,” said Gottlieb, adding that video chat offers a viable opportunity for online media organizations and magazines to expand their reach and get to know their audience better.

Gottlieb provided examples of recent Shindig live video chats from Guy Kawasaki, who spoke on how to publish a book April 4, and Bill Gates, who spoke at Concordia College on April 27.

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About Tim Sohn

Tim Sohn is a freelance writer and editor. He can be reached at timothyjsohn@gmail.com and on Twitter @editortim. Also, check out his website at TimothyJSohn.com.

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