I’m often asked questions about the size of the webinar industry – it’s undoubtedly the elephant in the B2B conference. How many webinars are hosted every year? How many professionals watch webinars and how many do they watch per month? To date, I have not come across definitive statistics, or really anything close to them. In fact, the more research I do, the more I am convinced that it is not even possible to accurately size the market. And interestingly, that is why I am so confident the market is huge. Let me explain.
First, there is no standard definition for the pseudo-word, ‘webinar.’ What you call a webinar, others might call a webcast, online seminar, web series, web conference, or online meeting. This fact in of itself makes it futile to attempt to piece together the webinar’s slice of the content marketing pie, as it’s impossible to discern between internal meetings and thought leadership presentations when reviewing industry data.
Second, most webinar software companies don’t release their data. For the few that do, it is unclear what percent of the market they have and thus nearly impossible to extrapolate a number for the entire industry size without dangerous assumptions.
So how can I confidently assert that the webinar phenomenon is huge and growing? Because I don’t think it takes rocket science. Take a look at any established business in a B2B industry and see if they are hosting webinars (hint: they are). Then check out a small organization in a niche industry, and you’ll notice the majority of them are also hosting webinars somewhat consistently. If both large and small players in the B2B space are hosting webinars, then odds are everyone in between is as well (for the most part anyway). Again, I’m not big on the vague industry reports, but according to Content Marketing Institute’s report on the 2013 content marketing trends, more than 60% of B2B organizations are currently hosting webinars.
I understand that my research isn’t scientific and won’t satisfy those who aren’t happy until there’s a Bureau of Labor report on the industry. But that report hasn’t been possible for the aforementioned reasons (i.e. market fragmentation). So instead, let me chalk up a few more numbers to satisfy the scientific method community.
I recently came across some data provided by two webinar software providers, ON24 and ClickMeeting, that not only show that the webinar market is huge, but also just how futile an exercise it is to try to size it.
Based upon pricing, known customers, and limited market data, I presume ClickMeeting caters to SMBs and has a small-to-medium slice of the webinar software market. Their report said that the average webinar hosted using ClickMeeting has 28 participants. I think it’s fair to assume that small companies have fewer webinar attendants than multi-national organizations, so for simplicity’s sake, let’s just use ClickMeeting’s data as the lower end of the spectrum.
For comparison, take a look at some numbers that ON24 released about their users. They claim that the average webinar hosted via their service has 433 registrations with approximately 180 attendants. That is about six and a half times the attendance that ClickMeeting reports! What could account for this disparity?
To begin, ON24 does not provide a pricing plan on their website at all. A potential customer needs to speak to a sales representative in order to put together a unique enterprise plan. A quick glance at their current customers, which include IBM, Deloitte, Oracle, and SAP, leads me to believe – among other obvious reasons – that ON24 caters to the blue chip customer.
ON24 reports that in 2012 they serviced over 20,000 webinars. These are some solid numbers, but keep in mind they are just one of many players in the webinar industry and their market segment is highly specific.
If you still don’t think it’s ridiculous to try to size this market given the absurd disparity and limitations in data and definitions then let’s carry on embracing this taunting elephant.
We’re going to do some napkin math to create some “what if scenarios.”
Webinar Software Companies
While we don’t necessarily know how many total players there are in the space, or what share of the market any of them have, we do know that there are a lot of them!
I’m going to be incredibly generous, and assume 5% of webinars are hosted using ON24. I would bet a ton of money it’s less than 2.5%, but just to prove my point let’s work with 5%. So:
20,000 webinars = 5% of market
400,000 webinars = entire market
ON24 claims its users convert 42% of registrants of an upcoming webinar into participants. ClickMeeting reported about an equal conversion rate.
I find those numbers a bit high, but let’s roll with them for the time being. So:
Average conversion rate = 42%
Let’s work backwards to find that ClickMeeting customers have, on average, about 67 registrants to their webinars (28 is 42% of 67). Remember that ON24 users generate on average about 433 registrants for each webinar.
Carrying on with the assumption that ClickMeeting is on the lowest end of the spectrum and ON24 is on the high end of the spectrum, we can calculate their average. So:
Average number of registrants to a webinar: 250 professionals
If you are still following me here, than hang on, because I am about to blow your mind! Using all of our assumptions (and feel free to toggle them, because you’re going to get ridiculous numbers no matter what), there were approximately 100,000,000 webinar registrations in 2012 (400,000 webinars X 250 registrants).
Are you still with me? I sure hope so, because I am just heating up. Let’s keep rolling with these assumptions for just another moment. If there were 100,000,000 webinar registrations in 2012 (all numbers are in 2012), that means webinars received 42,000,000 live viewers and 58,000,000 registrants who missed the live versions.
As long as my assumptions are in the ballpark (which they have to be, unless the software providers are grossly misrepresenting data, or ON24 has an unexpectedly high percentage of the market share), then a few things are true:
- We know the elephant in the room is hefty. The webinar industry is huge no matter how you toggle the numbers.
- It’s ridiculous to rely on these numbers as anything more than indicative. I wouldn’t be surprised if the webinar industry is a lot more or a lot less than the numbers I concocted above. I’m comfortable just knowing the industry is huge without having to know how huge.
- There exists a massive opportunity to serve this market to improve upon the webinar lifecycle, especially with respect to the registration process. Remember, 58% of registrants miss the live version of the webinar. I think we can improve on that number, and certainly enhance the delivery of recorded webinars to registrants.
There you go. Thoughts?