Dimdim Takes on the Webinar Big Boys

9/2/09Follow @wroush

Though it may be one of the most grating neologisms of the Internet era, the “webinar” has grown into an important, often profitable, way for group leaders to reach employees and/or followers and for companies to reach existing and potential customers. The leading providers of webinar hosting technology are the WebEx division of Cisco Systems and the GoToMeeting division of Citrix. But in Methuen, MA, there’s a brash startup called Dimdim that’s taking on both of those networking giants.

Known for attracting some 3 million users around the world to its low-cost web conferencing system, Dimdim announced today that it’s expanding into the webinar hosting business, with the goal of making it far easier for webinar producers to organize, promote, and monetize their online events. Dimdim chief marketing officer Steve Chazin says the new Dimdim Webinar service is essentially a crowd-sized version of its existing Web conferencing system, but with certain features added and others removed. And he says it has already been extensively beta-tested by religious organizations, financial advisors, and even a group of Australian veterinarians, who use it for continuing education certification.

For a $75 monthly subscription, Chazin says, Dimdim members can host webinars with up to 1,000 participants. That’s a big increase over the 100-person limit under Dimdim’s previous high-end product, the $19-per-month Dimdim Pro. When users log onto the Dimdim site for a scheduled webinar, they get live audio and video, a chat channel, and a presentation screen for PowerPoint slides and the like. (They don’t get a whiteboard or a shared Web browser, features of the Web conferencing system that Chazin says aren’t needed for one-to-many events like Webinars.)

Unlike WebEx and GoToMeeting users, Dimdim users don’t have to download any software to attend a webinar. To make promoting the events and getting people registered easier, the company has created a “Webinar Widget” that can be embedded in any blog or website. To help webinar producers make money on their events, Dimdim is partnering with San Francisco-based EventBrite, which runs a popular online event registration and ticket sales system. And to help organizers track attendance at webinars and stay in touch with attendees, the Dimdim Webinar system includes analytics and reporting features, such as the ability to download comma-separated files with the name and addresses of all participants.

Dimdim hopes that the low bar it’s setting for hosting a webinar will inspire more people to experiment with the medium. “I liken it to blogging five years ago,” says Chazin. “At first you had to figure out all the HTML tricks, until TypePad and WordPress came along and made it pretty simple to monetize your ideas on the Web, and then the explosion of blogging happened. We see the same thing with webinars; someone just had to make it easier and a whole lot more capable, and we think that’s us.”

Hoping to give webinar newbies ideas about turning their own ideas or content into profitable online sessions, Dimdim has also launched a microsite called howtomakemoneywithwebinars.com, and published a free eBook by the same name.

Will all of this help Dimdim make a serious dent in the webinar services from Citrix and Cisco? If prices talk, it will—WebEx customers can spend more hosting a single online event than they would on a year’s subscription at Dimdim, according to Chazin.

“Those two guys are definitely in our way, and we want to take some share from them,” Chazin says. “We think their pricing is out of whack. If we can make the barrier to entry so much lower, there will be some green field for us.”

Wade Roush is a contributing editor at Xconomy. Follow @wroush

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