Crowdcast is a webinar and livestreaming platform. When I first started testing this service, it immediately struck me as easier to use and more socially oriented than any other webinar platform I've ever used.
Let's find out!
Note: Reviews + Final Roundup
You're reading one of my may reviews of webinar tools. Here's a list of all the other tools I've published reviews on:
- GoToWebinar Review
- Webinar Ninja review
- Crowdcast review
- Demio review
- ClickMeeting review
- EasyWebinar review
- Zoom Review
- WebinarJam Review
- BigMarker Review
After publishing all of these, I also created one massive roundup review, pitching them all against each other! Check it out here.
In this review, we'll take a tour through the Crowdcast dashboard and the features it makes available to you as a user. Plus, we'll look at exactly why Crowdcast is so different from other webinar tools and we'll see what it does well and where it misses the mark.
Simplicity at its Finest
When you log in to your Crowdcast account you're greeted with a very minimal interface:
At a glance, you see any events you've already created - or a tutorial video for how to create your first event, if you haven't done so yet.
The tutorial is a nice touch, but perhaps unnecessary. It's so easy to create a new event, you can't really do anything wrong. Here's the screen you see when you create a new event:
With Crowdcast, you can go from a standing start to a running live event in a minute or less. That's how convenient all this is.
This is really refreshing, especially compared to a settings monstrosity like WebinarJam or tools like GoToWebinar and Zoom, where you have to run an installer before you can even enter the webinar room.
Crowdcast comes with several options that help you get paid as a webinar host. First, we have the straightforward option of creating paid webinars. You can either charge a fixed price or provide a "pay what you want" option with option minimum and maximum amounts:
Payments are processed by Crowdcast directly, so you don't have to connect a PayPal or Stripe account yourself. At the time of this writing, Crowdcast levies no fees other than processing fees, but that's likely to change at some point in the future.
For Patreon creators, there's a further, highly interesting option: you can connect Crowdcast to your Patreon account and create events that are only accessible to your patrons.
And finally, there's the option to accept contributions during your events, following the model popularized by Twitch and copied by YouTube for livestreams.
Once again, the key word is convenient. It's surprisingly and pleasantly easy to set up ways in which to get paid, using this platform.
Of course, all this convenience also comes with at least one major drawback, namely a lack of options and customization across the board.
The YouTube of Webinar Platforms
The advantages and limitations of Crowdcast are best understood when you think of it as a social platform, comparable to YouTube, Instagram or Twitch, more than a webinar platform like GoToWebinar or WebinarJam.
Here's what I mean:
A solution like WebinarJam aims to provide you all the tools you need to create your webinar, your way and integrate it in your funnel. On the other hand, Crowdcast lets you create an even which is done the Crowdcast way, on the Crowdcast platform.
Think of YouTube: there's only one kind of YouTube video player, which can't be customized. Everyone's YouTube channel page looks basically the same, every viewer's YouTube experience on the YouTube platform is the same. The point of it isn't to be your all-purpose, fully customizable video platform.
Crowdcast is like this in several ways. For example, every Crowdcast event has a registration page that basically looks the same. Here's one, decked out with pretty much everything you can add:
Every Crowdcast creator has a profile page, where viewers (who all have to create a Crowdcast account to attend events) can "follow" them and be notified of future events:
And there's the Crowdcast "discover" page, where anyone can browse through and join current and upcoming events on the platform:
Is this Social Factor a Good Thing?
Personally, I get the idea behind this, but I suspect the approach is a bit flawed. I would always rather build an audience/following on my own platform than on a 3rd party platform (read this story to learn why).
Also, I think Crowdcast will have a difficult time trying to build traction as a platform for consumers or attendees. Will there really ever be a sizable audience of people browsing through the Crowdcast discover page, looking for webinars to join? What would compel people to go there instead of following live events on far more established platforms like YouTube, Twitch and Facebook?
The Webinar Room
Here's what your interface looks like, once you join the event room:
In Crowdcast, the webinar room is accessible as soon as an event has been created. Anyone who registers can join and already participate in the chat, as well as see any polls you've created.
As the host, you can enter the "green room" to prepare your webcam, audio, screen sharing etc. and get everything set up. Once you're ready, you can go live and all your participants will start seeing and hearing you. This is also when the automatic recording begins.
There are some things I like and some things I dislike about the webinar experience on Crowdcast.
The Things I Like
- Presenting with multiple hosts plus screen sharing is a breeze. You can easily manage several video streams and switch between different views to emphasize one of the videos or the screen, depending on where you want to direct your viewer's attention.
- For advanced users, you can even stream from your favorite broadcasting software such as OBS or Wirecast. This allows full control over what you want to show in your stream, including animations, overlays etc.
- The questions & answers feature is well implemented. Attendees can submit questions, see everyone else's questions and upvote them. As a host, you can sort the questions by number of votes and conveniently answer the most important ones.
The Things I Don't Like
- There's a 2 hour limit... I already complained about this in my Webinar Ninja review and I'll complain about it again, for the same reason. I've done many sales webinars that ran for 3 hours or even longer and having an arbitrary limit of 2 hours per event is just not helpful.
- The live chat feature is highly engaging... which is to say it's distracting. On Crowdcast, I saw the most chat activity out of any of the solutions and while your attendees can hide the chat, the hide link isn't very obvious. For a casual hangout type live event or an ask-my-anything event, this is fine, but for educational or sales webinars, it's not ideal.
- You can't time your polls. Polls are simply there, in a tab. You can't choose to show a poll at a specific point in time.
- Polls and questions don't show in the replay. Since you can't time your polls, you also can't make them part of the replay. When answering questions, you can't display or highlight the question you're currently answering, either.
- The call to action is rather shy. You can time a call to action on your webinar, which is a clickable button that will appear in your viewer's interface. However, it's only a small button with a link. You can't add any text, image or countdown timer to make a more compelling offer.
Here's what the call to action looks like:
Crowdcast events are automatically recorded and are viewable as a video recording shortly after a live event ends. The link for a replay is the same as that of the live event, so anyone who shows up later than the live event will automatically be able to see the recording.
The recording room also still shows the chat, polls, questions and so on. New chat messages can be added by replay viewers as well.
As a host, you can choose to download the replay video and rehost it on a different platform or your own site.
Once again, Crowdcast makes things simple and convenient. But convenient isn't always ideal.
No Scarcity & No Auto-Webinars
As mentioned before, Crowdcast isn't made primarily to be integrated in your own site and marketing funnel. The convenience of the replay features has a downside in that it takes some of the scarcity factor away from a live event. Someone who misses the webinar doesn't have to wait for a replay and doesn't have to look out for your next email to get the replay link.
Again, this is a good thing in that it's convenient for both you and your viewers, but it could lower the effectiveness of a webinar as a marketing tool.
Also, because of the whole social platform angle in Crowdcast, there are no auto-webinar features. You can't use it to create "simulated live" events for an evergreen webinar funnel. If evergreen webinars are an important feature for you, this alone will be a deal breaker.
With all that said, let's have a look at the price plans for Crowdcast:
The $49/month price plan for a room with up to 100 people is a good entry level offer, but some useful features are withheld from this plan.
$89/month for a 250 seat room is a fair price and makes Crowdcast a compelling offer. But keep in mind that there are no auto-webinar features included. There are other webinar services that cost more for this room size, but if they include automation features, it's not a direct apples-to-apples comparison.
It's also nice to see that you can always do events with more seats than your current plan supports. Instead of just hitting a limit, you are charged a small fee for extra attendees. That means that if you tend to get just slightly more attendees than your current plan permits, you don't have to jump up to a much pricier plan right away.
Crowdcast Review Summary
Should you invest in this social media/webinar platform hybrid?
Crowdcast leans towards, social, casual, engaging. If you want to do live events primarily to connect with your audience, nurture and/or onboard new customers and build a personal brand, Crowdcast is a great solution. If you primarily want to use webinar events for lead generation and sales webinars, integrated in a (perhaps automated) marketing funnel, this is not the solution for you.