Launched in 2010 by founder and CEO Jeff Fluhr, Spreecast is a social media–enabled video platform that allows anyone to set up a video conference session that can reach an unlimited number of people. The startup service is an easy-to-use browser-based application that works for a one-on-one video interaction, like Skype, Facetime, or Google Hangout, but it can also do much more, including broadcast real-time video to an audience of unlimited size while maintaining face-to-face interactive communications with four people on camera, according to Colin Evans, Spreecast v-p of content and business development.
“It’s a multiperson video platform that allows up to four people to talk [on camera] in real time and more people can join in through text comments,” he said. Whoever initiates the Spreecast video conference, Evans said, also becomes the moderator of the broadcast and through a dashboard can control who is on camera and much more. Once the video conference is done, it can be archived and accessed online and shared through all social media outlets.
The service is already attracting the attention of publishers and authors looking for an efficient and cost-effective way to set up book chats between authors and their fans, Evans said. Spreecast has been used by Random House, Penguin, and Simon & Schuster. The service, currently in public beta, is free and only requires a user to create an account and have a computer, webcam, up-to-date Web browser, and a broadband connection. Evans emphasized that while Spreecast has provided publishers with support for authors with large audiences—its June 29 chat with Paulo Coelho has drawn over 70,000 views—the service can be utilized by a single publicist. “Using Spreecast, an author can stay home, be interviewed by an editor, and broadcast the exchange to the world,” Evans said. The service has archived video chats with Lauren Conrad, Chris Hayes, Anne Rice, and others.
Why not use other free videocast services like Skype or Google Hangout? “Google Hangout: you have to be inside the Google environment. We’re platform agnostic,” Evans said. “With Spreecast any number of people can participate, either being on camera or through chat, while only up to 10 people can participate in Google Hangout. Skype and Facetime are more like one-to-one phone calls.” And most important, using Spreecast the moderator can control the online interaction, chat, and easily preview and change the four people that can be on camera, at all times.
Spreecast was launched by Jeff Fluhr, who previously helped launch StubHub, the online ticket resale service, before selling it in 2007. Spreecast raised $4 million in seed money from individual investors in 2011, Evans said. The service has a full-time staff of 20, with most in San Francisco and some in New York City. It is working on a mobile app, and Evans said he hopes to go live by the end of the year.
While the service is free, Evans said, there are a number of ways to monetize it in the future, including offering premium services for pay, pay-for-view for some content, e-commerce with links to book retailers for author chats, virtual goods, and advertising. “Building a multiparty platform gives you a lot of ways to monetize,” Evans said, “but right now we just want to build a solid product, attract users, and achieve critical mass.”