Is BoS doing a livestream this year?

The short answer is, ‘No’.

The longer answer is that while we have for the past two years as an experiment the cost of doing so is simply too high to justify for us. It isn’t just the hard cost of delivering the livestream (over $25,000), it is a business model question and a question of who pays and who benefits. As it stands, our attendees pay and others benefit and that doesn’t seem quite right.

We thought that livestreaming the conference would mean that people would see the content and decide to attend in person next year. Actually we have found that we have built an audience of people that have proven themselves very unlikely to come to the event in person – looking at the people who have viewed over the past couple of years and comparing it to attendees this year is strong evidence that we have two very different groups of people. This is fair enough, but as we are delivering the stream for free, that means that our paying attendees are effectively subsidising others to see the content and we would rather focus on delivering a memorable and meaningful experience for our paying customers.

We considered a livestream for a fee model and tested this by asking a sample of viewers from last year whether they would be prepared to pay. A small minority would, happily. A vocal minority asserted their ‘right’ to watch it for free (though many of them charged significant amounts for their own products or services). It was hard for us to see a way for this to work for our business model.

We also know that the number of people that watch every single session (or over 75% of them) during the livestream is very small suggesting that viewers prefer to pick and choose which sessions to watch or are distracted by work from watching them all. Again, we don’t think this is unreasonable but perhaps it is evidence that it is hard to commit to watching something online for an extended period of time and people prefer to pick and choose when they view content. (We also know that immediately after the event, we have several hundred inquiries in the following couple of months asking when a specific talk is going to be online as it was missed).

We remain committed to sharing the content with a wider audience:

  • We have made every single video available, for a small fee, to anyone when they are compiled and edited post event and will continue to do so.
  • We also release almost all of the talks free of charge on the Business of Software blog over the course of the year and will continue to do so. See the 2012 talks from one place here.

The best way to experience Business of Software Conference, or indeed any gathering of super smart, motivated people, is to be there on the ground with them. Come for the talks, return for the people. We know that it isn’t always possible for everyone to do this but we hope that our community will understand the business logic behind this decision and that those people who are not able to attend in person for whatever reason, will still be able to participate via social media and ultimately view the talks at their leisure.

If you were planning to watch the livestream at BoS and didn’t buy an Early Bird ticket but now feel you need to attend, drop us a line and we will see what we can do to help.

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13 responses to “Is BoS doing a livestream this year?”

  1. Stephen Kellett says:

    “A vocal minority asserted their ‘right’ to watch it for free (though many of them charged significant amounts for their own products or services).”

    No sympathy for folks like this. They appear to not to be capable of understanding value.

    Took me 2 years before I realised I should attend BoS in person and a 3rd before I got my act together to do it. That was 3 wasted years when I could have been improving my understanding and my business.

    • Thanks Stephen,

      It is a bit of a cliche that the value is in the people but it is so true. I am not so sure that I blame people for feeling entitled. As JeffB says, every other conference does so we should too but I think that is actually the point about BoS and the people that come. We try to do things because they are the right things to do, not because everyone else is. We will never be a forum for people to shill their products.

  2. ACG says:

    Glad to hear you will still make the videos available throughout the year. The videos are how I first heard about BoS, and an influence on why I decided to register this year (watching Gail Goodman’s in particular). Even for folks who attend, it’s nice to be able to go back and re-watch a talk.

    • That is so cool to hear ACG. We want the content to be widely available. We also have to find a way to make the business model work.

      Please come and say, ‘Hi’ in Boston. Can’t wait to meet you.

  3. JeffB says:

    You should make the livestream available for free. every other conference does and it is a good way of keeping sponsor profile high. People wont agree to speak or appear on your panels if you dont help them broadcast their message as far as possible. People speak at conferences to raise their profile and the profile of their company so that they can raise angel or venture capital find new customers etc. If you take that opportunity away, then the speakers will not want to speak.

    • I take your points Jeff but we don’t have sponsors, panels or want speakers who want to broadcast a message. BoS is more about peer learning and it has never been about fund raising. We think there are lots of brilliant forums to both learn about fundraising and meeting investors and listening to their points of view which is why we make a point of keeping investors off the stage. (We as the BLN, the organisers of BoS, run plenty of events that include investors but BoS just isn’t one of them.

  4. Dharmesh Shah says:

    As a BoS regular — I’m supportive of your decision.

    My company runs an event itself, so we know how expensive (and often painful) livestreaming can be — if you want to do it right. And, BoS likes to do everything right. We didn’t do livestreaming for our event either (The INBOUND conference).

    This is the *Business* of Software conference. We’re all trying to build businesses — and part of doing that is focusing on the “customer”. I think it’s totally OK not to livestream if the business doesn’t support it.

    BoS is unlike any other event out there. It’s one of the reasons I’ve agreed to speak there for so many years. It’s a special event — and you should keep it that way. You folks are already being generous with sharing so much of the content (eventually) with the public. Not everyone does that.

    Look forward to BoS 2013 — it’s going to be awesome.


    • Thanks Dharmesh. As I appreciate you know, we try to keep everyone happy as we want to help make the world a better place for software entrepreneurs and to help people build better software and better software businesses that improves the lives of people. We also have to ensure that the business is sustainable in order to do that.

      I can’t wait for this year.

  5. Justin says:

    I know it must have been a tough decision, and you needed to make it, but I do feel you could have experimented with the business model of streaming a little further; for example making a streaming pass available for near the cost of a delegate pass – sure the number of takers would have been relatively low, but probably sufficient to pay the cost and probably make a dent in the recording costs.

    Some of us have had BoS on the to- to list since edition one, but for us non-US based businesses, it’s a strain on expenses; even though I’m sure worth it. 🙂

    So, with all that said, you say that many are available to watch for a fee before the general web-site roll out?

    • Hi Justin,

      It is a hard call but we also want to find some ways of spreading the BoS community a bit further round the globe. Where are you based?

      We release early access to all the talks a month or so after the event when we have had a chance to edit, polish and transcribe.

      • Justin says:

        Hi Mark,

        Thanks for taking the time to respond.

        I’m running a British company out of Prague, Czech Republic.

        I must admit, if you want a global BoS, you might want to get an event going in London or Berlin.

        I appreciate the logistics of one BoS must be a nightmare in and of itself, however.

        Be happy to talk evangelising BoS in Europe more… 🙂



  6. Matt says:

    I’ve attended BoS two of the past three years. The year I missed was because my daughter was born. I was excited to be able to join the live stream. I cannot attend this year, although I don’t have quite as good of an excuse as the birth of a child, but I was hoping to again be able to participate via the live stream. I am disappointed to see it go, but I understand the business decision. I look forward to the availability of the content, I have no doubt it will be worth the purchase price.

    One thought, perhaps you could have BoS co-locations where people could gather and attend, for a fee, in remote locations and participate via the live stream. I know that a major part of the experience with BoS is meeting with all the other delegates and this would facilitate that, albeit on a smaller scale. In the US, there any many business accelerators, incubators, etc. where similar events, but typically of smaller scale and caliber of speakers, are regularly held.


    • This is an interesting idea and one we considered but to make this work, we would want to be able to plan it much more in advance and know there would be enough uptake to make it worthwhile. One model that some events have taken on is to pay for access to the feed so that organisers can then arrange their own event, potentially with local sponsors who would support. We would be open to this in the future. If anyone is interested in being involved, contact us directly. Thanks. Mark