Zoom to cash in on pandemic success with apps and events

Zoom is bringing apps and paid-for events to its video meetings service, in a bid to consolidate its grip on the huge new audience that flocked to its platform during the pandemic.

The move marks the San Francisco-based company’s first attempt to turn the online meetings habit developed by hundreds of millions of people this year into a more central part of their lives, while laying foundations for a wider business with interactive video at its core.

Zoom on Wednesday launched a US test of a marketplace called OnZoom, where anyone can promote and sell virtual events, with a full commercial service scheduled for next year.

For organisers, the new features include the tools needed to create, market, host and charge for events, and a marketplace where consumers can sort through classes, concerts and other events, or find fundraisers to support.

Zoom also unveiled a plan to turn itself into a platform for other apps — which it has dubbed “Zapps”. The applications would bring extra features to video meetings to make them more useful, it said — for instance, making it easier for groups of workers to organise and share ideas in advance of a meeting and co-ordinate any follow-up.

The launch comes as many small businesses have been forced to go online and find new ways to make money, said Roopam Jain, an analyst at Frost & Sullivan.

“Zumba classes and music or cooking lessons and fundraisers in particular have taken a huge hit this year,” she added. 

Other internet services can already embed Zoom meetings in their own services, but the new app platform will be the first time the company has tried to bring other apps to Zoom, putting it at the centre of virtual working and learning.

The bid to become a platform is a key strategic move for Zoom, said Zeus Kerravala, an analyst at ZK Research. If it works as planned, it could make the company one of the handful of giant software companies, such as Microsoft and Oracle, that have put themselves at the centre of digital work, he added.

Zoom recently reported it had 370,000 customers with 10 or more employees, nearly four times as many as a year ago, vaulting it into the ranks of large business software companies almost overnight. It faces the challenge of holding on to users as more people go back to the office and school, as well as maintaining its pricing as other video meeting services target its market, said Mr Kerravala.

Ms Jain said the events marketplace could also become a big source of revenue for Zoom, as its online meetings service evolves into a new form of mass interactive video. Rather than the one-way videos on a service such as YouTube, she said, Zoom’s two-way features could lead to more immersive experiences, for instance by adding chat, polls, reactions and question-and-answer features to events.

Wei Li, head of platform and AI, said Zoom would not initially take any fee for hosting events or helping attract an audience. But she hinted that this was likely to change next year, when Zoom would look at whether to charge event organisers, as well as what cut it should take from ticket sales.

— to www.ft.com

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