Crowdcast alternatives?

So, I’m wanting to start offering livestreaming as a reward to my Patrons. My first thought was to use Crowdcast because of the Patreon integration (and the good reviews here.)

I’ve brought up the idea to my readers. While they are excited about me offering livestreams, many of them are very concerned about the additional expense I would incur, since Crowdcast is pricey. (They are super-sweet and amazing. And they have a point.)

I want my Patrons to be able to ask me questions in the chat and for me to answer them live. Ideally, I’d like them to be able to vote on each others’ questions to help determine which ones I’d answer. Super ideally, there would be a way to elevate some patrons so we could see their video as well when they ask the question, but that’s not as important as reliability of the stream.

What are creators’ experiences with alternatives to Crowdcast? What do y’all think is the next best (more affordable, ideally free) thing?

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I revamped my whole (admittedly small, for now) Patreon after using Zoom in an online class I taught. It was the first time I’d used live video in a teaching setting, and my students loved it. They started mentioning that they didn’t want the video sessions to end when the class ended, and I talked to them about structuring the Patreon as a full-on community platform (rather than as a way to support my work). Because Zoom worked so well, and because I’d already paid for a year of a Pro license (which is still far less expensive than Crowdcast), I stuck with it. The free version is also robust, if you just want to try it out.

Lack of Patreon integration is no big deal, really. I just share the live chat registration in a post limited to the appropriate tier(s).

Hope this helps!

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That does help. Thank you. :slight_smile: I’ll look into Zoom.

And, in the meantime, one of my readers also suggested Picarto, which might also work (and seems to be free.) If other creators have experience with Picarto (or Zoom), I’d love to hear about it.

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Hello!

So I strongly speak out against using Crowdcast. It can’t support captioning, and isn’t screen-reader friendly. If someone asks for captions because they’re D/deaf, or can’t access it because they use a screen reader, you’ve got a problem, and will have to switch platforms anyway.

Check to see if your service supports real-time captioning, (I don’t know about Zoom, I don’t use it, but Google Hangouts does support real-time captions), and make sure your interface is compatible with screen-reader tech.

Google Hangouts actually offers automatic live-stream captions. They’re not perfect, since they’re relying on speech-to-text, but they’re better (and way, way, cheaper), then paying a real-time captioner. They’re accessible over on the Youtube Live video, so it’s not perfect (they’re not visible within the hangout), but for cheap/easy accessibility work-arounds, it’s the best way I’ve found so far.

Only catch is that the automatic captions are not available for all broadcasters (yet).

Hope that helps!

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Alex, I am in the same mindset as yourself. I like Crowdcast but it is a little too pricey for what I need it for at the moment. I started doing the odd live chat session on Zoom and my guys love it. We are all still working our way around how to use it on different devices & I do recommend having an extra pair of eyes around to help you admin the first couple so they can keep an eye on the text chat whilst you talk & coordinate the speakers/etc. For my demo livestreams I will be using YouTube but Zoom has a few extra features on there like polls too. Plus that 40 min limit they put on free access, when it approached they boosted mine for another 40 mins & offered me the same if I scheduled another meeting straight away. Def worth a go :slight_smile:

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@SarahDawn Thank you for the heads up around all that. When you say that automatic captions aren’t available to all broadcasters on GH, do you know what the criteria is about who gets it and who doesn’t?

@LisaAnnWatins That’s useful to hear your thoughts on Zoom. I had heard that Zoom was actually pricier than Crowdcast, but now I’ll look more closely and compare the two, especially if they offer free access. I’m curious how you work with that “extra pair of eyes” – is it someone in the room with you who can give you a heads up about what’s going on in the chat while you’re livestreaming?

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I believe (but I’m not sure), that right now you need to have 10 000 subs on your Youtube Channel to have live captions (and those will only be on the resulting Youtube Live video, not right within the Hangout).

I know there are plans to roll this out to all folks, but no idea on the details. :frowning:

Depending on your broadcaster and set-up you might be able to integrate Webcaptioner – it’s what I use for my Twitch Streams.

It’s not perfect, but it’s better then nothing. Only thing there is that the caption then become ‘burned in.’ So they’re always on.

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Thank you. @SarahDawn . That’s a good suggestion about Webcaptioner. I hadn’t hear about it before and I’ll definitely look into it. :slight_smile:

And I’m still curious to hear about other creator’s experiences with livestream services, so if anyone else wants to weigh in, I’m all ears.

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Pretty simple, really… I always broadcast to my patrons on a private FB channel. This will have to do until Patreon gets their connection with Vimeo going.

Regarding YouTube and Crowdcast… I don’t trust YouTube and Crowdcast is too expensive for what yu get. Besides, Crowdcast will shut you off at 2 hours… What if my show goes over?!? Tough shit I guess.

Facebook is best for me and it fully integrates with Wirecast.

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Just a heads up for folks. I had some questions for the Crowdcast folks and started a chat with them on their site. In short order, the CEO got on the line and made it clear to me that

  1. I could hop in and out anytime I wanted, thus making it easy to pay for a single month, take a few months off, and then pay for another single month. With the 20% (3 month) Patreon discount, I can have 100 live attendees for $40 which doesn’t feel too painful. Based on the numbers I’m seeing with Patreon’s own crowdcasts, I doubt my live audience would break 100 and if it did, the CEO assured me that I wouldn’t be burned by excess charges

  2. They’d have someone available for my launch of the livestream to make sure it went smoothly

  3. If I wasn’t thrilled, I could ask for my money back, for any reason, no questions asked.

I won’t rule out using Picarto in the future, but I think I’ll give Crowdcast a shot. No, it’s not cheap, but it has the features I want and it promises a very smooth experience for my readers. In my experience, good support is worth its weight in gold, and chatting directly with the CEO (and the offer to have staff on hand for my first livestream) means a lot to me. I’ll keep y’all posted.

Alex

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Just want to give a quick update that I had my first Crowdcast for my patrons on Saturday, and it was a really good experience.

I found Crowdcast super-intuitive and easy to use. (And my readers did too.) And I loved the features: the Ask a Question that readers could vote on (and that you get to timestamp your answers both during and after the livestream so folks can jump right to that point in the video during the Replay), the (nearly) instant Replay video at the same link, being able to bring audience members up on “stage” with you, easily being able to share my screen, the chat (which was off the hook, almost 400 comments), the analytics to review who came and where they came from, the fact I could download an email list of all attendees so I could send personal thank you’s after – it all was great and the readers reached out to me during and after to let me know how connected it made them feel.

And as I said before, their customer support was top notch. Their weekly webinar videos where the CEO (!) goes over all the features and answers questions is excellent. (Not surprising that’s the case, but it’s very helpful nonetheless.) And they respond on chat very quickly to any and all questions.

It’s not clear if the bottom line numbers work out yet for me. I did get a few more Patrons. And it does look like my churn might be a bit lower this month. But Crowdcast isn’t cheap (I went on the light plan, and with my 3 month Patreon discount, it’s still $50). But… they let you pause your account for just $10/month (where folks can still watch your replays) and you can cancel anytime.

And basically, just my superfans showed up and it’s hard to put a price on nurturing those relationships. Or a price on getting to know them better. Knowing your ideal reader is very useful.

My take-away is that I had a great experience. My superfans had a great experience. It’s a premium experience at a price, but not an unreasonable one if I pause between livestreams. I’ll definitely be doing another one. Perhaps in May or June.

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