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Webcast vs Webinar - a Comparison

Webinars, online meetings, virtual events - all these various names might make one feel dizzy. At the end of the day, it's not the term that matters most, but the overall experience you deliver to your audience. However, sometimes using the wrong terminology or calling each of your webinars by a different descriptive name might be misleading for viewers and ultimately lead to problems.

Imagine that you visit a company's landing page on which they have recordings of all their previous webinars. You start scrolling, but you don't know which video to pick because some of them are named "online meetings", some as virtual lectures, and others are called "webcasts". What is a webcast then? This suggests to the user that they like their video formats to vary. That's why, from the business' perspective, it's crucial to distinguish one type from another.

In this article, we'll introduce what is meant by webcast vs webinar, and what is a webcast exactly. Continue reading to find out which type would better help you achieve your business goals.

Webcast vs webinar

Let’s start with web conferencing

According to this source, Web conferencing is an umbrella term for diverse online collaboration forms and digital conferences. This broader term contains various online events, such as the webinars and webcasts mentioned in the article title.

It's possible to run live digital conferences thanks to the Internet and new technologies like audiovisual providers. There are also services like LiveWebinar that go beyond that and allow you to customize many aspects of your webinar. The basic idea behind such software systems is that they allow users to broadcast real-time from one host to many viewers.

With the rapid growth of virtual video conferencing, technologies are offering more and more options to make the digital experience as lifelike as possible (or even better). They include real-time surveys, breakout rooms, shared boards, and the possibility to visit virtual stands during an online event.

Web conferencing is a broad term, so let's focus on some more specific ones. It's time to know what is a webcast and dive into the topic and see who would win the webcast vs webinar fight.

 

What is a webinar?

The definition of a webinar is continuously evolving, as it goes hand in hand with technology development. But let's get to the roots of this term.

The word webinar comes from the combination of "web" and "seminar" and was initially used to define presentations given by one person in front of an audience. The major difference between a webinar and a seminar is that the former took place in a virtual, online space instead of during a traditional, face-to-face event.

 

Webinar - an interactive online seminar whose content is primarily educational. It consists of a speaker (or several co-hosts) and the audience, which is typically smaller than for a webcast (but it depends on many factors - such as the popularity of the company running it). Hosts use features that help them engage with attendees - the goal is to keep the audience entertained with Q&A sessions, gamification, chat, and more.

 

What's important to remember about webinars is that the format is quite interactive. Participants can communicate with each other (mostly via chat) and participate actively in the event when the host allows. Also, a webinar doesn't necessarily have to be a one-off live broadcast. It can be recorded and played back multiple times, in which case it may be called an evergreen webinar.

 

What is a webcast?

As we stated in the previous sections, Web conferencing includes not only webinars but also webcasts. They are equivalent to broadcasts but hosted on the internet, much like a webinar is a "web-based seminar". However, unlike a webinar, webcasting is characterized by a host (or hosts) simply broadcasting their presentations without engaging the audience. A large number of people can view a webcast online from any device, but they can't interact with the presenter.

Without further introduction, let's find out exactly what is a webcast.

 

Webcast - a one-way flow of information to a large audience. It might resemble a television program, as it doesn't focus on interactions with the participants. Webcasts mostly include audio streams, presentation slides, or video clips.

 

In a nutshell, a large number of viewers is characteristic of webcasts. Users can watch video content, but interactions are impossible. However, huge events may attract wider audiences. They can be either live events or pre-recorded videos.

So, if you're planning to run a webcast, you need to know what is a webcast. Also, make sure that your technology provider offers enough capacity for handling a large number of viewers.

Webinar vs Webcast

Webcast vs webinar - the major differences

The differences aren't that obvious, as both webinars and webcasts can be live events or recordings of some things that have already happened. Besides that, there are more specific aspects we can focus on, so let's take a look at them.

 

Webcast vs webinar: size

  • A webinar is a "one-to-many" event. It often has one host or a few co-hosts and is most frequently addressed to at most 1,000 participants.

  • A webcast is also dedicated to many attendees, but the number of viewers can exceed 1,000. There's also a single broadcaster. Because of the one-way communication, it can become an accompanying medium (like TV) - without interaction, attendees may not be focused on the event.

 

Webcast vs webinar: timing

  • Various sources provide different information about the broadcast's time-framing. According to some experts, it's a previously recorded event, while others sustain it's a live event - like this one.

  • In both situations, attendees and presenters can be located anywhere globally, as it's an online event. All they need is Internet access and a device that enables them to connect to the Web and participate in webinars or webcasts.

 

Webcast vs webinar: interactions and engagement

  • You can try to achieve various goals, however, the main feature that identifies a webinar is interactivity and the possibility of engaging with the audience. Not only you as a host can interact with participants, but they can also reach out to one another, for example via chat or even by talking in small groups if you allow them to do so in breakout rooms!

  • A webcast is a format that allows recording video from the event and sharing it with the audience (like TED Talks) or a live stream. Often they aren't hosted under a private domain but rather on platforms like YouTube or Facebook Live (although you can embed them on your site if you wish).

Webinar vs Webcast

Which one is better for your business goals? Webcast vs webinar comparison

 

 

Pros

Cons

Webinar

  • Engaging and interactive.
  • Two-way communication.
  • The software doesn't have to handle hundreds or even thousands of participants.
  • Fewer users = better control over the webinar.
  • Possibility to hold Q&As.
  • Better for collaboration.
  • Chance to create evergreen content.
  • More flexible.
  • Depending on the software you choose, the number of people who can participate might be limited.
  • If there are too many attendees, there may be a problem with engagement and delivering value.
  • Internet disruptions can negatively impact live streams (but not evergreen webinars).

Webcast

  • No scheduling necessary
  • People might be willing to share the event to join with their friends.
  • If it's not a live stream, it's less prone to adverse effects of internet disruption.
  • One-way communication.
  • Lack of interactivity.
  • It may be an accompanying medium - attendees might not be focused on the event.
  • No Q&As or collaboration with the audience.
  • Less flexible.

 

When should you choose a webcast?

Webcasting is best for event streaming (live or recorded) if your goal is to reach large groups of people but not necessarily interact with them. That's why it can give your webinar a boost. Webcasts don't allow interactions, so you can use them, for example, to extend the reach of your webinars.

You can consider making a webcast to allow a broader audience to participate in events that have very limited space and can't accommodate many people.

 

Webcast types

The line between webinar and webcast is thin. That's why some virtual events that are created as webinars might have the possibility to become webcasts. However, aspects like the size of the audience or interaction levels will differ. So if you know what is a webcast, it's high time for you to meet the webcast types. Below you can find a few inspirations for webcasts:

  • Huge event streams. If a festival or a film premiere is happening, it might be an excellent opportunity to show it to many people all over the world and a webcast (run as a live event) would therefore be the best solution.

  • Important corporate announcements. Some information doesn't need answers. You can use a webcast to alert viewers to news that is happening.

  • A gameplay recording. Basketball fans who live in other time zones often have to stay up late to watch their favorite team. Thanks to webcasting, they can participate in the event later after they wake up in the morning.

 

When should you choose a webinar?

Do you want live interactions and the ability to engage with your audience? Then a webinar might be the best option. Also, keep in mind that you can make a recorded event to be used later as an evergreen webinar, which is the golden mean between a real-time and on-demand event. That's because you can use the same video but be present during the presentation to interact with the audience in the chat section or hold a Q&A after the recorded webinar is over.

If you need feedback, optimize conversion rate, and want to make sure that your audience is focused on the event, choose a webinar instead of a webcast since the former is more engaging.

Webcast vs Webinar

Webinar types

The definition above is just a baseline, as there are many types of webinars. That's the beauty of running virtual meetings - you can create one that fits your company’s goals as well as your audience's needs. There are so many possibilities that it's impossible to create a complete list of webinar types, so don't think about the following examples as an exhaustive guide.

Keep in mind your business goal and choose a webinar format that is tailored to it. You can try out these ideas:

  • A training/workshop is an excellent live tutorial for remote teams and anyone who wants to learn new skills without leaving their home.

  • A Product Demo Webinar should sound familiar to most salespeople - especially those who work in international companies and sell products or services to people around the world. It can be a one-to-one or one-to-many kind of meeting.

  • A Customer Onboarding - if e.g. your referral service or product is complicated and your clients might need something more than Ikea instructions delivered over email, personal onboarding can be a great solution.

  • A Premiere of a New Product or Feature- if you have a group of followers and loyal customers, you can run a webinar to hold a product premiere. To make people wait for the live video, you can announce what the new product is during the webinar and keep it secret beforehand.

  • An Evergreen webinar - it's a great idea to run webinars periodically and create a series out of them. It can become evergreen content that companies use to share their professional knowledge and attract new customers (as well as being a time-saver).

 

Focus on your goals and then choose the format

To wrap up, you already have known what is a webcast, and meet the differences between a webcast vs webinar. Webinars and webcasts can both come in handy, but for different purposes. In general, webinars give you more flexibility and have more features that may be used to leverage your business marketing and sales strategy. With this format, you can create meaningful bonds and raise brand awareness.

However, a webcast can be a good option if your event doesn't require live collaboration to stream your event. It might be the best choice if you want your content to be viewed by a large number of interested people.

Now it's up to you - write down your goals and think about each option's benefits and disadvantages.


Maciej Biegajewski
Maciej Biegajewski

Digital Marketing Specialist at RTCLab, where he co-creates the LiveWebinar platform, enabling webinars and effective remote communication. He has been working in the IT industry since 2012 as a marketing specialist. In previous companies, he played the role of a Scrum Master and learned the life cycle of a SaaS (Software as a Service) product from the bottom up. As an enthusiast of combining various fields and approaches to problem-solving, he looks to Agile methods and adapts their elements to the daily work of a marketer.

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