What is a webcast?

2 min read
October 22, 2019

You’ve probably heard terms like live streaming, webinars or webcasting and wondered if there’s any major distinction between all of them. It can be fairly confusing because in terms of the technology used, there is little to no difference at all between these terms. In the following, we will explore the differences and commonalities. 

Webcasting, live streaming, webinars, what’s the difference?

Fundamentally, these all take a live audio and video signal and broadcast them to one or more audience members over the internet. The technology and software used to make them happen is virtually the same in almost all scenarios.

But, there are minute semantic differences in the definitions between these.

A webcast is not specifically live

You can capture the video and audio that you want to publish and then publish these files online anywhere and it would still be a webcast. Webcasts are usually recorded in a style similar to how radio talk shows are recorded and aired. Webcasts are a more general term that usually includes video and audio, however, when they only include audio they are usually referred to as Podcasts.

This is because in the early 2000’s, these often long audio files that were published online were first adopted largely by Apple users, and the iPod was popular then, which back then only handled audio and no or very limited video. Hence ‘podcast’ when referring to webcasts that are just audio publications.

A live streaming event is always live

It’s usually hosted on a site or venue that specializes somewhat in live streaming, like Twitch, YouTube, or Facebook. Though live streaming doesn’t have to be on one of these venues to still count as a live stream. Samba Live is an independent way to host your own live stream event without having to go through the big tech giants even if you want to reach a large audience.

Live streaming events are usually in a sort of impromptu style that makes them a bit spontaneous and community-focused. It’s important to be able to interact in real time with your audience during a live stream, while webcasts don’t necessarily interact with the audience.

Webinars are basically a form of live streaming

Though sometimes they can involve the audience dialing in on their telephones in order to avoid audio configurations. Webinars are usually commercially or professionally oriented.

They often have to do with corporate meetings, focus groups, market research, or product pitches. They’re frequently done with places like Zoom, GoToWebinar, Webex join.me, and Adobe Connect. Though they can be done on other live streaming platforms as well. Samba Live is a powerful alternative that offers webcasting, webinars as well as live streaming as a one-stop-shop.

More webcasting examples and exceptions

There is a huge diversity of ideas that people come up with on the internet in the space of webcasting. TV shows and internet TV are a gray area that could technically count as webcasting, though we don’t think of Netflix as a ‘webcast’ much anymore – it started out almost being considered as one. There are smaller broadcasting platforms like Kinja that host a number of webcasted shows.

What doesn’t count?

With how broad webcasting is it’s worth noting that not everything on the internet is a webcast. TV, radio, and print media of course aren’t webcasts because they don’t use the internet, though they can deliver the same point as a webcast can.

Likewise, Reddit, Pinterest, and Twitter aren’t webcasts even though they use the web, because they’re not delivering video with the same format as a webcast would. Text posts like this blog post and ebooks obviously don’t count as webcasts, even though a lot of blogs have webcasts, and a lot of webcasts have blogs.

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