Webcasting vs. Video Conferencing: What’s the Difference?
What is the difference between web conferencing and webcasting? It’s a common question that our team is asked when we are working with organizations of all sizes, and we thought that we could use this blog post to clear up a few misconceptions and help our business friends find out what kind of solutions they need.
In this blog post, we’ll give a brief explanation of what web conferencing and webcasting are, and then dive into the main differences between the two.
Web Conferencing / Video Conferencing
Lately, the term “web conferencing” has been used to describe video conferencing using IP (video over the internet).
It is worth noting that a few years back, web conferencing was the umbrella term that covered conferencing, webinars, and webcasts. However, as technology has evolved, so has the terminology that describes it. For the purposes of this blog post, web conferencing describes video conferencing over IP.
Web conferencing technology enables people to have meetings over long distances, allowing participants to share documents, presentations, and engage face-to-face even when they are miles away from each other.
Web conferences typically require specific, specialized, equipment created for the purpose. Vendors like Lenovo, which have integrations for software like Microsoft Teams, have cameras and phones designed for use in a conference room, while participants working from a home office can join via their laptop camera through Microsoft Teams. Many web conferences also allow participants to “dial in” with their phones, to a line that is connected to the IP conference.
To put it simply, a webcast is a broadcast over the internet.
Businesses create webcasts for both an internal audience, (like a CEO address or all-hands meeting), as well as for their external audience, such as with a webinar. Webcasts can be both live and on-demand. They are used when the presenter does not need much (if any) interaction with the audience, although many modern webcast solutions allow for some input, like comments or questions.
Webcasts require an enterprise video solution that can host and distribute your videos (live and on-demand) to a large group of viewers, with customizable features that suit your business needs and branding. However, unlike with web conferences, viewers should not require very much in terms of specific setup or applications, although some webinar services (like Zoom) require that viewers download a specialized web client to be able to ask questions.
With these definitions in mind, let’s go over the main differences between web conferences and webcasts.
Differences Between Web Conferences and Webcasts
Interactivity: Audience or Participants
Webcasts have audiences, and web conferences have participants.
While some enterprise video solutions for webcasting include features which enable limited audience interaction, like leaving a comment, or asking questions for the end of a presentation, the reality is that the viewers are watching a presentation and not participating. During a webcast, no one in the audience can speak during the presentation, they are just there to watch and listen.
In a similar fashion, some web conferencing solutions have the ability to designate some participants as “viewers” to a call, able to listen and watch, but unable to speak. But these are clearly temporary restrictions being placed on a participant as opposed to a true “audience” experience.
A good way of knowing whether you are looking to host a webcast or a web conference is to ask yourself what your intent is. Are you trying to present an idea to a large group of people, or are you trying to collaborate with them? If everyone involved with this event was in the same room, would you all be sitting around the same table discussing, or would you be at the front of a room giving a speech?
If the offline version of your presentation involves a podium, you are most likely looking for a webcasting solution. There may be some interactivity from your audience, but it’s still a presentation to an audience.
If you’re picturing a large table with a discussion, you are likely looking for a web conferencing solution. Web conferencing solutions are often described as “peer-to-peer” – where participants are peers in the context of the meeting. Even if the “host” may have additional controls over presentations, everyone is a participant in a web conference.
Resources and Scalability
In a web conference, everyone needs the same, if not similar, equipment and applications in order to collaborate. Sometimes this can be as simple as downloading an application; it can also mean setting up specialized conferencing equipment (such as a monitor, camera, and phone) in a room.
For a webcast, the host takes on the responsibility for the equipment, and creating an environment in which their audience can watch. As a result, webcasts are easier to access for audience members than web conferences, which contributes to the scalability of webcasts.
In terms of scalability, the webcasts are far superior to web conferences, especially from the perspective of your network administrators. With the right enterprise content delivery network, a company can ensure the delivery of high-quality, low-latency, live or on-demand video content to multiple locations, even worldwide, without overwhelming their network. Webcasts with enterprise video platforms, like Haivision Media Platform, also place a high value on the security of the video; they make use of AES encryption to keep your content secure from unauthorized viewing.
One of the most noticeable differences between webcasts and web conferences is the quality of the audio and video.
As you have undoubtedly noticed, the quality of a web conference isn’t always great. Many participants are joining from laptop cameras. Even for those in front of a specialized camera placed in a conference room, the lighting is poor, and it can be difficult to make out details. Web conference participants also frequently run into issues with their network connections. Sometimes the audio or visual feed cuts, or is staticky. There are days where the conclusion may be “let’s just try this again later.” These things happen.
For a webcast, there is no “later;” everything must run perfectly the first time. There are typically days, if not weeks, of setup before the webcast. Lighting, cameras, video encoders, are all tested. And even when the internet connections can become unpredictable, your stream still needs to be reliable.
Leveraging Video for Your Business
Unless you’re only looking to have a meeting with a remote team to collaborate on a project, it is likely that you are looking for a webcasting solution. Webcasts allow your business to connect with your employees, your partners, and your customers. With live and on-demand options a true enterprise video solution is one that enables your business to use video while being able to concentrate on your message, not the details of the delivery.
A complete enterprise video solution like Haivision Media Platform will help your business to securely distribute video, such as CEO all hands and company events, to employees watching from screens at your headquarters, remote offices, and on the road. Visit the Haivision Media Platform page to download the Haivision Media Platform datasheet or to read one of the several case studies about the success that other businesses have earned by leveraging webcasting.