What Is the Difference Between a Webinar and Webcast?

Submitted by: Ashley Speagle

Webinars and webcasts are increasingly common tools for even the web event novice, allowing a variety of roles and industries to reach leads, employees, customers and more from miles away. But, sharing so many similarities, not many know the difference between a webinar and webcast.

Both are broadcast over the Internet and accessed via a single URL on any device, either live, simulated live or on demand. Both offer post-event registration, gated entry and post-event data to analyze performance.

The difference is webcasting is a technology, whereas webinars are one use case for that technology. In other words, a webinar is a type of webcast. Admittedly, the terms are often used interchangeably and sometimes misused.

Traditionally, webcasts are considered a one-to-many broadcast and webinars a few-to-many event, but it’s important to note that webcasting technology offers the same level of controlled audience engagement for any application, including webinars.

This might be confusing if you were under the notion that both webinars and webcasts each used unique technologies, so let’s clear up three common webinar and webcasting misconceptions:

1. Misconception: A webcast only facilitates one-way communication, while in contrast, a webinar facilitates two-way interaction.

Fact: Because webinars can be hosted using webcasting software, both webinars and webcasts have the same level of interactive capabilities. And because engagement is an increasingly top priority for web events, most webcasting technology supports all of the features for controlled audience engagement—polls, surveys, Q&A—as web conferencing tools.

2. Misconception: Webinars support a smaller audience, whereas webcasts support a larger audience.

Fact: Because webinars are an application of a technology, event capacity depends on which software you use. If you host a webinar using web conferencing software, your audience capacity will differ than if you use webcasting software.

3. Misconception: Professional webcasts require sophisticated equipment and know-how on the part of the host. Webinars, on the other hand, offer more DIY solutions.

Fact: Today, webcasting is no longer limited to business users with specialized equipment, studios and production staff.

Self-service webcasting technology lets hosts leverage existing tools and requires only basic training. Likewise, webinars hosted on webcasting technology can be executed using managed web event services.

Webcasts are still often sought out with the sole purpose of delivering information to a large quantity of attendees. Streaming live events like investor relations presentations, e-learning trainings and corporate presentations, for example, are common use cases for webcasting.

However, when engagement, active listening and participation are the most important goals, webinars make the most sense. More interactive, collaborative events like seminars, corporate town halls, marketing events and thought leadership talks benefit from live chat, polls and questions.

And because major growth is underway in the web event and webcasting market, these similarities, differences and definitions may continue to change as new types of business users adopt these tools to a variety of applications.

Learn more about what a webinar is and what webcasting is at PGi now.