Although podcasts and webcasts sound alike, they offer slightly different features as types of long-form digital storytelling, and there’s usually one that suits a marketer more than the other.
What’s the difference between podcasts and webcasts? A webcast is a live video stream, including interviews, events, and product demonstrations.
On the other hand, a podcast is an audio file produced as an episode and usually prerecorded, hosted by one or more people speaking on a particular topic.
Both podcasts and webcasts can captivate audiences, but they do it differently. This guide will look at the pros and cons of each and how they stack against each other in areas like target audience, content, and production.
What Is A Podcast?
A podcast is an audio program that has been pre-recorded for the audience to either stream or download onto their device at a time that suits them.
Podcasts usually follow an episodic format within a series. However, they can be single episodes about one-off topics, and they’re presented by one or more hosts who navigate the show.
Podcast hosts speak to their audience conversationally and sometimes have guest hosts and speakers on as well. They interview them, ask for expert insight, or have a long-form conversation, depending on the topic and the genre of the podcast.
- Flexible for your audience: Podcasts are easy to listen to no matter where you are or what you’re doing, which is their main appeal. Your audience can listen to you speak in the car, while working out, or doing chores at home, and there’s no need to watch a screen to enjoy the content. Better still, there are several devices they can listen to you on, so it doesn’t have to be something that plays video exclusively.
- Free to enjoy: One of the major drawcards of podcasts is that they’re free, including downloading the streaming platform that hosts them, (also see “Best Podcast Hosting“). Your audience will rarely have to pay to listen to one of your podcasts, making people more likely to enjoy them. If you do want to monetize them, you can create paid episodes with premium content, but you should only do this once you’ve built up enough of a following to have it be successful, (also see “Best Podcast Host For Monetization).
- Covers all topics: Podcasts can be as general or as niche as the listener wants them to be, and there are few mediums out there with this much variety on offer. People can look up just about any topic they’re interested in and find a bombardment of good quality that discuss it, which gives you the ability to create something as specific or universal as your brand needs, (also see “Top Podcasts“).
- No video: Although there’s nothing wrong with audio-only podcasts, you can miss out on some of the enrichment that video content adds. Although there are options for adding video to podcasts, most people prefer to listen to them with only audio, reducing some of the accessibility for the audience once you add it.
- More effort to create: A podcast is more than just streaming an event that’s already happening; it requires a lot of planning and post-production. You need to have a storyboard to know what’s being discussed, a proper recording gear setup, and post-production and editing to ensure it’s a polished episode worthy of publishing.
- No live engagement: As great as it is to have an audience listening to your podcast at whatever time suits them, you’re missing out on the live engagement factor that comes with radio broadcasts and webcasts. Podcasts usually have other means of engagement for their audience, including social media accounts, but there’s no opportunity for it to happen during the episode.
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What Is A Webcast?
A webcast is a digital media streamed live over the Internet, giving people real-time access to the event as it happens and in video format.
The live video broadcast is helpful for brands and marketers that want to share time-sensitive promotions, events, conferences, product launches, or interviews, as they don’t need the content to be heavily edited afterward.
One of the most popular webcasts in recent years is TED Talk, with people tuning in to see an expert speak on a topic they’re knowledgeable on, with the audience being able to watch it in real-time.
To view a webcast, you’ll need a media streaming platform, and this can be done either through a third-party app or directly from the website hosting it.
- Better engagement: To get a true sense of what your customer base thinks and feels, you want as many opportunities for engagement as possible. A webcast gives them just that with a platform to send through questions, give feedback, and participate in the conversation as they’re tuned into the event in real-time. You can speak with them directly during your webcast, so it has an edge on podcasts in this regard.
- Sense of urgency: There’s no better way to garner the interest of an audience than by offering a great deal or piece of content that’s only available for a limited time. Unlike a podcast that’s always available for download, your webcast is streamed as a live event and can only be viewed by those lucky enough to tune in as it happens. This is the perfect opportunity for time-sensitive promotions and deals, rewarding those guests who attended the live event
- Free to view: Any time you can offer free content to your audience is a bonus, and most webcasts are usually free to enjoy. Giving access to this live event is something valuable you can offer your customers and clients, and it’ll help to add value to your brand. To ensure it remains free, have it hosted somewhere that won’t require attendees to pay, like on a web browser or through a free third-party app.
- Harder to access: The ease of listening to a podcast isn’t possible when watching a video broadcast or webcast, and it’s harder for your audience to access. Not only do the users need a reliable Internet connection but also a device that plays video, and they might even have to download an app to access it. As it includes a video presentation, they will need to be focused on the screen while watching your webcast, which makes it harder to multitask.
- Time-sensitive: As you’re broadcasting a one-off event, the audience will need to tune in at that exact moment to enjoy it. You might choose to upload the video from the webcast later, but it will lose the benefits it once had as a live event.
- Tech issues: The stress of hosting a live event like a webcast is mainly due to the technical issues that can occur, and they’re even more probable for an event hosted on the Internet. Before launching a webcast, you’ll want to make sure you’re aware of the potential technical issues that can arise and have a plan for fixing them. Otherwise, your audience won’t wait around long for a webcast that’s not being streamed as it was promised.
How Do They Compare?
Having the right format for your message is crucial to its success, and if you’ve been weighing up podcasts and webcasts without any luck, it might help to compare them.
We’ve listed the key differences between the two in the areas that matter so you can see which one is a better fit.
- Medium: When comparing the medium used for the two, webcasts are usually in video format and podcasts in audio. However, there are unique cases where a podcast can feature video, and a webcast is only audio, but it’s not common.
- Delivery: A webcast is a live video stream, so you’ll need to have the right setup to watch videos and be able to enjoy them in real-time. Podcasts are usually prerecorded and then made available on streaming platforms but also downloaded and will only be an audio file.
- Production: The effort of producing podcasts and webcasts is similar, but each requires something different. A podcast must be planned, recorded, edited, and published before the audience can hear it. A webcast also requires planning but no effort during post-production as it’s streamed live to the audience.
- Target Audience: The target audience of your podcast or webcast will depend on who you’re marketing it to and what your current following is like. Most podcasts are delivered to a more general audience or those interested in a specific topic but on a more predictable schedule. Webcasts are more targeted for one-off events, training, and information, so they’re likely to attract a particular audience.
- Content: The content of podcasts and webcasts will differ depending on the format, with webcasts being used for video streams of live events, presentations, interviews, and promotions. For a podcast, its content will be audio and include things like interviews, opinions, news, and conversation. Podcasts are usually produced in an episode format, streaming webcasts with less regularity.
- Monetization: Depending on your marketing goals, there are opportunities to monetize podcasts and webcasts. This includes paid advertising, sponsorship, affiliate marketing, and premium subscriptions to access the creator’s premium content.
Choosing Between Podcasts and Webcasts: The Right Format For Your Message
There’s no right or wrong answer in the debate between podcasts and webcasts, so it’s up to the individual to decide what works best for their message and intended audience.
Think about the pros and cons and their comparisons to determine whether a podcast or webcast will be the best fit for your brand.