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Webcasting Versus Web Conferencing: How to Choose

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Streaming video incorporated into a webcast is usually created in a controlled environment on machines designated exclusively for webcasting. These machines are regularly tested and backed up for redundancy. Moreover, dedicated network connections are often used to deliver the encoded stream to a highly reliable content delivery network for redistribution. This dramatically reduces the possibility of degradation.

Though web conferencing can be purchased under various licensing models, the most common model is a cost per-minute, per-participant. In short, the more participants, the greater the charge. There are charges for the audio bridge plus the web conferencing application, which are often bundled. The result is that it is very difficult to budget in advance for web conferencing events, because the cost always varies. A webcast, on the other hand, is typically charged at a flat rate for a maximum number of peak concurrent attendees, making budgeting much more predictable.

Cost can also vary significantly between both mediums, especially for large presentations that target large audiences. Let’s assume you’re hosting a 1-hour online audio event targeting 200 participants. If you decided to use a web conference to reach this audience, a reasonable price might be 35 cents per minute, including an operator-assisted bridge and web conferencing platform, for a North American audience only. That brings your total cost to at least $4,200. The cost of enabling global participants to join the event can be significantly greater. Additional per-participant fees may be incurred to access the archive.

Instead, you could webcast that same event for half the cost. In fact, if number of attendees doubled, the cost would probably not change—regardless of the location of the attendees—due to the fixed-price nature of webcasting. Indeed, under some circumstances, you could host a video webcast, which offers far superior quality, at the same price as the audio web conference!

In summary, when deciding whether webcasting or web conferencing will best suit your communications needs, you will want to consider the following questions:

- What is the nature of your audience? How dispersed are they, how many are there, and how much control do they have over their PCs? The greater the numbers and the more dispersed they are, the more sense webcasting makes.
- What level of production quality does your online event require? Do you require polish for an external audience? Do you want your brand implemented? I find web conferencing is great for sharing, collaborating, and creating. Webcasting puts "wow" into your events, showing those creations in their best light.
- Finally, how much do you want to spend? Many vendors offer webcasting as well as web conferencing. They should be able to break down the numbers, so you can make an educated decision about which medium is best for your presentation.

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