Webinars and podcasts both serve as valuable tools for delivering information to an online audience; however, the two types of digital media are quite different and not interchangeable at all. Understanding the characteristics, creation requirements and common uses of webinars and podcasts can be helpful in selecting the right format for your needs.
A podcast is a type of recorded audio content that's typically available as a series of episodes or regular installments. The concept of a podcast was originally developed by Apple for the iPod. Podcasts can be downloaded as files to be played on your computer or any other appropriate mobile device. Although podcasts generally consist of audio content, they're also capable of distributing other types of digital content such as e-books and video.
A webinar can be thought of as a conference or seminar that's held over the Internet in real time. Unlike podcasts, webinars have a naturally interactive, collaborative nature. For example, two-way audio and live chat enable both presenters and audience members to communicate with one another. To accommodate those who can't participate in the live session, webinars can also be recorded and delivered for later use, minus the interactive aspects.
Creating a podcast is a fairly straightforward and inexpensive process. A computer with an Internet connection, a decent microphone, and some free or low-cost software such as Audacity or Windows Sound Recorder is all you need to create a simple podcast. Webinars require a platform to deliver the audio and visual components of the presentation simultaneously. Webinar software platforms include GoToWebinar, MegaMeeting and Adobe Connect. In addition to one of these programs, a tool to create slides, such as Microsoft PowerPoint, Apple Keynote, or Google Docs is also needed.
Podcasts have a variety of uses: Some are designed for pure entertainment, while others deliver news or serve as a publicity or marketing tool. In the field of education, podcasts have become a supplement to classroom lectures and can serve as a recorded backup for students who missed a live lecture. The interactive elements of webinars make them well-suited for educational workshops and employee training sessions but can also be a powerful marketing tool to engage with current and potential customers. Webinars eliminate the time and expense usually associated with traveling to such sessions and give audience members the flexibility to view the recorded presentation at a later time if needed.