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Words Matter

How you describe things makes a difference.  Case in point – webcasting.

Dictionary.com describes it this way:

Web·cast·ing

–noun Computers . ( often lowercase )
the broadcasting of news, entertainment, etc., using the Internet, specifically the World Wide Web.

Also called cybercasting.

And, for comparison, they also include the World English Dictionary definition:

webcast (ˈwɛbˌkɑːst)

— n
a broadcast of an event over the World Wide Web: a live webcast of the game

I think the second definition is closer, as it actually indicates that there’s multimedia of some kind.  My own definition would reserve this for a live event rather than on-demand, if only to separate between the live and after-the-fact viewing (let’s leave out rebroadcasts for now, hmmm?) Regardless, the problem I’ve discovered is that whatever the dictionary may say, clients toss the word around to mean almost anything involving media.

I’ve been asked to webcast teleconferences, audio calls, recorded media, and everything in between.  Which is why conversations with clients always have to tease out what they’re actually trying to accomplish. Generically they want something recorded for delivery somewhere, but they don’t really know how they want it done.  Sometimes they don’t even know where they want to deliver it.

It’s one of the reasons our main vendor describes what they do as “rich media presentations” – it’s a way of indicating what they actually do (packaging multimedia with inline graphics, synching them, and publishing as a web package) with less loaded or confusing terminology. But the clients don’t know that, which is why they say webcast, and why (per my earlier post) a production meeting is critical.  It’s my job to explain the options, and clarify what is usually a confused, vague idea in the client’s head.

One of my rules revolved around communication, and an essential part of that is using terms that makes it clear to everyone what it is you’re doing and what you’re trying to accomplish.

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