To stream or not to stream? That is the question. When it comes to audio/visual content, there are two major distribution models to consider: the podcast and the video stream. They each have their own benefits and drawbacks, and deciding which is best for your particular use case depends on knowing a few things about the differences between these models, the media you’ll be distributing, and your target audience. In this article, we’ll discuss all three topics.
What are podcasting and video streaming? Podcasting, a word coined from the iPod brand of MP3 players and the word broadcasting, is a way of getting audio content onto a computer or mobile device, so that it can be listened to at leisure. Video (and audio) streaming is sent from a media site directly to a person’s computer at the moment they request it, but it isn’t stored there. Whenever someone wants to watch or listen to the content again, they’ll have to have an internet connection and start streaming it once more.
As you can see, these different models fit themselves to different use cases:
- A commuter might benefit from a podcast which they could download onto their MP3 player and listen to every day on the way to work, not having an internet connection in their car, bus, or train.
- Instructional videos and promotional videos would be much more convenient in streaming form, because the audience wouldn’t have to wait for it to download before watching them, and wouldn’t have to delete the files from their computer when they were done.
- Long-form and serial media might benefit from a podcast format, where most mobile devices will allow a user to pause and re-enter the material in the same spot. Streamed content would need to be left open in the browser until the user returned, and if the browser was closed, the user would have to search through the stream to find their spot again.
- Streaming can be much more convenient for video content, as these files are generally large and might overwhelm a person’s mobile device.
A helpful guide is to consider both the form of your content and the way it’s to be used. If you’re putting out a series of helpful tutorials, streaming might be a better option because it allows near-instant access without long waits for downloads. If you’re putting out an eBook, you’ll want to cater to people who want to download it onto their MP3 players and listen through, as it suits them, possibly over weeks or even months as they have the time.
In the end, only you can decide what model best serves your content and your audience. Experiment, ask for user feedback, and remember that you can always change your model.
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