Webinars vs. Livestreaming: What’s the Difference?

June 23, 2019 ​- 15 Comments

I recently started a series of reviews with the goal of answering one question: "what's the best webinar software available?"

As I soon found out, this was the wrong question. There are many tools that bill themselves as "webinar software", but they're made for different purposes and a single term isn't adequate to cover them all.

In this post, you'll discover the 4 different categories of online events, which one is suitable for what purpose and which software will serve you best.


The 4 Types of Online Events

There are 4 categories that can help us make sense of different tools and different uses: webinars, live streams, online meetings and automated webinars (also known as evergreen webinars).

Here's a brief summary of these types (more details in the video), followed by a quiz you can use to determine which software suits your purposes best.


  • Private events that require attendees to register or purchase access.
  • Main focus is on education and selling.
  • Held for large audiences, ideally. The larger the audience, the better.
  • Lecture style event: there's one presenter and many attendees. The attendees are relatively passive.
  • Webinars have a scarcity factor. They take place a limited number of times, there may be limited access to a replay or no replay at all.

Live Streaming

  • Public event, accessible by anyone on platforms like YouTube, Facebook or Twitch.
  • The main purpose of a live stream is usually to build and engage an audience.
  • The main focus of the content is usually on entertainment, since livestreams happen on platforms people use for distraction and fun, primarily. To grow an audience with livestreams, you need to "out-entertain" your competitors.
  • No scarcity: the event is public, access is free, replays are automatic and available indefinitely.

Online Meeting

  • Private events for which attendees need to register or make a purchase.
  • The main focus is interaction, engagement and coaching.
  • Attendees are more active than in other online events. Many attendees will be asking questions and perhaps even joining with webcam and audio, like in a group call.
  • Suitable only for small groups.

Evergreen Webinar

  • Many of the same factors as the webinar type above.
  • This is an event that seems like a live event, but is actually pre-recorded.
  • Evergreen webinars have a pure marketing purpose. They are made to be integrated in a marketing funnel and almost always include a sales pitch.
  • Usually a high scarcity factor.

Different Purposes, Different Software

From all the tools I've tested, there is none that is equally suited for all of these 4 different types of online events. There is no best overall tool that covers all use cases.

That's why it's important to know what you want to accomplish with live events and then choose the most ideally suited tool for the job.

To make things easier for you, I've put together this quiz:

Which is the most important type of online event for your business? Did this video and content help you make a decision? Let me know by leaving a comment below.

About ​Shane Melaugh

I'm the founder of ActiveGrowth and Thrive Themes and over the last years, I've created and marketed a dozen different software, information and SaaS products. Apart from running my business, I spend most of my time reading, learning, developing skills and helping other people develop theirs. On ActiveGrowth, I want to help you become a better entrepreneur and product creator. Read more about my story here.

​Related Articles

  • Shane, truly a great work done you! This is something I was looking for. Your quiz cum recomendation engine is awesome. Looking forward to more anaytical posts from you regarding webinars.

  • Worked great for me. And, it led me to the tool that I have been using for some time after doing some of my own research.

  • Your questionnaire confirmed what I practise for small meetings – Zoom – thanks for that.

    However, I find all your reviews of webinar software very helpful and I’m looking forward to the final review and recommendation.

  • Michael Hartrich says:

    Great review series. Very helpful. My questionnaire result is Webinarjam. That actually is my current selection of choice. I’mlooking forward to your review of Webinarjam. Are you going to continue?

      • Michael Hartrich says:

        I’m watching Jeff Walker’s webinar on how to run a successful webinar campaign. Are you going to do something like this? I’m a long-time subscriber and user of your products. Your PLF style Thrive theme is very cool.

  • Shane
    Thanks for a thorough review of the webinar tools available and for the basic purposes each platform serves best.
    Very helpful
    Gary Tucker | Fine Artist

  • Anna-Maria says:

    I have watched all you reviews on webinar tools and just LOVED them. So honest (you are a GOOD person, one can feel that across the screen), so extremely helpful, so compact, so easy to understand, even for a dinosaur like me ;-). Thanks for all the endless hours you must have put into all of this.
    And: by reading about you and your story I have realized that I should put much more thought into the idea of webinar coaching. I know now that I cannot simply go ahead and see what will happen, and simply stumble along in trial and error mode, but that will have to do my homework thouroughy in order to create the wow-effect you are talking about. Because: not only would I like to make my hobby my job (which will only work if I can make enough people sign up) but also do I want to help as many people as possible. And I have the feeling with all your online tips I can make that wish come true. So thanks SO MUCH again!!

    • Thank you, Anna-Maria!

      You have a noble goal and I hope that my content can help you achieve it. :)

  • Hi,
    I’m wondering what software tools you included in the options. Because I’m using several and ight seems that the 3 were done questions missing.
    Brighttalk has its often database so it drives organic leaf signups. Were gotowebinar and Webex included? Twentythree has video hosting and live streaming features, On24 had a virtual summit offering, Brightcove, ReadyTalks… there are so many.

    Which ones are included in this review/ quiz?

  • This is a great intro.

    I’m trying to figure out what the difference is between video conference video and live streams. Specifically, live streams always have a substantial delay (at least 10 seconds but frequently as much as 45) due to all the transcoding that happens.

    I’m unclear (and having trouble finding info on) what the exact difference is and why no one offers instant live streaming that can be viewed by thousands (or millions) of users while featuring a handful. Or if indeed such a service exists.

    The specific use-case is for a “radio call-in” type show where the show is being broadcast to everyone who cares to view it, but individuals can “call-in” and their video, along with the main broadcaster’s video (the host) is seen by everyone.

    I’d love to understand what (if anything) prevents the mixing of these approaches, provided that the service is ok with not tailoring the experience for a multitude of encodes but delivering the same video stream to everyone.

  • {"email":"Email address invalid","url":"Website address invalid","required":"Required field missing"}

    ​Develop the Ultimate Entrepreneurial Superpower: Productivity!

    ​Countless "wantrepreneurs" fail to achieve their business goals - not because of a lack of knowledge, but because of a lack of productive, effective implementation. Don't be one of them.