Technological innovation has revolutionized radio and other mediums it has inspired, such as podcasts. While there are some similarities, there are important distinctions when you compare podcast vs. radio.
Whether it comes to entertainment or journalism, digital technologies have become the first choice of people in the 21st century. Podcasts, now dubbed as radio’s reinvention, have changed the way people consume media. Podcasts and radio both serve to provide their audience with valuable information through audio sources.
In a world in which there are hundreds of podcasts released every day, radio is searching for more ways to deliver content and access to listeners. In this article, we break down the key differences of podcast vs. radio when it comes to practicality, advertising, licensing, and format, among other important differences.
What Is a Podcast?
In recent years, the popularity of podcasts has increased dramatically. Most individuals are either launching podcasts or listening to one.
The term podcast combines the words “iPod,” Apple’s famous digital media player, and “broadcast,” which refers to transmitting information through radio or television.
Podcasts are like the audio version of your favorite show. It is made up of episodes, which can then be divided into seasons. These episodes may be organized depending on the subtopic and theme. The length, frequency, and style of podcasts depend on their maker since there is no pre-determined format.
The beauty of podcasts is that you need minimal equipment. Some are not even edited, and the makers simply insert their ads when necessary. It’s very easy to start a podcast, and any individual, company, or organization can make their own.
Podcasts are mostly digital audio files that focus on particular themes. However, some podcasters also like to add some visual elements to their podcasts. These audio series can be accessed through phones, computers, laptops, and any mobile device, and can be downloaded and listened to either offline or online.
Since podcasts offer great accessibility, people listen to them virtually everywhere. They can simply plug in their earphones and enjoy their favorite podcast. Listeners can subscribe to podcasts so they can be updated when there is a new episode. Most podcasts are free, but there are also some that come with premium episodes and courses accessible through a subscription fee.
Many people love podcasts because they offer a wide variety of topics and niches. Whether you like backpacking, psychology, comedy, relationship advice, or freelancing, you can find podcasts that deal with these issues.
An episode can range from a few minutes up to a few hours. A new episode may also be released daily, weekly, or monthly. When it comes to the format, it can either be discussions, storytelling, or interviews. Podcasts can feature either a solo or multiple hosts.
What Is Radio?
Radio is a traditional broadcast medium that has been enjoyed by many generations. Radio programs are produced by stations responsible for sending it out to listeners through radio towers. Through this, people can tune in to the radio in their car or at home.
You’re probably already familiar with amplitude modulation (AM) and frequency modulation (FM). Both radio transmission option consists of electromagnetic waves. Compared to FM, AM can reach farther distances. Unfortunately, it is more prone to interference. Although FM does not have this problem, its range can be limited by buildings and mountains, among other physical objects.
Most people love radio because it gives them free music and news. The impact of radio is prevalent even in the 21st century since it inspired wireless communication.
Most radio programs follow a format that can either be spoken word, music, or a fusion of both. The timeslots of radio can be divided, and this dictates the selection of programs you hear.
Types of Programs
In the morning, there is usually a breakfast or morning show to help listeners kickstart their day. People typically listen to these shows on their way to work or school. Then, there are weather and news programs that give people information about recent events. News programs usually have an anchor in the studio and a correspondent covering a particular live event on location. There are also sportscasts that cater to sports fans.
Some of the most popular formats of radio programs you may encounter are request shows and talk shows. The former involves a listener who calls in song requests, stories, or questions to the DJ, while the latter usually features discussions by hosts and guests regarding a specific topic. Some radio shows solely focus on entertainment and comedy. There is also the well-loved weekly music chart show that features a countdown of the most popular songs of the week.
Podcast Vs. Radio: Key Differences
Now that you know what podcast and radio are, you probably think that the two can’t have drastic differences. In this section, we consider the distinctions between podcast vs. radio.
Podcast Vs. Radio: Target audience
One of the most noticeable differences you will immediately notice when you compare podcast vs. radio is content. Because both attract different audiences, the content types also vary. Radio stations appeal to a broader set of people. To achieve this, they generate content which more people can relate to. This way, many people will stay interested for hours.
On the other hand, podcasts appeal to a niche audience. You seldom find podcasts that discuss a general topic. For instance, you can easily find a podcast devoted to cats, dogs, or any other pets. However, it would be very hard to find a radio show that boasts the same specific topic.
The target audience usually finds the podcast they want to listen to through an online search. Because of this, podcasters must use appropriate keywords, titles, and tags when uploading their content.
In contrast, this never happens with radio. With this form of media, DJs must draw the attention of people by putting out a wide variety of relatable topics.
Podcast Vs. Radio: Recording and schedule
Another noticeable difference between podcast vs. radio is that the latter is mostly aired live. Although there are programs that have pre-recorded content, it’s a small percentage. Therefore, there is no way to edit a radio show. Because of this, DJs and radio broadcasters should be very careful about what they say. Because of this, radio broadcasters are more prone to make irreversible mistakes.
Although there are live podcasts, most are pre-recorded and edited before it is uploaded. This convenience also allows podcasters to optimize their program when it comes to audio quality and flow of information. Podcasters can record their sessions as many times as they want. They can also listen to their pre-recorded content, so they know which parts to cut. This method is an awesome way to make sure their work is polished. Unfortunately, it can cause a lack of spontaneity, which gives radio shows extra appeal.
Podcast Vs. Radio: Time and access constraints
When it comes to radio, listeners can simply turn on their device and listen to it any time of the day. However, they may not be able to listen from the beginning. This reason is why DJs and broadcasters are encouraged to repeat elements, such as their contact details and social media accounts, to ensure that the listener catches the information.
All radio programs also follow a timeslot. For instance, a morning show goes live from 8 a.m. to 10 a.m. on weekdays.
With a podcast, everybody can start from the beginning. Because of this, podcasters must always make the first minutes of the podcast very interesting, or they risk losing the interest of people.
Although podcast listeners always have the same starting point, they differ in which episodes they first watch. People usually start listening to podcasts at random episodes, so each one should start with the podcast’s basic information, including what it is about, who the host is, and if there would be any guests.
The lifespan of radio shows typically ends after airing. However, podcasts are online forever unless their producer deletes them. Therefore, the audience can still consume their favorite episode days, months, or years.
There are also constraints when it comes to freedom of the host. For example, in an hour-long show with no music, a radio broadcaster needs to fill up the entire time by talking. They tend to be short on time, especially if they have tons of compelling information they want to share. However, for a podcast, hosts can choose to end the program when they want. Because of the lack of constraints, the hosts have one less thing to worry about.
Podcast Vs. Radio: Regulations
If you’ve ever listened to a podcast, you may notice that they lack chart-topping songs. There is no way a podcaster can play your favorite Beyonce song during the program because they lack proper licensing requirements. On the other hand, it is easy for radio stations to obtain the needed license to play copyrighted songs.
The general regulations and licensing requirements of podcast vs. radio vary a lot. A podcaster may still use music with permission from the artist, or tracks that are under public domain. Unfortunately, there are few choices.
For people who want to listen to music, radio is the better option. However, if talking without restrictions is a stronger priority, a podcast is a better choice.
Podcast Vs. Radio: Advertising and engagement
Anyone who has ever listened to radio programs knows how annoying ads are. Radio is notorious for its saturated commercial and content ratio. For 30 minutes of content, you may hear five minutes of ads. This fact is because ads are one of the major generating income avenues of radio stations.
Contrary to radio programs, podcasts can survive with having few ads per episode. This low ad-to-content ratio is due to the cheap production cost of podcasts. Even without ads, podcasts can still run.
When it comes to the engagement of podcast vs. radio, podcasts trumps radio. This benefit is because podcasts have extremely engaged listeners. After all, the audience chooses podcasts they like. Since radio shows discuss general topics, it cannot engage the audience as much as podcasts do.
The Verdict: Podcast Vs. Radio
While the differences between podcast vs. radio are clear, there are still a lot of similar elements, such as equipment, preparation, and even branding.
Both mediums will likely find space in the hearts of listeners for quite some time. It is up to you to decide which choice better suits your interests.