The podcast has been one of the biggest advancements in media of the 21st century, and with all of its success, it’s easy to forget about its roots.
Broadcast radio served as the natural starting point for podcasts, and although they share some similarities, it’s their stark differences that set them apart.
What’s the difference between podcasts and radio? There are some areas where podcasts and broadcast radio differ most, including the medium, how they’re accessed, their production, monetization, and content, just to name a few.
Each of these areas makes it easier and more beneficial for the consumer to enjoy podcasts, hence their popularity.
The podcast is often discussed as the way of the future when it comes to audio entertainment, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that broadcast radio is over.
By looking at their key differences you’ll see where podcasts can excel in the modern age and how radio services still have a lot to offer.
The Key Differences Between Podcasts and Radio
With the podcast on the rise more and more each year, it can be easy to forget how long we lived happily in the era of the radio broadcast.
Although the two seem similar at first glance, these are the key areas where podcasts and radio programs differ, so you can see which is right for you.
#1 The Medium
The biggest difference between podcasts and radio is the medium it’s presented on. Podcasts are streamed through the internet and radio is broadcast over the airwaves.
However, with advancements in digital radio, many programs are now relying on the internet to stream their programs as well.
Although the internet makes it easier to access podcasts and digital radio, it can create boundaries for some users.
In the past, almost everyone had a way to access the radio without needing any modern technology, but that’s no longer the case due to streaming services becoming the norm.
Podcasts follow a regular schedule determined by the creator, with the most common being a weekly or biweekly episode release.
Broadcast radio is constantly on and while there might not always be a host speaking to the audience, some form of music or program will be playing.
Radio shows are usually broadcast live and once they’re over, they’ve forgotten about them. With podcasts, they’re pre-recorded or streamed live and the video is then available to be viewed for some time after.
Although some digital radio services are following this trend and even compiling the best parts of a show for post-production access, radio is, for the most part, an instant medium.
#3 Production Requirements
Almost anyone can make a podcast these days, and it’s easy enough as setting up a microphone and some post-production gear and recording your show.
Although it’s not that different from a radio broadcast, you generally have to be in the studio so your program can be broadcast over the air. For digital radio services, there’s little difference between how they’re made when compared to a podcast.
Another area of difference is the host themselves, with most radio programs having a qualified presenter or DJ to deliver the show. For podcasts, many self-made content creators have managed to create a successful series without any prior experience.
Podcasts also tend to have hosts that are experts on specific topics whether it’s the news and current events, psychology, sports, or comedy, and many radio hosts are all-rounders.
#4 Monetization and Costs
Radio broadcasters make most of their money through advertising, and this continues to be standard practice even today.
For a podcaster, there are a few different ways to monetize your program, although many presenters find they have to work for free until they start to gain popularity and can earn income.
Some of the best ways for a podcaster to earn money from their series are by asking for donations, selling tiered memberships to listeners, advertising products and services, selling premium episodes, and syndicating their show to YouTube.
The type of podcast you deliver and its audience will determine what the best monetization strategies are. Cost-wise, it’s a lot more affordable to deliver a podcast than it is to create a radio program.
A podcaster only needs their computer or laptop, a quality microphone, and the right soundproofing or acoustics treatments in their recording room. Radio broadcasters usually have a lot of technical equipment and larger studios for their presenters to use.
There’s no doubt that podcasts are the more popular media form these days, with at least 60% of American adults listening to at least one of them regularly.
The audience tuning into a podcast will generally be doing so because they are targeting a niche market, compared to the audience of a radio show who will usually be listening just because the radio happens to be turned on.
The podcast audience is also younger generally, although there is still a larger audience base coming from the older generation as well.
An average of 50% of podcast listeners are between 12 and 34 with just 22% being over 55 years old, signaling that the audience of this type of media is likely made up of teenagers and younger adults.
#6 Content and Theme
One of the reasons for the success of podcasts is that people now have access to discussions on just about any topic they can think of.
When compared to traditional broadcast radio where the content is more general, this allows people to pick and choose something that is more aligned with their interests.
Although broadcast radio programs still cover a range of themes and topics, they are seen as a more mass-produced media form that engages with larger groups of the public rather than niche ones.
People tend to lean towards podcasts for this reason and may listen to them for longer periods compared to a radio program.
The podcast’s content is fresh, modern, and engaging, with most being humorous and designed to engage with the audience to keep them absorbed for the entirety of the episode.
The standard format of a podcast depends on the specific podcast, with each one usually having a style that they follow.
The more popular podcasts will feature one, two, or a few hosts speaking together and often having guests who they converse and debate with about a specific topic. These can range from an hour to a few hours, dependent on the subject matter.
On the radio, the format depends again on what type of program it is and how long it runs.
There are a few popular formats including talkback radio where people are invited to phone in and contribute to the discussion, music-themed programs where there’s less talk and more music, or news and current affairs programs that cover a range of topics.
Each program is usually allocated a time slot of a few hours.
A major difference between radio and podcasts is how the listener accesses them, with the traditional radio programs being made available through your car radio or an AM/FM radio.
The podcast can only be accessed online, and usually through one of the popular streaming services like iTunes or Spotify, which requires an account.
Digital radio services are becoming more common, where listeners can either stream live radio through their device or listen to previous programs. In this way, the accessibility is similar to a podcast however you rarely need an account with a streaming service to do so.
One of the issues that people face in this category in the future, whether it’s digital radio services or podcasts that they want to listen to, is that neither will be available without an internet connection.
While this won’t be an issue for some people, it can limit other potential listeners from enjoying these mediums. Having access to traditional radio broadcast services is essential for ensuring people stay connected to this medium.
Are Podcasts the Natural Progression of Radio?
When considering the history of podcasts and how they’ve seemingly taken over from broadcast radio, it’s important to note just how different they are.
Although they both offer the listener a chance for audio entertainment, podcasts were never designed to be a replacement for traditional radio services, so they shouldn’t be seen as such.
Podcasts and broadcast radio services offer something unique and cater to different audiences and purposes, but they do share some similarities.
However, the format in which we listen to podcasts tends to represent the more modern approach to media consumption, although many broadcasters today are utilizing digital radio services as well.
If you’re developing an idea for a program and weighing up whether to format it as a podcast or a radio program, both styles have a lot to offer. It’s best to consider the similarities and differences to determine what would work best for the content you plan on delivering.
How Are Podcasts and Radio Alike?
As we discuss all of the ways that podcasts and broadcast radio differ, it’s also important to note how they’re alike. Consider these similarities when you’re thinking about how the modern podcast compares to traditional radio services:
- Expert hosts: The joy of tuning in to a radio show or listening to a podcast is that you’re going to be guided by a host who knows what they’re doing. Whether they’re a professional radio DJ or an expert in psychology, it’s a pleasure to listen to both types of media with such professional presenters.
- Modern and relevant: One of the major benefits of both radio and podcasts is that they’re broadcast live or shortly after being recorded. Unless you’re listening to an old episode or program that’s been made available, you can be guaranteed that the information being presented is modern and relevant.
- Engaging: Although the format of podcasts and radio shows are slightly different, they’re designed to be engaging for the audience. You’ll be captivated to listen to the episode or program and likely learn something new, which is why both have been so popular.
- Free to enjoy: Whether you’re listening to a digital stream of your favorite podcast or turning on the car radio to tune in, there’s usually no cost to enjoy this type of media. While some streaming services charge their users, most podcasts are free, and radio broadcasters have made an effort to ensure their services continue to cost nothing as well.
- Advertising: An unfortunate part of listening to free media like podcasts and radio programs is that you have to sit through the ads as well. Advertising is the key way that both podcasters and radio broadcasters earn money, as they don’t usually charge listeners to hear their shows. Most people find that listening to some short advertisements is worth it to enjoy the audio entertainment though.
- Wide selection: Although it might seem like podcasts have more options when it comes to content and topics covered, there are still plenty of digital radio services that let you sample broadcasts from all over the world. You can find discussions on just about any topic you’re interested in with podcasts and radio, even if the latter is usually broader.
➡️ Interested in learning more? Find out how to start a podcast of your very own.
A New Way to Listen
There’s no denying that podcasts have become the most popular way to get your audio entertainment in recent years, but that doesn’t mean traditional radio services are over.
As consumers, we’re lucky to be given the option for both, and all of the exciting changes that are sure to come for both of them in the future.