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Podcast vs. Radio: Differences Between Live Radio & Podcasting

When inspiration for new audio content strikes, deciding how you’d prefer listeners to tune in can be tricky. After all, live radio broadcasting and podcasting have a lot of similarities that may have you questioning whether you should turn your idea into an internet radio station or a podcast. Also, you may wonder whether podcast information can apply to your live radio broadcasts and vice versa.

While you can always air pre-recorded segments on your radio station, similar to podcasting, this article specifically discusses the live radio aspect of running a station. Keep reading to answer your questions about podcast vs. radio, including the difference between live radio broadcasting and podcasting and how the content creation process for either platform may vary.

Main Takeaways:

  • When deciding between a podcast vs. radio show, it’s crucial to consider the potential subject matter, target audience, and technical components.
  • Radio stations often focus on general content that attracts large audiences, whereas podcasts cover specific topics that entice a more niche listening base.
  • Podcasts and radio stations require similar equipment; however, radio programs follow more legal regulations, such as copyright laws.
  • The key difference between podcast and radio is that radio broadcasts are distributed live on air, while podcasts are primarily pre-recorded content.

Radio vs. Podcasts: Different Content

Are you trying to pick a medium for your show idea but are stuck between a podcast vs. radio show? First, consider the style of content you want to share. A major difference between podcast and radio content is that the former is typically very specific, while the latter tends to be much more general. From topics to time constraints, here’s how radio vs. podcast content differs.

General vs. Specific Topics

Though there are several key differences between podcast vs. radio show content, the major difference is the kind of topics discussed, especially if the show is dialogue or conversation-driven. Podcasts tend to cover very specific, usually niche topics that appeal to a certain audience. Radio programs focus on more general content that will attract a wider, less targeted audience.

Most podcasts have a set genre and will only discuss stories that involve a particular topic, such as true crime or sports news. Radio programs often cover a variety of mainstream media and will weave mentions of current events or pop culture in between normal programming, like music. The difference in program content is why most podcasts feature such specific episode titles.

Consider the Crime Junkies podcast, which has been top-rated on Apple Podcasts since its release in 2017. Hosts Ashley Flowers and Brit Prawat are dedicated true crime aficionados; their episode titles reflect that. With names like “Mysterious Death of Clarence Roberts” and “Captured: Gilgo Beach Killer,” it’s clear which sub-genre this podcast will discuss even before listening.

Live vs. Pre-Recorded

This one may seem obvious, but the live aspect of a radio show gives much less wiggle room compared to recording your podcast. With a live show, you must be comfortable being spontaneous and moving on from any mistakes, interruptions, technical difficulties, etc. If anything happens, you can't edit it out afterward; you just have to continue with your show since it is live and you have the time constraint of how long your broadcast is scheduled.

When you have a podcast, you can re-record and edit out mistakes and anything else that you would like to eliminate from the episode that you publish. You can clean up, polish, and perfect your podcast. However, you may lose the live spontaneity in your podcast because of the ability to re-record and edit.

Also, while you likely have an episode length you aim for, you have no time restraints, unlike a live show. You can talk for as long as you want on your podcast, and you can keep and cut from it as much as you see fit. If you have a lot of compelling content to discuss in your podcast, you can include it all, whereas a live show forces you to cut down on your content, even if it is incredibly compelling.

Play Time vs. Set Time

Speaking of time restraints, radio and podcasts are quite different in terms of access. Live broadcasts must occupy specific blocks of time that air in realtime, which implements time constraints on programming. There are also inherent access restraints with radio broadcasting, like the number of listeners who can tune into a morning show vs. a night program.

Compared to radio networks, podcasts lack obvious time and access constraints. Podcasters can create whatever runtime works best for the content without editing segments to shorter lengths to accommodate a specific time block. There’s also no rush to hit the radio waves with a podcast—while you may want to adhere to a schedule, you can still publish a new episode an hour later than usual.

However, that’s not to say that podcasts aren’t an instant medium to share a message. Though many feature pre-recorded content that is not broadcast live, podcasts can be accessed anytime for listeners to tune in instantly. When considering a live show broadcast vs. podcast, it’s important to realize that both can still help share a message in near real-time, even if the total runtime differs.

Short Life vs. Long Life

Live radio and podcasts have very different life lengths. Live radio broadcasts have an incredibly short life as they are only available to listeners as they're happening. Once a live radio event ends, that is the end of its life. You can record your live events and extend their lives by posting them on a website or blog; however, generally speaking, there is a tiny window of opportunity for a live show to be consumed.

Podcasts are the complete opposite of live radio broadcasts in this respect. Podcasts have an incredibly long life. A podcast will be online forever, so your target audience will always be able to consume your podcast, whether that be weeks, months, or even years later. And because most podcasts are pre-recorded, you can crank out tons of podcast content that you can gradually release to listeners.

Podcast Listeners vs. Radio Show Audiences

With elements like topics and timing out of the way, you can now consider the different audiences that podcast vs. radio shows cater to. In most cases, podcast listeners compose a more niche audience of younger listeners, whereas radio programs attract a wider (but older) audience. Take a look at the types of listeners either platform can bring in and how they tend to tune in.

Mass Appeal vs. Niche

A major consideration for a radio show vs. podcast is who you want to appeal to. Generally speaking, radio stations try to appeal to larger audiences by playing more popular music and creating content about a wide range of topics. This often poses a challenge because while trying to appeal to a mass audience, it can be difficult to reach a large audience and capture their attention.

Now, this is not always the case, especially with internet radio, particularly on Live365, because the music and content are programmed by real people with their own interests. Many people now begin radio stations with more of a niche genre of music in mind, meaning that their radio station appeals to a more niche audience.

While some podcasts try to appeal to larger audiences, many take the approach of focusing on a specific topic, so they appeal to a more niche audience. With a niche podcast, you are largely hoping that the audience interested in your topic will stumble upon your podcast or that you will be able to easily reach them online through your knowledge of their online habits. While there is certainly some overlap as both podcasts and live radio shows can appeal to large audiences or niche audiences, historically, radio has leaned into mass appeal, and podcasts have gravitated more toward niche topics.

Age and Demographics

General audience demographics differ significantly between podcast and radio show listeners, not just in mass vs. niche appeal. For one, podcast audiences tend to be younger than radio audiences. Close to 50% of younger people (ages 18 to 49) listen to podcasts multiple times per week, compared to only 28% of those 65 and older who listened to just one in the past year.

While 82% of people aged 12 and up listen to terrestrial radio in a given week, radio programs tend to have an older target audience than podcasts. And though radio has a consistent reach across ages, most people (no matter the age) tune in while out of the home and inside the car. In fact, 71% of radio listening occurs during normal commute times Monday through Friday.

As such, the devices these demographics use to listen to a broadcast vs. podcast differ. Almost 78% of podcast listeners tune in on smartphones, with devices like laptops ranked as the second-most-popular medium. However, nearly 89% of radio listeners tune in from traditional receivers, like car radios, and just 11% of radio listeners stream from an internet radio station.

Scheduled vs. On-Demand

When you have a live radio show, you have to stick to a strict schedule and format. You are only on-air for a predetermined amount of time at a specific time of day. Additionally, you have to communicate that schedule to listeners, so that they have the opportunity to listen to the full live radio broadcast from the beginning.

Your listeners may tune in at any point during the live radio broadcast, though, which means you need to re-introduce yourself, the show, topics, and even recap the conversation every so often. On the other hand, with a podcast, your audience can listen to your content whenever they want. They are able to start from the beginning of every episode, and can stop listening and come back to the podcast later at the exact point they stopped.

Your listeners can also restart your podcast or go back to a certain point, so you don't need to repeat yourself like you do with live radio. With a podcast, your audience has a lot more control over how, when, what, and where they listen. Although you likely have a podcast upload schedule that you follow, your audience still has a lot of agency, whereas both a live radio host and the audience don't have a lot of control over the schedule or listening habits because scheduling dictates everything.

Radio Shows and Podcasts: Technical Differences

A thorough understanding of podcast vs. radio show differences is vital for creating a program that not only delivers on your desired message but also hits the bullseye for your target audience. As you start to bring your ideas to life, it’s imperative to consider the technical requirements for each platform. Here’s a quick overview of the legal, equipment, and technical differences you can expect.

Regulations and Licensing vs. Unregulated

Regulations between live radio and podcasts vary. With radio, you play lots of music, even on live broadcasts. Legally playing music comes with a lot of regulation, though. You have to obtain licensing for the music you play on your radio station, and then there are lots of regulations as to how often you can play the same artists, albums, and songs. The regulations that come with playing music are a large part of having a radio station, but that is not the case with podcasting.

(Note: If you are running your radio station on Live365, music licensing is included, and the regulations are implemented into the platform.)

While you likely play a lot of music on your radio station, you actually can't use music in your podcast because of copyright issues. Now, you are able to use music if you have specific permission from the artist or if the music is under public domain, but aside from these cases, you are unable to put music in your podcast. Aside from this, podcasts are largely unregulated.

Basically, if you want to play music, radio is your only option. If you would like to talk without limitations, podcasting is the right option for you. Similarly, if you predict that you might want to dive into explicit content—AKA any topics that are unsafe for work, contain colorful language, or are otherwise inappropriate for certain age groups—a podcast should be your go-to platform.

Equipment Requirements

Aside from learning industry regulations, navigating the necessary equipment is a major undertaking when creating digital audio files for a terrestrial or an online radio station or a podcast. Must-have radio equipment for a live broadcast includes a high-quality microphone and headphones to capture and review your audio sources and a third-party automation system.

On the other hand, the essential equipment to launch a podcast includes a top-notch microphone and recording program. Once your first podcast episode is recorded, you’ll need a website that includes your podcast’s basic information (like contact details and new episode schedule), complete with an RSS feed for audience members to start listening on-demand.

It’s important to acknowledge that the same equipment can generally be used for both live radio and podcasts—don’t feel like you need to look for specific broadcast vs. podcast microphones or headphones when first getting started. Also, podcast equipment tends to be a bit more affordable, so feel free to try growing your podcast audience before riding the radio waves.

Start Broadcasting with Live365

When it’s time to hit the airwaves, deciding between a live radio broadcast and a pre-recorded podcast can be quite difficult. A live radio broadcast draws a wider audience who share general interests but has extra time and access constraints. A pre-recorded podcast invites a smaller, more niche audience but inflicts considerably less time or access constraints.

So, which is the best fit for your next big content idea: a podcast vs. radio show? Either of these two mediums offer endless opportunities and an easy means to share your message—especially with Live365’s end-to-end broadcast platform to streamline your content creation and publication! Sign up to launch your live radio show, or join the podcast waiting list today!

Podcast vs. Radio FAQ

How is a podcast similar to radio?

A podcast is similar to a radio show in that they are both mediums to share audio content. Both podcasts and radio shows share high audio quality, though podcasts tend to focus on spoken dialogue and radio shows focus on music. A podcast is also similar to radio because both mediums feature a host or disc jockey (DJ) who interacts with listeners and dictates the show schedule.

What is the difference between podcast and live radio?

The difference between podcast and radio is that podcasts are primarily pre-recorded and edited, whereas radio shows are live on air and broadcast raw and uncut. Another key difference between broadcast vs. podcast is that radio shows tend to have general programming, while podcasts often center around a specific niche or genre, such as true crime, sports news, or current events.

Is podcasting replacing radio?

Podcasting is not replacing traditional radio; however, it is competing with radio listenership. Over the last decade, the share of listeners who have tuned into a podcast in the past month jumped from 12% of Americans ages 12 and older to 42% of Americans ages 12 and older. Yet, despite increased podcast listenership, 82% of Americans ages 12 and older continue to listen to the radio weekly.

Is it easy to start your own live radio show or podcast?

It has never been easier to start your own live radio show or podcast, especially with an end-to-end broadcast platform like Live365. We offer an entire suite of online radio broadcasting tools and features—including station management, licensing, and distribution tools—complete with the ability to monetize your radio program. Podcasting on the platform will be available in the future.

If you are looking for podcast information, take a look at all of our informational podcast articles and radio broadcasting information.

Explore the nuances of live radio broadcasting with Live365's broadcasting management software. Stream live and capture a loyal audience with engaging content. Sign up now to embark on your own broadcasting journey with Live365!

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Article Image: 3910743 via Pixabay.

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About Michelle Ruoff

  • Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania