Podcasting Versus Broadcasting: What’s the difference?

Most act as if radio and podcasts are the same. They aren’t.

Let’s begin with a simple definition: A podcast is a discrete downloadable recording of a show, usually a talk show. Radio is a continuous, real-time, mutually shared experience, always there, which you can join and depart and rejoin again any time you like.

What they have in common: They’re both audio mediums. One is simply in real time and the other is delayed audio that can be listened to when the listener chooses to do so.

Of note: After attending Podcast Movement, which had an entire track dedicated to radio professionals learning to embrace podcasting, I discovered that a lot of radio programmers think they can simply take their shows, create and upload audio files, and call them podcasts. Then they’re surprised when it doesn’t work very well. The belief behind this is that they’re two different mediums for delivering the same content.


So what the heck is the difference?

The experience.

Both are good. Both are important. Both serve wonderful purposes. But they’re different.

Here are some examples of what I’m talking about.

Radio has some restraints. Unless they’re a national program, radio has a local audience and they are limited to whatever their format is. When hosts open the microphone, they may imagine they’re speaking to one person, but they are reaching out to as many people as possible, which the format determines. One easy listening, soft rock formatted station I’m thinking of is geared specifically toward women of 41 years of age, with two kids, some college education, who are often soccer moms. Everything they say and do is with this person in mind.

Podcasts = no restraints. They can be heard globally and what is featured is up to the podcast host.

Radio is designed for mass appeal. You’ll hear sweeping features, such as music, news, weather, sports, interview segments, bits such as trivia, music quizzes, etc. They appeal to a larger audience which knows what they’re going to get when they tune in. It’s very familiar to the listener.

Podcasts, on the other hand, have niche appeal. The audience is self selected and they opt in depending on the topic. If you have a niche book, there is a niche audience for you. Instead of just flipping on the radio and either loving or hating what they hear, podcast listeners usually find things they like and commit to them by subscribing. This results in a different relationship between the content creator and the audience.

Radio is constantly accessible to the listener. Push a button and it is there. Whenever you want it, there it is.

Podcasts require more from you. You have to find them. First you need a podcast player on your smartphone. iPhones come with a player already loaded (although reviews are mixed as to how good that player is.). Android users have to download a podcast player app from the app store. From there, you search for the topics that interest you and then you can subscribe. New content is not always available at the touch of a button. You have to wait until another program is released to hear new content.

Again, radio is mass appeal.

Podcasts are more personable. You, the listener, are usually wearing ear buds when listening so the podcaster and the show is actually in your ears. This is a much more personal experience than music blaring from a speaker on a car radio.


Many radio stations play music and they pay for the opportunity to do that. There are licensing companies, e.g,. BMI, ASCAP, etc., who collect money from radio stations for the right to play their music. (When music is played inside stores, by the way, they have to pay for that too. If you don’t, you can get a very hefty fine.)

Podcasters, for the most part, are not paying licensing fees to play music. Can you play Bruno Mars in the background on your podcast? No. And they will fine you if they find you. Make no mistake about it. There are reps who look for this kinds of thing, so be sure you stay informed and on the right side of the law.

Schedule versus On Demand.

Radio follows a clock throughout the hour. You have commercial breaks to meet, time checks to give, updates on who you’re talking to so that those who have just joined are up to date with what is happening. Everything in live radio is timed to the second.

With podcasting, you don’t have the same time restraints or a clock to follow. No one tunes in during the middle of a podcast. People begin listening at the beginning. The podcaster doesn’t have to stop in the middle of an important conversation to announce the time, reintroduce the guest, or meet commercials.

Fleeting versus long shelf life.

Radio is in the now, temporary, always new. It is an instant medium. The minute a radio show goes live, it is broadcast and then after a while, it’s over. If you record your shows then you will, of course, have that as a copy of it, but a listener is unlikely to go back and listen to an entire recording of a 5-hour long show, including advertisements and interviews that may be outdated by the time they start listening.

Podcasts can be listened to days, weeks, months, even years later. Podcasts are evergreen and are usually archived for all eternity. The good news about this is if you’re a guest on a podcast, your interview lives on. (All the more reason to make sure you have some media training under your belt. You can’t pull back a bad interview.)

Live Versus Pre-Recorded.

Live radio cannot be edited after it has been broadcast

Podcasts, on the other hand, are pre-recorded so they can easily be edited or adjusted after recording.

The FCC. (Federal Communications Commission)

Radio has to abide.

Podcasting does not.


Both mediums are powerful as far as listenership goes. According to the Pew Research Center as of July 2018, the audio news sector in the United States is split by modes of delivery: traditional terrestrial (AM/FM) radio and digital formats such as online radio and podcasting. While terrestrial radio reaches almost the entire U.S. population and remains steady in its revenue, online radio and podcasting audiences have continued to grow over the past decade.That said, as of 6 months ago, 14% of the population downloads podcasts on a regular basis. That number is going to increase as more and more people discover how to download them and also discover where their favorite topics are being discussed.

Both are powerful.

Radio and podcasting are different for all the reasons listed above, and both can be very powerful when it comes to publicizing your books. They should definitely be included in any kind of campaign you might put together. But remember, you want to be good at it so that you can make a difference. That means getting some media training, a skill that once you attain, you will have it forever.

To your success!


P.S. I know media trainers who charge $2500 for a half day. Yowza! If you have any kind of budget, that can be painful. There is another way. If you’re interested in discussing media training with me, check this out.







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