Radio has been around for hundreds of years but only began broadcasting to people in the 1920s. It was an incredibly powerful tool that allowed organisations and governments to reach the masses quickly. Radio kept the public up to date with live events happening across the world whilst building up morale and keeping people entertained through tough times.
It’s hard to deny the impact and importance that radio has had throughout history, but the medium has found a new rival with podcasts within the past couple of years. People are now tuning in to listen to podcasts rather than radio raising the question of have podcasts surpassed radio?
As of 2021, there were over 19.1 million podcast listeners in the United Kingdom and this is expected to climb to over 28 million by 2026. Evidently, this number is continuing to grow whilst the percentage of people listening to radio continues to decline each year emphasising that podcasts are a rapidly growing form of entertainment.
With the increase in scope and the improved quality of mobile technology, people literally have the power of the internet at their fingertips. This includes the ability to stream podcasts wherever they are and on any modern device.
Podcasts are available on multiple platforms such as Spotify, YouTube, Apple Podcasts, Soundcloud and BuzzSprout to name just a few. Even if someone doesn’t have access to one of these applications, people can stream podcasts through their internet browser on their phones.
The beauty of podcasts is that audiences can pick up and listen to one at any time. They can easily pause or skip certain bits that they are not interested in. As we are living in the ‘Age of Convenience’, people are expecting everything to be instantaneous and not have to wait for radio schedules.
The best thing about it all is that listeners can be updated when there is a new episode so that they can keep up to date. It also helps that podcasts can be downloaded and listened to offline as well. Podcasts are easily more accessible than radio as there are more ways to listen and are even more convenient for listeners.
More variety in topics
Whilst there are a decent number of radio stations out there, there are still nowhere near as many options as podcasts. It’s estimated that there are literally millions of podcasts out there each with its own sub-section and niches. Radio stations are unfortunate in having to appeal to the masses, whilst podcasts can focus on one specific topic.
There is literally a podcast for every topic with focuses on every aspect of life from true crime podcasts such as My Favourite Murder to gambling podcasts such as Cousin Vito’s Casino. Radios are often forced to pick and discuss topics that are trending or relevant news with no room to debate about anything else.
This means that listeners are limited when listening to the radio and are forced to endure mainstream topics. With podcasts, people can literally listen to whatever weird or niche topic they want and not have to compromise their interests.
No time constraints
As previously mentioned, podcasts are extremely accessible in terms of how to stream them and this is mainly due to the fact that there are no time constraints. There is no strict schedule for podcasts as hosts can literally upload episodes whenever they please.
Radio shows on the other hand have to adhere to strict schedules and must air when they are told to. However, it is worth noting that many radio stations give people the opportunity to catch up on radio shows in case they cannot catch the live show but this is only a select few radio stations that allow this. All podcasts do allow people to replay and listen to episodes at their own leisure.
It’s also worth pointing out that podcasts can be any length depending on what the hosts want. Some podcasts can literally be 10 minutes long, whilst others can be hours, but there is more diversity as radio shows must fit into certain time slots and cannot go over this limit.
Not regulated by the government
Most radio stations are under strict government control and must adhere to certain regulations and codes. They cannot broadcast anything that is not allowed or anything that could be considered offensive to the public. This ultimately means that radio stations do not have the freedom to truly express themselves as they are restricted by laws and guidelines.
Podcasts are free to discuss absolutely anything and do whatever they please as long as their audience enjoys it. Warnings of graphic content such as swearing or triggering topics are often stated before the episode in order to give listeners the chance to skip in case it offends them. Whilst this can be positive or negative, podcasts have the independence to speak about anything with nothing holding it back.
Are podcasts overtaking radio?
There are many similarities between podcasts and radio with each medium having unique advantages and disadvantages. However, it’s fair to say that podcasts could never replace radio as podcasts serve a completely different purpose. Whilst podcasts can be more accessible, there are still many people who actually prefer to listen to the radio as it can be unpredictable whilst also keeping them up to date with current events.
Both radio and podcasts should be able to coexist alongside each other just like films and television shows. Each of the mediums brings something different to listeners and manages to appeal to different audiences. It’s clear that the world would be a duller place without podcasts and radio stations.
Radio does definitely see podcasting as competition and has even utilised the medium to showcase unique shows on the BBC Sounds platform. The future of radio and podcasting could actually be a collaboration between the two. Perhaps the perfect solution to this debate would be to combine radio and podcasts together to create something that benefits everyone.