I was began my life without much knowledge of the radio. As a millennial, by the time I was conscious of the world around me, we were listening to music on portable devices; be it from chunky mp3 players or portable CD players. I did not start listening to the radio until I was 17 and got my first car, a tin can on wheels from the early 90s that was equipped with only a tape player and access to the public radio. This was around the same time I first started listening to podcasts. I never associated the two together, but I also never preferred one over the other. In my mind, they were two entirely separate things. Adam Ragusea highlights some of these differences, but I feel that they go way beyond what he has mentioned. Podcasts and radio are two entirely different means of acquiring information.
I listen to podcasts and to the radio both for entertainment, but for two different forms of entertainment. When I want to turn my brain off for a little bit and just relax, I listen to the radio. As Ragusea mentioned, radio shows are a lot less personal because they reach out to such a wide category of people. To further that point, the attempt to reach out to a wider group kind of forces radio stations to “dumb down” whatever information they are providing. This is a common tactic of communicative; making something as simple as possible so as to reach more people. For instance, if public radio talk shows were more articulate and deep, they would lose all their listeners who struggle to comprehend intense information (I do not mean to sound harsh when I say this, but it’s a common way to appeal to the majority). This also attributes to radio feeling impersonal; the station is reaching out to anyone who will listen.
On the contrary, podcasts are reaching out to much more specific audiences and are accessible at any time. It is because of this that they are able to be a lot more complex. When I listen to podcasts, it is because I want to think and learn about something new.
When anyone listens to a podcast, it’s not usually something they just “stumbled upon.” You actively choose to listen to any given podcast and are informed prior to as to what you will be listening to. When you listen to a radio show, it is much more spontaneous. This is why podcasts possess much more complex discussions. Those who are truly interested seek them out.
While it kind of sounds like I am ragging on radio shows, I do not mean to. The differences between podcasts and radio shows are much like the differences between apples and bananas. Sure, the two are both fruits, but the preference is really up to whose about to eat them.
Some people may like both the same, some people may want an apple one day and a banana the next, and some people might just avoid fruit entirely. This is just the same for podcasts and radio shows. The two might be in the same category of “entertainment” but this is such a wide category that neither are really comparable. The only similarity between the two is the category they are placed in.