Podcasts vs radio: what’s the difference?

Picture this: you’re sitting at home, checking the time, waiting for your favorite radio show to air. You try to catch it everyday because the DJ is hilarious. But something happens – you have to pick up your child from school at the last minute, or you get distracted by a work email – and before you know it, the show is over. Have to wait until tomorrow.

With podcasts, you no longer have to wait for (or miss) a specific time slot to listen to your favorite stories. Instead, you can search Spotify for a wide range of podcast options and play them at your convenience.

Even though the number of people listening to radio still exceeds podcast listeners, that could soon change – today, digital audio is experiencing a surge in popularity.1

With this in mind, many advertisers ask themselves: what is the difference between podcast advertising and radio advertising? What are the advantages of each? And what does the future of podcasts hold for us compared to radio?

Read on to hear our take.

The difference between podcasts and radio

Traditional radio broadcasts are broadcast live to the public over radio waves. They often ask listeners to tune in to a station at a set time so they don’t miss a thing.

Radio stations typically air different segments targeting specific audiences, from morning commuters to night owls, throughout the day. Radio content also tends to focus more on current topics and newsworthy events than on persistent themes.

A podcast is a pre-recorded show that listeners can stream at their convenience or download to listen to later. Podcast hosts choose a topic to focus on, record the audio, then edit before posting.

Podcast hosts often play with different approaches to storytelling and formatting. The MARKET Podcastfor example, provides a backdrop of ambient nature sounds recorded by a man living in the Pacific Northwest, but this “host” does not speak at all.

Since listeners access podcasts when and where they want, podcast ads tend to be more flexible than those broadcast on radio. They can also provide advertisers with a better ability to reach niche target audiences.

Podcasts and radio are interactive in different ways

Radio calls and contests – think, “the 50th caller wins a new car!” – are well-known features of terrestrial radio. But podcasts take the ability to engage with audiences even further. Spotify, for example, offers interactivity functions like polls, Q&As, video podcasts, etc.

For example, audiences can weigh in on episodes of The Rewatchables with Spotify’s polling and Q&A features. Alex Cooper from call her daddy has a “questions of the week” segment, where she takes anonymous questions and stories from her listeners. Interactions like this help listeners feel like they have a personal, one-on-one relationship with the host. According to research, 83% of podcast listeners say their favorite podcasters feel like friends.2

For advertisers, Spotify offers even more ways to interact with content, such as our recently launched CTA cards, which are clickable display units that accompany digital audio advertisements.

Estimated audiences vs connected listeners

Let’s talk about broadcast versus podcast advertising. In terrestrial radio, the listening audience is a bit of a mystery. For analytics, radio stations provide advertisers with a general estimate of their audience based on aggregate demographics and location information. Radio measurement providers collect this data from surveys, but it’s unclear how accurate the responses are.

That’s why radio ads are sometimes generic and one-dimensional: it’s hard to target a particular audience when you have no idea who you’re reaching.

But with podcasts on Spotify, listeners log into their accounts in advance, giving advertisers detailed information about exactly who is hearing their content. And more nuanced data improves the ability to create more targeted ads.

Approximate targeting vs controlled targeting

As we have seen, radio networks can only provide a rough estimate of their audience demographics. You cannot be sure that your advertisement will reach the right people. In fact, your ads could very well be running when your target audience has turned off their radios.

But with podcasts, advertisers have fine control over targeting. By leveraging the Spotify Audience Network, brands can buy spots in podcasts based on their unique target listener. And since listeners intentionally read podcasts, your ads won’t get lost in the background.

Additionally, advertisers can target much more than limited demographics and geographies. With Spotify ad studioa self-service ad manager that allows brands of all sizes to create ad campaigns in minutes, you can get data on listener interests, devices, formats, listening times, and more.

Limited listening contexts compared to cross-platform and multi-format connections

Radio tends to reach listeners intermittently. But on Spotify, multi-device users stream content an average of 2.5 hours a day.3

Podcast listeners connect throughout the day – while getting ready, working out, on the go, with friends and family, or just relaxing – and on many different devices. Research also shows that in-vehicle radio listening is down, down 6% from last year, while podcast listening is up, up 2% over the same period.4

Smarter Targeting in Podcast Advertising Drives More Valuable Audience Connections

Radio advertising is a one-to-many outlet. On the other hand, podcast ads give brands the opportunity to deliver a personalized message that is relevant to both the listener and the moment, thereby creating valuable one-to-one relationships.

While radio ads can disrupt the listening experience, podcast ads that are hyper-relevant and seem like an integral part of the podcast experience have a much more natural feel and potentially, a higher chance of conversion.

Leverage the audience insights you get with Spotify to create targeted podcast ads that will reach the right audience at the right time. To start with Ad Studio today.

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