What’s the difference between Spaghetti and Noodles?
If you’re American, you’ll probably say no difference, right?
I’ve been wrestling, not with culinary matters but with the difference between radio and podcasting.
It’s partly because I’m speaking as part of a panel at a Podcast Day event which is aimed at radio professionals and it’s given me a chance to think more deeply about the difference between the two forms.
Radio vs Podcast
I’ve been fortunate to have worked extensively in both Radio and Podcast, in fact, I still do in both. But the more time I spend thinking about it, the further apart they feel.
Yes, both are primarily audio. But, after that, things get quite complicated quite quickly.
So, let’s step back and look at that opening question… From a distance, Spaghetti and Noodles look pretty similar, both delicious, both versatile in how they’re consumed, but, culturally and culinarily they’re pretty different.
Pasta generally is seen as more traditional, served with sauces, part of an Italian tradition that stretches back hundreds of years.
Noodles are more flexible, more versatile, and have a rich history of their own, but that doesn’t impact the wider variety of ways they’re prepared and consumed.
For the purposes of this arguably overworked metaphor, radio is a bit like spaghetti, whereas podcasts are more likely noodles…
Ask a 15 year old…
I asked my 15 year old what she thought the difference between radio and podcasts were, she asked me “Is Radio not just one long Podcast?”
That startled me as a long time radio person, but she’s on to something.
Radio is traditionally a linear broadcast audio medium. Radio stations design schedules, stack talent to best match audience patterns and depend in part on consistency and repetition to build a habit over time. The nature of radio as an industry is that the radio frequencies are generally a scarce resource, which means they are regulated and protected by Governments across the world.
Radio generally makes revenue from selling ads, largely on the basis of reach and frequency, it’s a mass appeal medium that works well to spread a simple message quickly.
So, it’s a traditional spaghetti Bolognese made by your grandmother, comforting, dependable and still quite appealing.
The Difference with Podcasting
Podcasting though is something quite different. And when you’re sitting in the radio chair, it can look pretty easy.
Here’s some things you might have heard radio people say about Podcasts…
It’s Audio. We make Audio all the time.
It’s Fun Presenters that people like. This place is full of Fun Presenters just use some of them.
It’s On Demand. We’ve got loads of previously used Audio lying around, just pop some of that online and boom, the job is done.
But that is not how podcasting works at all.
What do the Audience Want?
And that’s partly because of what the audience sees and hears. There are a couple of interesting slides below, one of which came from a RadioCentre Ireland research presentation and one of which is from the excellent Edison Research Share of Ear study.
The difference is stark.
Radio’s primary role for the consumer is to “keep me company” and to “keep me in the loop”.
That makes sense, it’s a long form / unending audio stream and it’s full of interesting social currency, news, chat, banter, topical elements and a strong music component.
So far, so good.
But when we look at what drives consumers to podcasts, it’s dramatically different.
A Self Selecting Medium
Podcasting is often called a self-selecting medium, meaning people search out the topics and areas that interest them. Consumers understand how to find what they want, they pay attention to recommendations, and they use the review systems to gauge whether something is worth listening to.
But the primary difference is that they come to learn, to be entertained and to be inspired. That makes podcasting pretty unique in terms of media platforms.
When you add in the fact that most podcasts are listened to on headphones and the nature of some of the biggest shows, which revolve around intriguing conversations, then it starts to make sense.
But, that’s all a long way from radio.
Different but Parallel
There are points of commonality, there are things that work in radio that also work in podcasting, but I think we need to be clear that we’re dealing with two very different but parallel mediums.
The exciting part is that podcasting is growing at speed, with a wide age appeal, from my 15 year old and upward. It’s seen as fresh and interesting and engaging.
From a radio point of view, we have the basic skills required, I think it just needs a mindset shift to unlock the potential of a new medium.
For what it’s worth, it’s very hard to find great podcasts made by music driven radio stations. Maybe we need to switch to noodles for a bit…
If you’d like to hear more about this and pick up on some excellent podcasting advice and discussion, the Learning Waves Podcast Day is on Wed 25th Oct and the link to register is below.
This has been the 18th official edition of the RAudio Newsletter
Just to recap, each week I’ll be taking a look at big stories in radio, podcasting and audio.
Any feedback, questions or potential topics are welcome – you can get me on Linkedin https://www.linkedin.com/in/liamthompsonconsulting/ or on Twitter @Maxliam