Radio and Podcast Programming

January 1st, 2016

This article was migrated from a previous version of the Knowledge Base. The date stamp does not reflect the original publication date.


Radio and Podcasting provides an effective means of reaching audiences at home or on the go. Audio programming that supports informal science learning takes the form of broadcast radio series (e.g., “Radiolab”), short interstitial programming (e.g., “Stargazer,” “Earth Eats,” etc.), and short and long format podcasts (e.g., “Radiolab: Shorts”). The Pew Internet & American Life Project developed a typology of users (Pew, 2007).They note that 24% of radio listeners have listened to music or radio shows on something other than a home or car radio.

Findings from Research and Evaluation 

Research suggests that audio programming can effectively convey STEM information and have an impact on listeners’ attitudes.

A summative report on outcomes among Radiolab audiences that were studied as part of an NSF-funded initiative explored comparative effects on live show and podcast audiences (Borland et al, 2014).  By harmoniously blending elements of both Public Understanding of Science and Public Engagement with Science approaches to informal science learning, Radiolab succeeded in broadening audiences’ interest in and understanding of science. The Discovery Dialogues project demonstrated audiences’ ability and desire to be more actively engaged and to make meaningful contributions to science. Furthermore, the project also provides a successful example of how to engage professional audiences alongside public audiences and to foster mutual learning experiences for professional and lay audiences. 

Directions for Future Research 

Possible directions for future research include the following:

  • Studies on the long-term impact of broadcast audio programing
  • Comparison of outcomes between comparable video and audio programming
  • Studies about the impact of multitasking while listening to audio programming


Flagg, B. N. (2009). Listeners’ Evaluation of Radiolab Program: Choice. Multimedia Research, May, 19. Retrieved from http:// 

Horrigan, J.B. (May, 2007) A Typology of Information and Communication Technology Users. Pew Internet & American Life Project.

Janssen, M. (2007) Can pubradio speak Gen X? NPR will try—in a.m. drive. Current, 26(1) January 22, 2007.

Johnson, A., (2010). Summative Evaluation of PRI’s The World Radio Broadcast, Science Podcast, Online Resources and Science Forum.