Streaming vs. Downloading | Should You Download Or Stream Podcasts?

If you’re using the Internet, and you speak English, (both of which you obviously do, if you made it to this article), you’re most probably familiar with the terms streaming and downloading.

But which of them is a better choice for podcasts? Should you stream your podcasts online or is it better to show more commitment and take your relationship with the show to another level by downloading it?

In this article, we’ll help you find the right answer.

But first, let’s skim through some basic definitions, just in case you are a little confused with the meaning of these two terms.

What is streaming?

Streaming is watching or listening to media content online, regardless of whether it is live or recorded. We’ve all done it: watching a YouTube video, playing a podcast on Spotify or binging your favorite Netflix show, all of these are examples of streaming.

What is downloading?

Downloading refers to saving the file to your device. This means that you can play it even if you don’t have an internet connection. However,not all the files on the web which are available for streaming are also available for downloading.

Now that we’re all on the same page, let’s go through the differences of streaming and downloading.

Streaming vs. Downloading

There are two key differences between the two:

  • A streamed file does not occupy space on your device, while a downloaded file does.
  • You need internet connection to access the streamed file, while the downloaded file needs internet connection when downloading.

So basically if you’re mainly listening to your podcast at home, there is no need to download the show and fill your computer with extra space. However, if you consider to listen to your favorite show during a long road trip, where your Internet connection is most likely to come and go, downloading is the obvious choice.

But, still, let’s consider the two options in more detail:

The convenience of downloading

When downloading a file, you exchange some of your device’s memory in return for the convenience of using the file anytime you want it with your chosen speed and quality.

This smooth experience of watching or  listening to a file without any disruptions is the main reason why many users prefer downloading over streaming.

The streamed file, on the contrary, can freeze for some minutes, and interrupt your experience. That usually happens either because of the speed of your internet connection or because of the high traffic on the website where you stream.

The safety of streaming

While downloading a file is more comfortable, it can be unsafe for your device. When you download a file, you allow it to enter your device. If the downloading source is not safe, you can become a victim of virus or malware hijacking. And let’s be honest, most of the time the websites we download from look pretty unsafe, but we still close our eyes on it, just to get the file we need quicker and usually for free.

So, if you are one of those people, it is a way better solution to listen to  the podcast online and not risk the safety of your device.

Streaming and downloading usually spend the same amount of mobile data

Intuitively, many users think that downloading will take more data than streaming. However, usually, the two processes require the same amount of data, because the functionalities are similar.

For both streaming and downloading the file is sent to the device. The difference is that when you download the file, its copy is saved on the device.And, when you want to replay some parts of it, you will spend additional mobile data for streaming it again.

Sometimes, the volumes of spent mobile data are different

This mainly refers to cases, when there is a restriction for downloading a high-quality file with lower resolution. In these cases, you will spend less data on downloading the file than on streaming it.

It’s also possible to have a reverse scenario where users can download the file with higher quality than the streamed one. That’s usually the case when you review a sample file, check its quality, and only then download it with high quality for further usage.

Should podcasts be downloaded or streamed?

In the majority of podcasting platforms, the content is streamed by default. It will even push away the listeners if they press the “play” button and the audio gets downloaded to the device without permission.

However, if users want to download the podcast episodes or even the entire shows to listen to them offline, most of the platforms will let them do so .

The interfaces and procedures for downloading the podcast might have minor differences in different platforms, but the general steps are the same:

  • Enter the settings menu of the episode you want to download
  • Download it and the file gets located in your audio library
  • Access it anytime later, even without having an internet connection

What is automatic download?

The automatic download is the function you can activate inside the platform’s settings, so that each time you play episodes of a certain podcast show, they automatically get downloaded to your device.

Enable automatic download for your favorite podcast show

If you have a favorite podcasting channel and want to skip the step of manually downloading each new episode, you can activate the automatic download function.

In Apple Podcasts, you can do so, by tapping the “More” section of your preferred podcasting show, choosing “Settings” and turning the “Automatic download” on.

Source: Apple Podcasts Support

Note: If you later turn the automatic download off in the Apple Podcasts app, it will be turned off only for the podcast show you selected.

As a podcaster, is it better for your listeners to stream or download your shows?

There is no big difference, you might think at first.

However, there is an important aspect that you should consider as a podcaster: the analytics.

Podcasting platforms should be able to track your listener’s behavior online so that they give you accurate data on how your podcast is performing.Here are some questions to ask yourself:

  • Are your listeners  playing the entire show or only a few parts of it?
  • How many minutes on average do listeners spend listening to your show?

Those, and many other questions are more likely to have answers when a listener interacts with the podcast online, rather than offline.

So, for you as a podcaster it is better that listeners stream your show and do not download it.

On the other hand, allowing your listeners to download your shows makes listening to your podcast more convenient. Even though not as informative, the numbers of podcast downloads still have a certain value. So, in the end it’s up to you to choose. The best solution would be to stream your podcast online, but still allow your listeners to download if they choose to.

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