The Popularity of Podcasts

By: Aaron Fandel (Correspondent)

Over the past few years, Podcasts have skyrocketed to forefront of entertainment. What was once a niche is now a part of everyday life.

Podcast popularity has been steadily increasing in the past few years. According to a study by Edison Research, 44 percent of Americans have listened to a podcast in 2018, approximately 124 million people, 12 million more than last year. There have been many factors to the rise of Podcasts, proving that this industry is here to stay.

One reason many listeners decide to listen to podcasts is due to exhaustion from their screens. In this day and age, almost everything we do uses some sort of electronic device, whether it is for work, leisure, or entertainment.

Podcasts are seen as a refreshing alternative, using real human voices rather than images and text on a screen.

Rukmini Callimachi, cohost of the Caliphate Podcast, talked about the power of audio versus the written word in an interview with the NY Times.

“With audio you have the ability to be transparent about those considerations and walk listeners through how we struggle with and try to make our way through them.”

She continues by talking about how it is easier to convey first person with audio instead of text.

“The big difference for me is that it’s very unusual and somewhat uncomfortable to writein the first person. This is something you do in exceptional circumstances when the reporter’s story is important as a vehicle for telling the larger story. When you’re doing audio, the fact that you’re the vehicle telling the story is built in. That makes it much easier to inform listeners about the reporting process.

She also explains how audio has allowed her to fully tell the story of a young Canadian recruit to ISIS.

“I don’t want to give away what happens later in the podcast, but there are some really emotional moments. You can hear the trauma in his voice and the emotion of him recalling what happened. There’s a point where he’s describing something particularly awful and we have the microphone very close to his face. You hear him rubbing his hand on his beard back and forth, and you understand that this is somebody who feels really distressed, really nervous. I could write that — “he rubbed his beard” — but it doesn’t come across the same way.”

Within audio Podcasts have another industry to go up against, radio. Radio is seen as one the biggest competitors to podcasts as it also uses only audio to entertain and provide information.

Guy Raz, host of How I Built This, spoke about the differences of a podcast versus a radio show in an interview with Forbes.

“On the radio, you’re tied to a clock. It means that you often have to either extend or shorten the show to fit into that radio window. Sometimes, these edits or additions are forced. But with podcasting…there’s no hard stop. Time is endless (though you have to be respectful of your listeners and their limited time!)”

Raz also says that a podcast audience is way more devoted to the show because listeners choose to listen to the specific podcast rather than just listening to whatever happens to be on the radio at that time, no matter if it’s the beginning middle or end of the show.

“On the radio, you constantly have to build your shows based around the assumption that a listener can tune in at any moment and miss part of what you said. But on a podcast, the assumption is that the listener is there for the entire ride. It means that we don’t have to constantly ID the guest or the show because the podcast listener is able to simply look down at their phone and see the name of the guest or the theme.”

Currently, the radio industry and the podcast industry are fighting over the time of car drivers.

Historically, radio has dominated over car-listeners time, as it was mostly the only option. However, as cars are now going online, most new cars have the ability to play smartphone audio, through their car speakers. This has allowed people to listen to podcasts while they drive.

With the ability now to listen to on demand audio, many people have shifted from radio to podcasts during their commute

As interest and viewership are meteorically rising, podcasts have been transformed from two friends with microphones talking to full-scale productions.

While there are still thousands of basis podcasts available, almost all of the top ones have a budget, full-time staff, and real experience from the entertainment industry.

Madeleine Baran, host of the very popular In the Darkpodcast, in an interview with Esquire said that the staff included other reporters, data reporters, producers, and a web team. They all come together to tell the story they want to tell the way they want it.

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