• Emily Win

Why Podcasts are the (Present &) Future of Media Consumption

No matter the job, almost every interviewer I've had the pleasure of shaking hands with over the past six months has asked me about my podcast. In fact, 85% of the time, it's the first thing on my resume they are curious about. In the everlasting search for a more permanent job, I've found that every employer lists audio and podcasting skills as a huge bonus. 

With a boom in the podcast industry and a cultural shift in valuing information consumption, it's no wonder why smaller media companies are struggling to keep up. Even though it's a running joke that millennials "rage" to podcasts, the humor lies in the truth that there are "an estimated 86 million podcast listeners in the U.S., a number which is forecast to grow to around 132 million by 2022." Even streaming companies are competing in a rat race to configure general podcast playlists based off of interest, similar to pre-made playlists on Spotify or Apple Music. 

As for podcast creators, tools like anchor.fm are more accessible and free to anyone and everyone who wants their voice to be heard, resulting in pros and amateurs alike sharing and spreading opinions, news, information, and innovative ideas. 

While it's pretty clear to the younger generations that podcasting is the way to go, I would like to offer some reasons as to why I (an avid podcast listener and podcast creator) think podcasting is the future.

They more easily digestible 

Well produced podcasts include a variety of multimedia, enhancing the experience and allowing the listener to more fully immerse themselves in the content. Even the content itself is more accessible than, for example, The New York Times, because the language is generally conversational and meant for quick consumption. If listeners are taking in their news, radio shows, or comedy specials from a podcast, that's one less screen to look at as well. As someone whose eyes are already shot from blue light overdose, I find this to be a HUGE bonus.

They allow listeners to multitask and be hyper-productive 

Because you're a listener and not a viewer or reader, you can multitask. When you wake up you can say, "Hey Google, play BBC news" and then brush your teeth, get dressed, and make breakfast while you get caught up to speed. Podcasts allow you to be more productive and time efficient. 

They are creating trust  

Instead of a text-screen relationship to the media, listeners form a sense of connection or bond with podcast hosts because they are more tuned into the vocal nuances of the person talking. In this way, there's almost an intimacy that happens between the source and the media. Listeners can feel like they really know the person on the other end (even if the podcast is hard journalism). Because of this, advertisements recorded by the host then become more trustworthy because the listener values the opinion of the pod they already know and love. 

People are craving information more than ever 

Similar to my point earlier, people can digest more quality information faster because podcasts are very hands off. Within one commute, a listener can breeze through podcasts on news, TV recaps, broadway commentary, and sports. Not only do podcast platforms make tuning in more readily available, but it thrives from listeners wanting more information and content from their favorite shows. Like any industry, podcasts exist in a supply and demand structure. The difference is, people are demanding information, not just products. 

They provide mental health benefits (or distractions) 

I have many friends and exes alike who listen to podcasts practically all day as a way to get themselves out of their own brains. Admittedly, I've adopted a similar habit. By jumping into a lively conversation, you can remove yourself from the realities of the world in front of you. More upbeat and fun podcasts, like those that discuss movies or trends, become even more attractive to people who may be experiencing restlessness or stress. Just like a good Netflix binge, podcasts allow you totally zone out. Unlike a TV or laptop, podcasts are mobile, so you could even work out, run errands, or cook dinner while your brain stays preoccupied. 

Listeners get full control

Unlike news or radio shows where you need to tune in at a certain time, podcast listening allows the listener to have full control over the whole experience. They can start and finish their episodes whenever they please and bounce around between shows in a matter of seconds. This makes the idea of comparing news sources much easier. Consumers today are seeking sources closest to the "truth." Podcasts allow people to compare and contrast in real time in a matter of seconds. For example, my morning routine zips through NPR, CNN, and BBC's rundowns of the day. All of these pods combined finish before I'm even out the door. 

And finally, the future is queer 

I keep hearing fellow queers refer to podcasting as "queer culture." I truly have no idea why this is, but I have yet to meet a queer womxn who isn’t out in the world giving podcast recommendations to strangers and friends alike. Maybe it's because we are generally emotionally intelligent, or maybe it has to do with high correlations between queer-identified folks and mental health diagnoses. Or maybe it's because more people are out as queer. No matter the reason, the queers bring in huge podcast ratings. We are more empowered and active in the world than in any other moment in history. You're welcome, podcast industry.

Just for fun, here are some pods I'm into right now:

The New York Times' The Daily - news

To L and Back - TV/film

Queery - lifestyle/culture

Punch Up The Jam - music/comedy

On Being - spirituality

Karamo - lifestyle/advice

Bad With Money - finance/comedy

Photo by Jonathan Farber on Unsplash