Podcast listening is rising sharply though many people still find podcasts hard to fathom. On the one hand podcasts’ ‘long form’ story structure doesn’t fit into some people’s social media consumption habit filled with memes and GIFs. Or, they tend to be dismissed as too mundane, given how many ‘vlogs’ (video blogs) bubble over with rants and risqué material guaranteed to harvest clicks. There is, however, a wide chasm between these two. Plenty of gaps being filled by experimental podcasts. Atlantic magazine has ‘The Experiment’ to do a deep dive into the culture and politics. Slate, in 2016 began what it called a ‘rolling podcast’ style of delivering fresh content around the elections, as did the New York Times’ podcast ‘The Daily.’ While these niches await proper nomenclature many podcasts have mined the gaps that the media were once reluctant to invest in.
DESPITE THIS, DID YOU KNOW that 55% of Americans have listened to a podcast? The listener profile of the growing podcast audience is near-evenly split between men and women: 51%: 49%. Here’s another surprising little stat: Listeners over 12 years of age listened to podcasts for six and a half hours a week! That’s from a study of 1,500 people in January and February 2020, by Edison Research and Triton Digital. Worth reading the full report here.
My hypothesis is that podcasts are lighting a fire under the media, giving rise to a new journalism. The climate couldn’t more right for it, with people cloistered in make-shift home offices, or tired of the formulaic story arc on the evening news. There’s also the smart speaker set, who can listen to something different while making coffee, or doing laundry. The term ‘New Journalism’ isn’t new. In fact, it was used in the Nineteen sixties and seventies when journalism was invigorated by fiction writing techniques. The Britannica describes it as a genre that emerged when writers “immersed themselves in their subjects, at times spending months in the field gathering facts through research, interviews, and observation.” Sounds a lot like some of the podcasts mentioned above, and the one that follows.