It’s not just you, podcasts are taking media by storm

Maybe you’re one of the millions of people who heard about Serial or This American Life. Or perhaps you prefer to listen to Stuff You Should Know and The Daily. Either way, you’ve no doubt heard (no pun intended) the listening sensation sweeping across the nation. And it’s not all hype, FastCompany reported that there were over 525,000 active podcasts with over 18.5 million episodes in April 2018.

What makes podcasting so attractive?

With all of the other options to get your media fix these days, what makes podcasting so attractive? The question might be worth asking. Why? Because other news organizations obviously are. Companies like the New York Times and the Washington Post all have their own podcast series while television shows like Bill Maher and Rachel Maddow post the audio-only versions of their shows for free online. This new trend of audio-only listening might seem like a call-back to the era of radio. However, that couldn’t be more inaccurate.

Radio required listeners to be on at particular times. Want to catch your favorite broadcaster? You had to be on the station at precisely the time in question. There was no recording shows for later consumption. Instead, podcasting takes the on-the-go element of radio and pairs it with the convenience of DVR for television.

Think of all of the other forms of media out there for consumers… there’s print media (books, magazines, and newspapers), television, movies, music, the Internet, video games, and everything you can access on your phone.

In this day and age, smartphones are generally the device of choice. Whether you’re using it at home or on the go — it’s always easier to listen to a podcast or audio book on the train then cart around a newspaper. And the numbers show it too, there has been a 157 percent increase in the number of people using their smartphones to download podcasts since 2014.

Credit: Nielsen Q1 2018 Podcast Insights

Even as US podcasting numbers have increased, worldwide recognition of podcasts remains somewhat low.

It’s pretty remarkable that forty-four percent of all Americans have listened to a podcast. That’s almost 50 percent. And another 26 percent of Americans listen to podcasts on a monthly basis. However, in Europe, podcasting is still fairly new. Media culture still heavily relies on the newspaper and although smartphones are popular, Apple products are not as prevalent as they are in the US. That means these European consumers can’t use Apple Podcasts, and are somewhat relegated to Android podcast applications.

Of course there are many Android podcast applications such as Castbox, Stichter and Anchor — but they don’t carry the same weight as Apple Podcasts. Other producers choose to use Spotify and Soundcloud, where they can post their episodes for free.

While it may not be half of the population that’s listening to podcasts throughout Europe, podcast listening in Sweden grew by 36 percent in the last two years, making the total listener population 3.3 million.

So yes, podcasts are becoming more popular and it’s fairly obvious why.

The short answer? Convenience. Listening to a podcast on your smart phone while traveling or while cleaning the house can make a monotonous task much more pleasant. The ability to download episodes and listen to them on flights and enter into a different kind of storytelling, one that is much more intimate, is a chance for reporters and creators to expand reach their listeners or readers in new and exciting ways.

Although the US is ahead of Europe in terms of podcasts’ popularity, the trends seem to indicate that their prevalence and popularity are spreading across the Atlantic. If you want to keep up with the hype, download one of the many podcast listening applications and listen to something new. You might find that you can’t stop listening.