Why podcasts are the future of radio
Last year, people rediscovered podcasts. But why?
The podcast platform mirrors that of the Netflix platform regarding television: it is long-running with a specific topic, going into greater detail designed to keep the listener listening. And it’s working: according to a USA Today piece called “Remember podcasting? It’s back – and booming.” Apple has more than a billion podcasts subscriptions via iTunes. The podcast streaming app Stitcher had 5,000 podcasts in 2011 jump to 18,000 in 2013. A new Edison Research report stated approximately 39 million U.S. citizens have listened to a podcast this month – more than ever before.
My friends in media say it’s the future of radio, and it’s hard to disagree.
“Serial” has certainly helped those numbers. A spinoff of Stitcher’s most popular podcast, “This American Life,” it’s a true crime story probing the 1999 case regarding high school senior Adnan Sayed, who was charged with the murder of his ex-girlfriend, Hae Min Lee. The weekly podcast had five million followers considering the man’s potential innocence as the story unfolded, listening to host and creator Sarah Koenig along with reexaminations of testimonies and alibis.
And so, the perfect story met the perfect format: provocative murder and detailed reporting showcasing a story that’s better than fiction because it’s real.
The show has spawned an obsessive, rabid fan base. They discuss the show on forums. They debate conspiracy theories. They even have podcasts about the podcast. David Haglund of Slate is one such podcaster.
“….podcasting is an intimate form,” he said on the show’s success in an interview with PBS. “And when you listen to them, you feel like you’re listening to a friend talk to you in great detail about the case, and that’s just gripping. “That brings it to you in a way that a TV show or a book might not.”
The communication of the story is intimate, and people consume audio in intimate settings, like in the car. Radio takes advantage of this by making the listener feel as though they are one-on-one with the DJ by telling you good morning or saying they’ve got “some great new stuff for ya,” but with new technological developments providing more options for listeners, people are no longer limiting themselves to just FM.
Podcasts utilize that same one-on-one tactic. With thousands of options to choose from, podcasts are an excellent format of storytelling that engages the listener the same way radio does, inclusion into the story, but to a greater extent. You hear and begin to recognize someone’s voice, and you can interpret the nuances of their inflections, but cannot see them. This is how the story goes from two-dimensional to interactive, and how a 1999 cold case file had millions of people playing detective with the show and public documents.
Podcasts are the future of radio because the format is ideal for letting engaging stories reveal themselves, little by little, for an audience who can’t wait to listen and see what everyone else has to say. If podcasts are the future of radio, the future is now.