When I first started listening to podcasts, four or five years ago, I never thought that I would end up attending a podcast tour or even find myself listening to podcasts on Spotify. Yet, here we are, nearing the beginning of 2020, and all these things have occurred.
I went to my first showing of a podcast “tour” hosted by The Joe Budden Podcast (Joe Budden, Mal and Rory) in December of 2018. Nearly two years later, and I am now going to see them live again! In last year’s New York showing, I particularly remember Joe Budden explaining how he may have turned down a multi-billion dollar offer at a bigger corporate company, but he believes his niche tactics will bring him more success in the end. Fast forward two years later, his podcast, like many others in similar situations, have only been growing consistently and exponentially.
Podcasting has become a multi-million dollar industry that has expanded tremendously in such a short amount of time. In October of 2014, Sarah Koeing, founder and narrator posted her first podcast called Serial. It was honestly quite affirming when I found out that the very first podcast I ever watched, Serial, was actually coined as one of the most influential podcasts in the industry. Prior to its creation, podcasting was in the first of two eras — The First Era: The Pioneers (Quah). In this era, podcasting had slowly developed throughout a decade or so. Towards the end of its time, it finally began to gain notoriety and eventually was allowed on Apple for free (which was a huge stepping stone).
As we hit the year 2013, we began entering The Second Era: Boom Years. This is where Serial comes into play; podcasting had hit a stunt in listener growth between 2010-2013, but when Serial debut in 2014, listeners nearly doubled in a couple of years! In fact, the show reached “ five million by week six, and a year and a half later it has reached 170 million” listeners (McCracken). What I personally found so interesting about this podcast was that the narrator investigated the crimes themselves and put in their own input on the matter. This, in turn, would make listeners like myself feel as if they were following the narrator through each step of the investigation. This podcast features evidence (such as photographs and police reports) in order to give the audience enough “proof” so that they could determine whether the suspect is innocent or guilty as they listened throughout the season. What stood out to me while researching was that “Sara Koeing doesn’t chronicle characters, she chronicles people- and the tension between two categories produces one of the ethical dilemmas at the heart Serial” (McCracken). Since Americans already have an extreme fascination with “true crime” stories, a well produced show like Serial offers a strong appeal to a niche audience. In fact, streaming services like Netflix and Hulu often create biopics of serial-killer stories. For instance, last year, a Ted Bundy docu-series released on Netflix and had high ratings. I clearly remember seeing hundreds of tweets about the show and how well-executed it was.
Something else I wanted to talk about in my research was how influential the podcast and music streaming service, Spotify, has been for this particular genre of digital media. Spotify is already extremely popular amongst streaming users, therefore, when they come up with new phenomenon, such as microcasting, it is more than likely going to catch on. Essentially microcasts are podcasts that are usually 5-8 minutes in length. When this first started, the segments selected from podcasts were specifically tailored to fit in a playlist Spotify featured starting from June named “The Daily Drive.” For my creative project, I decided to create my own version of this playlist and I found it quite entertaining and efficient. The segments chosen to be in the playlist almost act like SNL sketches, except in this playlist, they include music to go along with the segments. I enjoyed the idea of creating microcasts because everyone doesn’t have the time to finish a podcast from start to finish which can be annoying at times. However, micro casts are just long enough to enjoy a short story, and short enough to listen while waiting for your next class to start. Quah points out that “Microcasts could well be a necessity, however, for capturing and retaining attention in the context of a playlist with dozens of other tracks.” The segments need to be expertly picked in order to ensure that only the most captivating microcasts are included in The Daily Drive. Additionally, because microcasts are so short, they have become quite popular in other related industries as well. For instance, record labels have considered using this method of media in order to tell stories about their artists that would be of interest to their fans (Quah). This form of podcasting could also probably be used in school settings in order to retain the attention from their students.
Moreover, podcasting overall has become a popular new medium used in schools and other educational institutions. As I was looking for articles to use for this assignment, I found that there was a lack of sources available. A lot of the articles I found revolved around how podcasting has been used in a classroom setting in recent years. At first, I was honestly shocked that I never thought about how podcasting could be such a useful digital medium for schools and other related educational institutions. I didn’t think that as many students would enjoy listening to podcasts about academic subjects. But then it hit me…
Podcasts probably got such high ratings amongst students because that means they can miss class and still be informed about what they missed. And I was certainly right, easy accessibility to podcasting for students raises concerns amongst faculty about students missing more class and ultimately paying less attention while physically present in class. Yet, one must acknowledge that this may be beneficial for those who may not be able to go to class; it allows students to be afforded more time to focus on their studies and potentially do better in their classes overall. Not too long ago, my mother went on one of her daily rants and she was explaining to me how she would often skip her last period in high school in order to make it in time to her after-school job. At the time, she was helping my grandmother with many bills because we were broke. Podcasting would have likely allowed my mother to attend work, while still being able to make sure that she is caught up in class and her studies.
Overall, podcasting has certainly evolved and took a 360 in the past few years (especially since 2014). From a nearly dying industry, podcasting has taken a turn and turned into a multi-million dollar industry. There are now even podcast shows that are used for listeners to fall asleep faster. The narrator reads a variety of bed-time stories which is supposed to get the readers to get sleepy. On the other hand, there are also cooking show podcasts! You probably get the point — podcasts are extremely diverse. In one of my other classes we were discussing how streaming services such as Netflix have popularized niche markets which I feel is translational to podcasting. For instance, Netflix puts out thousands of new shows and movies throughout the year in order to capture the attention of certain listeners. Similarly, Spotify made a deal with the Joe Budden Podcast which made many people subscribe to their streaming service. They found a niche market that now has to download and join spotify so that they can listen to their favorite show.
To conclude my research, I just wanted to say that I feel like more people should give podcasting a chance. Since it lacks any visual appearances, people may tend to stray away from it. However, once you start finding your own niche, you’ll likely end up falling in love with the genre. There will most likely be that one show you didn’t think would exist… maybe even an ASMR podcasts.
I hope some of you will give it a chance after reading this entire research paper.
McCracken, Ellen.The Serial Podcast and Storytelling in the Digital Age. , 2017. Print.
Quah,“A Year in, Apple’s Podcast Analytics Have Been an Evolution, Not a Revolution.” Nieman Lab.
Quah, Nicolas. “Can Spotify Be the One to Finally Get People Listening to Short Podcasts?” Nieman Lab, 15 Oct. 2019.