I’ve been guilty of assuming that podcasts were just the boring little brother of youtube videos. Why waste time listening to something when you can find something to watch and listen too. It’s true, podcasts are inherently less engaging than video content – but assuming the something is inferior because it’s less engaging is a mistake. As part of my communications graduate program, I wrote a 26 page paper on the how people incorporate podcasts into their lives. The listeners I interviewed for the assignment provided deep insight into the power of the platform.
So here’s some cliff-notes…
Listen while you…
Because Podcasts lack a visual component they lend themselves to being consumed while you’re doing something else. It’s really satisfying to be entertained/informed while doing mindless tasks, like driving or sweeping cake crumbs from the kitchen floor. Creators don’t have to work as hard to keep listeners entertained because the listener’s attention is divided. Allowing news podcasts to present stories from multiple perspectives, and helping listeners gain understanding about topics they might normally dismiss.
Party of One
I’m a pretty independent person, but apparently, people watch a lot of TV with their friends or significant others. So when they choose things to watch they are conscious of the other person’s interests and they choose things that both of them will enjoy. Podcasts are usually consumed individually. Whether a person is listening through their cars speakers, or through earbuds at work, they have the freedom to select whatever content appeals to them. And, because podcasts cost so much less to produce than Video content, there’s a lot to choose from.
Having a friend in your ear.
Because the platform has more room for nuance podcasters are able to be a little more personal than they would be if they were in front of a camera or even behind a keyboard. It depends on your interests many of the people I interviewed benefited from hearing podcasters talk about experiences they might have in common. One of the people I interviewed had an especially poignant example after their worldview sharply shifted from that of their social group.
I’m having this panic attack because my views are so contrasting and so fresh and so jarring…I would go outside and I’d put in my headphones and I had listened to some podcasts where I knew like, OK, like I can listen to somebody who’s been here before and knows what I’m going through and I’m able to see how their views are aligned with mine and feel like I have a community. Or at least a sort of friend that believes the same thing I do.
Here’s My Recommendations:
Podcasts are amazing. Their also this weird form of media that most people have never consumed. They’re difficult to share on social media and take a minute to get into. So here are some really great episodes to get started with.
When it comes to production value Radio Lab is pretty much the gold standard. If your skeptical of just how powerful the medium can be this episode will change your mind. The creators masterfully use a choir to compare how different creatures perceive color.
Even though might put Brené on a shelf with all the other self-help gurus, Remember her information is based on peer-reviewed research, and she never intended to end up on the shelf. I’m reluctant to blow smoke in Oprah’s direction but if your looking for an emotionally warm experience this is a good place to start.
Feeling like podcasts are a little too …umm…liberal? Well we’ere back to Radio Lab, This episode tells the story of how trophy hunts in Africa can benifit the conservation efforts of endangered species. (They also have a great one about the Balloon deployed bombs Japan used in WWII)
Are you concerned about big data? This episode probably won’t alleviate your concerns, but it will at least inform them.
Looking for something a bit more casual, but still educational? Well here is a bonus suggestion that’s incredibly-self serving. I and Cassidy talk about fascinating research articles, and we add some chit-chat from people who grew up in the Intermountain-West. This episode centers on how a just a touch of lithium in a towns water supply can cut crime rates nearly in half.
If you love podcasts share this post on facebook or twitter with some of your suggestions.Here’s the last paragraphs from my paper; Because I wrote them, and I’m proud of them.
One person expressed that podcasts were similar to TV or Netflix, only different because instead of watching content you just listen to it. This comparison is obvious and logical, but I believe defining podcasts as Netflix’s visionless cousin does the platform a disservice. Podcasts have unique advantages over other types of media. They have an incredibly wide array of content available, that serves broad and niche needs. Giving people access to content that was able to inform, inspire, amuse and comfort the participants of this study, all while they performed daily functions.
We often use terms analogous to eating to describe interacting with media: binged, enjoyed, consumed. That seems to work well for entertainment-based media. But podcasts are listened to for different reasons, not to kill time but take advantage of it. It might be more effective to use terms that are analogous to relationships: listened, appreciated, motivated, and comforted. Food sustains bodies. Relationships affect lives.