Podcasts are a phenomenon of the 21st century. Since its development in 2004, podcasts have been right at our fingertips for years. Many listeners choose to hear their favorite podcasts while doing other activities, such as cooking, driving, and house cleaning. In the U.S. alone, as many as 55% of Americans have listened to a podcast – up from 51% in 2019, according to Podcast Insights. There also are millions of people listening to podcasts around the world.
And the number of podcast listeners keeps rising every year.
That begs the question: why are podcasts so popular? It’s no secret that our world is dominated by visuals and technology. On social media, for instance, nearly all pieces of content tend to be visually-based, whether it’s a high-quality image or video. So how do podcasts manage to compete in this highly visual culture?
Here a few reasons that may answer your questions:
- Podcasts make multitasking easier. One of the biggest reasons podcasts are popular is that they allow audiences to multitask. Because podcasts come in all lengths, listeners can enjoy their favorite episodes that keep them engaged while they perform another activity. Edison Research, for example, reports that most people listen to podcast episodes while in a car, walking, or working out. This means that many listeners are doing at least two or three things while also listening to a podcast. The report also found that other activities listeners do during a podcast include housework, cooking and baking.
- Podcasts help listeners stay updated on current news and events. Daily news podcasts are a growing market in the podcast world, currently dominated by prominent news and media outlets like The Washington Post, The Guardian, and The New York Times. In fact, the New York Times’ podcast “The Daily” reaches at least 2 million listeners per day, which is an impressive but unsurprising feat. Apart from comedy, news is the second most popular podcast topics that people prefer to listen to.
- Podcasts are very entertaining. Carrie Ryan at Forbes says it best when she writes, “one reason podcasts are so popular is that the format is uniquely [suited] to fit into our busy lives. Any topic you’re interested in? You’ll find a podcast dedicated to it.” Because of the vast array of podcasts available, listeners are constantly tuning in to their favorite episodes. Along with learning about new topics and staying updated on current events, listeners also pick podcasts that entertain them. Whether it’s food, music, relationship advice, or true crime, there are so many podcasts out there that caters to the interests of every person.
- Podcasts are simple to create and produce. A special thing about podcasts is that anyone can do it, as long as they have the motivation and creativity to do so. Most podcasts start out in basements or kitchens, and with time, grow into highly produced shows. Of course, even though podcasting is “simple”, you need to understand that it’s an intimate experience. This means you need to place care and detail into every episode so that your audience enjoys the topic you’re discussing. And depending on the topic, you’ll need to make sure that you’re researching correctly by using reliable sources for the information you’re putting out into the world.
- Podcasts come in different formats. Numerous podcasts have similar topics but they are created in varying styles, such as interviews, live conversations, prerecorded story-telling, and more. It all depends on what each listener likes or what they feel like listening to at the moment. Because of the variety, podcasts have a higher listening rate. For example, according to the What’s New in Publishing (WNIP) Insight Report, “data from iTunes’ podcast analytics tool suggests that most podcasts are listened to for at least 90% of their duration.”
- Podcast episodes can evolve based on feedback. In order to be a successful podcaster, it’s important to understand who your audience is. This involves some research, taking into account the type of content that your audience consumes, asking for their feedback, and finding a niche for your brand. As your podcast grows, you can implement feedback and other data found about your audience into newer episodes. You can also invite highly requested guests or switch your format accordingly, doing this allows listeners to see that their opinion is valued.
- Podcasts build community. The most popular podcasts have a loyal fanbase that engage with them on social media while waiting for new episodes to be released. The type of engagement that these podcasters receive helps them sell products or merchandise, keep an active social media presence, and host fun events or groups with their audience. Many listeners who listen to podcasts are also on social media so it’s easy for them to follow and share the podcast on their social handles. It also allows listeners to talk and discuss episodes with others, helping facilitate a community for your podcast. All of these factors boost the popularity of podcasts, making them highly enticing for all listeners.
Although the podcast industry is still young, it is rising to a whole new level that will bring many opportunities to brands and audiences alike. In the next few years, we may see newer pieces of content and innovations that break new grounds along with the technological advancements set for the future.