Lizzie James

Merkel Contributor

01 August 2020

How Podcasts Are Revolutionising Our Media

In the wake of Joe Rogan signing a $100m podcast deal with Spotify, many people are asking, ‘Why are podcasts now so popular?’

The ‘no-frills’, audio-recorded episodes are sweeping the internet and gaining traction to become the most tuned-into forms of media.

Podcasts as a medium are breaking barriers that TV, books and radio could never – capitalising on daily commuters and those hungry for long-form discussions in a digestible form.

This ‘new’ media came about 15 years ago in a discussion on the boom in amateur radio by journalist Adam Curry. In fact, ‘Podcast’ was awarded the ‘Word of the Year’ title that year.

But in the last few years, it has exploded onto the mainstream media scene, with half of the monthly podcast listeners claiming to have only been listening to podcasts for less than two years.

So, what made the masses tune in to Joe Rogan’s podcast? There isn’t just a straightforward answer.

Joe Rogan’s first podcasts were in Q&A style while he waited backstage at his comedy shows. After gaining the traction he needed, he upgraded his studio and equipment.

Since then, he’s interviewed every type of person under the sun – politicians, authors, martial artists, and astrophysicists – there’s content for all 200 million of his monthly listeners.

Who’s Listening?

The podcast industry has become an ideal intellectual and engaging form of entertainment. Heavy listeners clock most of their podcasting hours away from home due to the ever-growing accessibility of smartphone streaming.

What’s encouraging is podcasts’ universality as demographics show an almost equal split between the sexes.

They attract the wealthiest and most educated among us. Listeners are 45% more likely to be college-educated. They have a 45% likelihood of being an HNI (High Net-worth Individuals – those with an annual household income of over $250,000).

Like with most growing trends, the younger generations are pioneering podcasts too; 67% of the podcasting audience is between 18-44 years old.

Are the youth onto something? It would seem so.

Finding a Hidden Market

Stimulating conversations, honest intellectual discussions and comedic banter are only half of it, the power of a real podcast lies in its medium.

Long-form content on-demand is a neglected format, on the assumption that people don’t have the attention span to tune into it for over two hours. But the ad breaks on commercial TV timed debates lacking depth and bite-size Q&A segments all leave something to be desired – this is where podcasts triumph.

With no real-time limit imposed on them, hosts and guests are free to have meandering conversations without the harsh spotlight of broadcasting.

The availability to edit and upload post-recording, or live stream the content also means there are no limits on production.

Speaking of limits, there truly is content for everyone. Countless genres, voices and styles – the most listened to being podcasts on society and culture, closely followed by business, news and politics, comedy and health.

Nowadays, the majority of podcasts can be both streamed online and downloaded for later use.

Hands-free and no visual screen-time necessary, podcasts are, above all, accessible. Whether it be while driving a daily commute, in the shower or cooking an evening meal; popping on an episode can turn the mundane into an opportunity for entertainment and education.

Tune in or tune out, as you please.

Audible Explosion

There’s been exponential growth in the podcast industry. Currently, there are almost one million active shows on iTunes alone, with just over half of all podcast listeners using the platform.

A staggering rise (up 1,000%) in podcast advertisement revenue has been recorded in the last five years – from $69 million in 2015 to $659 million today. It’s no wonder new (and old) businesses are joining the podcast wave.

As a cheap and easy method of content creation, anybody can build their brand and market their business through podcasting. In fact, a podcast’s long-form content is multipurpose – creating the opportunity to take multiple snippets from the episode to post over other social media.

With free streaming services like SoundCloud and YouTube, it’s never been easier to upload podcasts to the internet. And podcasts don’t have to high spec either. Many creators need only invest in affordable mic-equipped headphones or use their smartphone to record.

Podcasts have uncovered a vault of potential. Boasting versatility and low production appeal it’s hard to imagine that podcasts won’t continue to become an ever-popular medium during this decade.