When It Comes to Podcasts, We're All Ears
Audio content used to be limited to whatever was on the radio or in our own music collection — but not anymore. In addition to music streaming services, audiobooks, and internet radio, podcasts (a term coined by combining "iPod" and "broadcast") have transformed the way people learn, share ideas, and entertain themselves.
Greatest Thing Since Radio It isn't hard to see why podcasts have become so popular. For one thing, there's the convenience. You can listen to a podcast anytime, from anywhere, as long as you have a connection to the internet (or have downloaded the audio file to your device). The majority of podcast listeners are tuning in from their smartphones, meaning they're literally taking their podcasts with them wherever they go!
Podcasts are great for passing the time during a workout, a long commute, or while walking the dog. The topics and format are as varied and individual as the podcast hosts themselves. They can be entertaining, educational, or even dramatic. Some podcasts have gained such large followings that they're regarded as "must-listen" content, much like so-called "must-see" TV in the traditional media world.
Podcasts are Here to Stay
Podcasting is no flash in the pan. According to recent data, more than half of the U.S. population say they've listened to a podcast. While not everyone is a regular listener, nearly one third (32 percent) reported having listened to a podcast in the past month, and almost one-quarter (22 percent) said they'd listened to a podcast in the previous week. And those weekly listeners? A whopping 84 percent of them listen to more than one podcast, catching an average of seven podcast episodes per week.1
So how are audiences finding these podcasts? It turns out that people usually discover new podcasts through social media, other podcasts, and good old-fashioned word-of-mouth. That alone speaks to the quality of the most popular podcasts on the net: "Social proof," as it's often called, can carry more weight than paid advertising and build a loyal audience at the same time.
World's Best-Loved Podcasts
- The Daily: From The New York Times, these 20-minute episodes are available five days a week and will keep you up-to-date on the day's biggest news stories.
- The World: Public Radio International's daily news show connects listeners to topics from all over the world and covers some of the most interesting stories of the day.
- First Day Back: This weekly podcast tells the stories of people finding themselves after a life-changing event.
- Crimetown: A serial podcast, Crimetown takes place in Providence, Rhode Island, and covers the crime and corruption that goes all the way up to the mayor.
- Modern Love: Produced by NPR, this podcast explores love in all its facets — romantic, family, heartbreak, friendship — with readings of personal essays by famous people.
- How Did This Get Made?: Each week, three comedians watch and dissect some of the worst movies ever made.
- This Must Be the Gig: Host Lior Phillips talks to artists and industry personalities about their first concerts, preshow rituals, trends in the festival scene, and more.
Podcasts Create Community
In this increasingly "on demand" world, podcasts are becoming the medium of choice for millions of people in search of novel online content. Anyone who wants to share and communicate with the world can produce a podcast, and chances are, there's already an audience willing and waiting to listen.
FAST FACT: According to the Infinite Dial 2019 report, the number of estimated weekly podcast listeners in the U.S. increased by 14 million in 2019, compared to 2018.1
Answers to Frequently Asked Questions
Although podcasting has reached half the U.S. population, many people are still podcast newbies. If you're just getting started in the podcast space, here's some information you may be wondering about:
Q. Are podcasts free?
A. Yes, podcasts are free to download from the internet. You might want to subscribe to your favorite podcasts though, to make sure you never miss an episode.
Q. How do I listen to a podcast?
A. It's easier than you think. You can install a podcast player (like iTunes) on your personal device or go to a site like Pandora to stream your favorite episodes.
Q. Do I need an internet connection?
A. Yes and no. You do need an internet connection to download the audio file of the podcast. But once a podcast is on your device, you can listen to it anytime, from anywhere, even if you aren't connected to the internet.