The Popularity of Listening

There’s often a lot of talk about how the millennial generation attention spans are diminishing due to the snappiness of content and the fact that young adults now are quick to zone out of something that doesn’t catch their attention right away. Technology is enveloping us and is at the center of our attention – arguably, this is why mediums like AM/FM radio are dying and being replaced by radios that people can tailor to their own likes and dislikes (i.e., Pandora, Spotify, iTunes radio, Sirius, etc.)

But there’s a new guy in town (or, you might say, an old guy) that is gaining storytelling popularity in many realms:

the podcast.

The podcast, you ask?

Yes. The podcast.

It’s an unlikely hero, the lack of visual interest making some media critics question why people are drawn to it, but the popularity is clearly there.

Screen Shot 2014-04-03 at 10.49.17 PM

Top 10 podcasts on iTunes as of April 4, 2014

And there are definitely some podcasts to which you should be paying attention. Which, you may ask? Good question.

Podcast Apocalypse

It really depends on what you’re into, just like any other genre of media or entertainment. Podcasts range from everything to fiction to comedy to reviews to religion to fun facts. Digital Trends has a pretty comprehensive list of the best in news and politics, comedy, music, fiction and more. In 2013, The Daily Dot published an article on the rise of podcasting and how many producers of podcasts think this is one of the greatest times to be podcasting.

A 2010 report by Edison Research showed that podcast listeners are growing into more average mainstream media consumers as opposed to outliers who simply stumbled across podcasts – the popularity is clearly making its way to main consumption. Apple even launched a specific podcast app for users to listen to podcasts on their Apple devices.

Popular Podcasting

Some of the most popular podcasts are followed by a surprising audience. One of America’s most popular podcasts, Welcome to Night Vale, created by Commonplace Books, follows Cecil, a radio host in the strange desert town of Night Vale, where there are dark hooded figures, floating cats, and interns go missing on a regular basis – but somehow, it offers a comforting bit of wisdom (along with its quirky Twitter proverbs). Welcome to Night Vale, or WtNV, has become very popular among young 20-somethings, especially in the Tumblr-verse (yeah, we see you there). Along with Freakonomics radio, NPR’s This American Life and TED talk podcasts dominating the top of the charts, people are learning and listening through tons of different podcasts on a daily basis. Good podcasts get millions of listeners per episode, and it’s all about content.

So You Think You can Make a Podcast?

You can. That’s the thing about podcasting – and arguably its popularity. Anyone with a computer and a microphone can tell their own stories or talk about whatever they want to. Commonplace Books simply started talking about a weird desert town and all of a sudden, Cecil has a cult following. I think there’s something nostalgic and interesting about making a story in your mind without any effort – it’s painting a picture in a way that most millennials aren’t used to, and that makes it interesting.


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