While the past decade will no doubt be characterized by the rise of Twitter, Facebook, and Snapchat, there’s another form of media gaining a steady following, especially among millennials: podcasts. Podcasting, or “audio blogging” as it was called in the early days, has been around since the 1980s but took off with the rise of the iPod and versatile MP3 audio format. Since then, podcasting remains on the rise. According to Mother Jones, a third of the podcasts listed on iTunes appeared after 2014, and according to an Edison Research survey, 21 percent of Americans reported listening to podcasts monthly in 2016, up from 17 percent in 2015. The popularity of podcasts has grown for a variety of reasons.
Even more so than smartphone news or streaming apps, podcasts are appealing because they’re portable. Whether working out, doing laundry, or avoiding conversations on the subway, podcasts are the perfect tool to multitask and explore new interests while keeping up with your daily routine. Most podcasts can be downloaded for free straight onto your smartphone and then listened to at any pace without using up all your cellular data.
Unlike broadcast radio programs, which base content on age demographics or political leanings, podcasts are personal and appeal to all kinds of interests, tastes, and genres. From Gilmore Guys, a superfan podcast based off of the Gilmore Girls, series, to Reply All, which covers all things Internet culture, the creative possibilities of podcasts are endless. Sophomores Stephanie Davis and Jade Doina recommend Guys we F****d, an anti slut-shaming podcast which features comedian and MMC acting alum Krystyna Hutchinson. They agreed that “we would easily sit around and listen to that with friends as opposed to watching a movie.” According to Doina, “people think that sex should be a taboo subject, especially for women, so the podcast is really relevant these days.”
And then there’s Serial, the true story murder mystery series that set a record for the number of podcast downloads in the iTunes Store and won widespread acclaim including a Peabody Award in 2015. Sophomore Taylor Taff, a huge Serial fan, explained, “It shed light on a controversial topic while making the listener feel entertained and sympathetic toward the characters.” Podcasts allow a close relationship between hosts and listeners to develop over time, making them an ideal medium for bringing up such topics that are usually ignored by bigger news outlets.
Thanks to podcasts’ simple MP3 format and listening apps like SoundCloud, anybody with the right skills and ideas can produce their own podcast. This includes our very own Griffin Radio which, after being newly reinstated last semester, turned to podcasts to make their presence known on campus. Griffin Radio has since produced two-hour-long podcast episodes featuring a variety of segments like the advice column “Manny’s Manifesto,” celebrity and entertainment commentary “Spilling Tea with the Queen,” and music selections in “The Mix.” Club President Marchael Giles said,“I see Griffin Radio going far and becoming a place where students can voice how they feel about today’s issues, whether it’s in the world or in our school. I also want to branch out and do live shows along with the podcast.” As “the authentic voice of MMC,” Griffin Radio will continue to feature our students through a variety of platforms this semester.
As we move into largely uncharted territory both politically and in the press, podcasts are the perfect platform for in-depth discussion on our most pressing social issues. Many major news organizations have taken notice of this, like The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal, both of which have created specific podcast divisions to report on news and opinion topics. Podcasts have certainly helped older news outlets cater to our generation. WNYC, New York’s Public Radio station, specifically invested $15 million to produce podcasts like On the Media and Death, Sex & Money. As a medium that still has a long way to go in terms of popularity, it will be interesting to see if investments like this pay out in the long run. Whether you want to become a savvier news consumer or produce content yourself, growing trends in podcasting are certainly something you should subscribe to.