With NPR pulling in tens of millions of dedicated U.S. listeners and hundreds of millions of listeners worldwide, what is appealing about podcasts? A few members of the University were polled, and the most common answers were selectable field of interest, specific guests/hosts and comedic value.
One problem with television news which podcasts do not encounter is that it can be domain specific. Most podcasts have descriptions describing the topics that will be discussed and the fields of expertise they will be delving into. This is the opposite of typical news. Televised news is a random assortment of whatever is current and popular. Podcasts can stand to become more specialized, and as a result, facilitate much deeper analysis of a topic. This allows for a much better and discursive type of show.
An unstated reason why podcasts are popular is likely format.
According to a Pew Research Center article from 2012, “The median length of the most popular YouTube videos was two minutes and one second. That is significantly longer than the 41-second median length of a local television news story, but less than the most common length of a network evening news package at two minute and 23 seconds.”
This length does not allow for in-depth conversations about complex issues and seeks to just get “buzz phrases” that will catch attention. This time crunch also forces TV hosts to typically stereotype their guests so the audience can get a faster understanding of the sides of the argument or discussion. Podcasts typically do not do this because most are laid out to be more like an actual conversations. The NPR show “On the Media,” a popular news podcast, takes this form and carries on lengthy discussions about difficult issues. It seems only natural. The move to more podcasts will follow when television news generally becomes a shallow look at any given topic.
According to a Pew Research Center article written by Amy Mitchell, Jeffrey Gottfried, Michael Barthel and Elisa Shearer, the number of people who get their news from print is falling, and as younger people are using less TV and more mobile news sources. It seems podcasts have plenty of room to grow.
According to the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety survey from 2016, “Americans spend an average of 17,600 minutes behind the wheel each year, 300 hours in their cars every year.”
How will podcasts land after self-driving cars find their way into the average Americans’ garage? It would be safe to say that a good chunk of most people’s time allotted for podcasts with shrink. This does not mean that podcasts will die, but perhaps they will have to include video animation because of hands-free driving. This seems like the obvious transition for the media, but how it pans out is anyone’s guess.
With TV dying out slowly but surely, there must be some form of news that will fill its place. Podcasts seem to be catching the younger generation and giving them something to educate or entertain themselves with while driving. How podcasts succeed after self-driving cars is anyone’s guess, but it seems likely they will include video in the future.