Podcast for Your Life

Podcasts seem almost too simple to be considered a modern marvel–but the technology of the future relies on simplicity to thrive.

While shiny chrome futures with cars whizzing through the air and robots that do all of the housework and pocket knives that are can-openers but also personal assistants are fun to imagine, the fact is we are already living in the future–and it’s much simpler to comprehend than The Jetsons lets on. Aesthetically, however, the Jetsons had a lot right: the cartoon was heavily influenced by the ’60s modernistic style, with clean lines and minimalistic shapes, to better showcase the wondrous accomplishments of their gadgets. We see the same aesthetic in modern devices like the iPhone: a single button to turn the device on/off, two more for volume control, and only one for navigating the software. This is the culmination of years of decadence and excess being thrown out the window. Our modern cellphones are throwbacks to previous decades.

Podcasts, too, harken back to the before-times, specifically radio. Podcasts can be accompanied by video (a video podcast, obviously enough) or be audio-only–why is this old-school form of communication so popular? Perhaps because of its simplicity: A podcast knows what it wants to do, and it only has to make its viewers listen. This is far more appealing than turning on the television and being assaulted by advertisements for entertainment, for news, for products, not to mention finally finding whatever you wanted to watch in the first place–generally, television is inconvenient because it spends so much time interrupting itself. Podcasts are there whenever someone bothers to look for them. This is why consumers of all kinds of media turn to the internet.

This gives the podcast an advantage over traditional radio as well–it is more convenient. AM/FM radio accounted for 85% of total radio reaching consumers in 2012, whereas online streams only reached 15% [source]–but podcasts and streams are still growing. In 2006 only 22% of the American population reported knowing of podcasts, with only 11% tuning in; by 2012 45% of Americans knew what a podcast is and 29% were listening [source]. Currently 45% of Americans (ages 12+) have ever listened to a podcast. What’s more is that 67% of podcast listeners don’t mind advertisements in their content, compared to a paltry 6% who tolerate television and radio consumers combined. [source] Podcasts are going to be a great opportunity for advertisers in the future. Radio shows are already releasing podcast versions of their segments for downloads–the media is being a little slow on the uptake, but it would be extremely advantageous for news organizations to hop on this boat too.

There’s no stopping podcasts from being the next big source of entertainment, news, and socialization.

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Radio, Podcasts, Rare Positivity

Bleak as I may tend to paint the future, there is one medium of media I have hope for yet: the radio.

(I know I talk about the future a lot–but hey, it’s new. All shiny-chrome-platinum pills-for-meals Jeston-esque wonder-tastic new.)

Traditional radio is growing in popularity in most developing countries, whether people are listening to music or the news. Russia has experienced a drop in interest in every form of media–except radio; radio’s audience has grown. [link] And in the US and Europe, podcasts are as popular a form of internet entertainment as anything else; perhaps due to the versatility of a podcast, allowing either strictly audio or audio+visual content.

Radios were once the center of every home in America–now it tends to be the television, and it’s shifting quickly to the “family computer” (or personal computers–my cousins each have their own iPhones now, and they’re under the age of thirteen! I expect a laptop will be the next big gift at each of their birthdays). But with the switch from television to computer, podcasts have gained popularity quickly, and it likely won’t plateau any time soon, given the popularity of podcast-only shows like Welcome to Night Vale or Cabin Pressure. Traditional radio shows are even saving their broadcasts in podcast-style recordings, available for download.

Certain YouTube personalities, notably “commercial kings” Rhett & Link, release videos and put extra content in podcasts, able to be viewed for free. This technique allows their posted videos to be concise and funny, but keeps the integrity of their guests by allowing fans to explore further into the show and behind the scenes if they want–this keeps their audience’s attention and keeps them looking for more content, a smart business move and fantastic use of all available technology.

With statistics for radio alone being so spectacular amid the “fall” of papers and magazines, it’s certain the stats with inclusion of podcasts would be even more impressive. Fortunately, radio, with its rich and interesting history, has an equally promising future.