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The popularity of the Podcast

Posted by Helen Kennedy - Head of Content on

With streaming still on the rise, more and more people are consuming more and more audio. But this isn’t just limited to music – the podcast is also experiencing a renaissance, with listening figures increasing by over 20% in the last year. So what is it about this unique audio format that has the world hooked?

Much of the podcast’s recent resurgence lies in technological advancements. 77% of Americans now own smartphones – more than twice as many as five years ago – making it easier than ever to consume audio content. Combine this with the modern, hectic on-the-go lifestyle, and it’s clear to see why the medium is the perfect fit for the 21st Century. At an Apple product launch in 2005, Steve Jobs predicted a time when there would be 10,000 podcasts. This figure has in face proved to be incredibly conservative – by 2015 there were 250,000 series available on iTunes alone. The sheer volume of content again owes to technology. Over time, it has become cheaper and easier to produce, meaning choice has skyrocketed.

The humble podcast – or audioblogging as it was known before Guardian journalist, Ben Hammersley, coined the term – can trace its origins back to the turn of the millennium. In June 2005, Apple added podcasting to iTunes, opening the door to a whole new world of audio content, and this opportunity was seized by famous figures like Ricky Gervais and President Bush. Despite initial popularity though, the end of the noughties looked to signal the end of the podcast too. But here we are in 2017, and more people are listening to podcasts than ever. And with podcasts like Serial and This American Life racking up millions of downloads, they don’t look to be going anywhere soon.

15% of Americans are listening to podcasts at least once a month – so what is it about the format that has audiences captivated? One of its biggest charms is actually what it lacks. With no visuals to rely on, you are left to conjure up your own imagery, which in turn creates a more intimate atmosphere. Podcasts are also more active than the written word, meaning your brain is forced to process information at the pace it’s played – perfect for busy schedules.

Podcasts arguably have a greater connection with their audience than any other format, so it’s no surprise brands are using them to increase revenue. The long-time innovator of the publishing industry, Penguin Random House, has done this better than perhaps anyone else. Penguin understood that their audience see the world through the eyes and words of their authors, so they delivered a podcast that focused on what inspired their authors. Hosted by fellow writers including Richard E Grant, David Baddiel and Konnie Huq, the podcast reflects the level of engagement you would get from listening to an audiobook. It regularly features in the top 30 charts and is one of very few pieces of branded content to receive such high regards, proving it has been an unequivocal success story.

This rise in Podcast consumption is just another way audio is taking over – proving that consumers everywhere are primed to listen.

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