According to the Pew Research Center, only half of the American population has ever heard of the podcast phenomenon that’s slowly taking it’s place towards the top of the entertainment world. Only 17 percent of Americans have ever even listened to a podcast, according to the same study conducted by the Pew Research Center. But they’re missing out on an important new forum for storytelling in the modern technological age.
Smartphones Have Boosted the Rise of Podcasts
Despite the fact that podcasts would seem to indicate a kind of throwback form of entertainment, harkening back to the days of serial radio programs and audio storytelling, it’s been the rise of the smartphone that’s brought about the popularity of the podcast. Smartphone owners can download an easy-to-use podcast app, so that they can subscribe to their favorite podcasts and listen to them on the go.
Thanks to the smartphone, everything that was annoying or inconvenient about audio entertainment has been eliminated. You don’t have to carry around cassette tapes or cds to listen to an audio book… you simply press play and your phone will stream it. You don’t have to hang around a radio at a certain time of day to catch your favorite stories… you can listen to them anytime and anywhere.
You always have a podcast in your pocket, and it’s more convenient than carrying around a Kindle for travel-friendly entertainment. People listen to podcasts at the gym, in the car, on the bus, or while they’re cleaning the house. It’s engaging to the point of completely engrossing, but also hands-free.
Podcasts Present Timeless Storytelling with Modern Convenience
Podcasts are a growing niche. And they’ve provided the perfect format for storytellers to get truly creative. There are podcasts on every subject, but they have one unifying component: they all rely on the ageless art of storytelling in order to connect with their listeners.
With the rise of television, people found that the traditional storytelling methods weren’t as necessary when you could simply show the viewer visually. But podcasts pare it back down to the roots of storytelling.
The growing popularity of podcasts is due in part to the lack of restrictions placed on this new storytelling artform. Podcast hosts will produce anything from 1940’s-style comedic stage show/radio dramas featuring famous guests (“The Thrilling Adventure Hour”) to informational shows that blend science with music and storytelling (“Radiolab”).
Several podcasts have even hit cult status, and have been responsible for many people being introduced to the concept of podcasts for the first time. Last year, “Serial” took the world by storm, and shattered records in the iTunes store. Listeners were hooked to the non-fiction storytelling that left strangers discussing the true crime podcast on the commuter train.
When podcasts have live recordings of their shows, hundreds of fans will turn out and scream like they would at a rock concert. So why aren’t more people taking notice of podcasts as a kind of modern storytelling?
Artists within the storytelling community now have a unique opportunity to engage listeners across the world at little cost. There are audiences that are sitting quietly, waiting to listen.