If you aren’t clued in to the Serial frenzy and haven’t paid any attention to that purple, non-deletable app on your iPhone, you may be unaware of the renaissance podcasts are currently experiencing. Otherwise, you probably listened to one on the way to work. Regardless, with Kim Kardashian making appearances on NPR, podcast-based SNL spoofs going viral, and almost 50 million Americans subscribing to a variety of shows monthly, podcasts are more popular than ever and only gaining momentum.
So why has the unassuming podcast become so popular in recent years?
In part because of the introduction of the iPhone, which has allowed listeners to circumvent the once cumbersome task of getting a podcast onto an iPod. Additionally, the iPhone’s newer podcast app, along with other app options like SoundCloud and iHeartRadio, have allowed listeners to search directly and listen to podcasts without going though iTunes. Better internet and phone connectivity in cars has also allowed drive-time commuters, who constitute about 44 percent of all radio listening, to have easy access to their favorite podcasts. In fact 90 percent of cars are supposed to feature Bluetooth Technology by 2016, allowing even more listeners to tune into their favorite shows during their morning commute.
So yes, the technological capabilities are there, but why are people really obsessing over podcasts (or at least why am I) and why should they be a part of your daily routine?
1. They’re a multi-tasking machine: Whether it’s a menial task, working out (nothing gets me through 30 minutes of cardio like This American Life), or commuting, podcasts always have a way of making me feel like I’m utilizing my time efficiently.
2. They’re good for guilt-free binging: unlike Netflix, podcasts allow me to feel productive even while I’m wasting time. Why? I don’t know, maybe it’s the absence of a visual that allows me to multitask as I listen. Or maybe it’s that the content I’m listening to is of actual substance. Regardless, for some reason I don’t feel nearly as ashamed listening to 10 episodes of Serial as I do binge-watching hours of Law and Order.
3. They cater to every niche: There are shows about sports, politics, comedy, the outdoors, literature, history, design, etc. There are podcasts about such specific topics (Getting Felt Up — A Puppetry Podcast) that you question whom their viewership comprises. Needless to say there is something out there for everyone.
4. They’re great for anti-social situations: Because sometimes it’s nice to listen to someone talk without actually talking to someone.
So next time you’re trapped on a crowded metro or stuck in a bit of DC traffic check out some Delucchi office favorites including This American Life and Mystery Show. They’ll likely be a welcome distraction.