Do You Listen to Podcasts?

December 5th, 2017   |  

I ask people this question a lot. Several times, I’ve found myself chatting with someone and a comment made relates to something I’ve heard. I share my knowledge, and my conversational partner usually wants to know where I learned it, so I ask, “Do you listen to podcasts?”

I’m surprised by how often I am told they don’t, and I’m knocked out of my chair when they ask, “what‘s a podcast?” This happens more than you’d expect. Simply put, a podcast is talk radio but on demand. The podcasts vary in length and subject–topics range from comedy to current event podcasts, and there are even knitting podcasts. You can stream and listen to them on all internet devices, as long as you have an audio player, and they can be paused and replayed as you wish.

There are several podcast players available, but I personally prefer the Apple podcast app on my phone or the built-in podcast player in Spotify when using my laptop. I find that both of these platforms are smooth players with simple interfaces that offer the ability to subscribe to my favorite shows.

Part of the appeal of podcasting is that it is free to listen to. Podcasts began in 2004 when Adam Curry and Dave Winer created them. By 2016, 67 million Americans were listening to podcasts monthly, and 42 million listened to them weekly. It is tremendous growth, and there are no signs that the growth is slowing. Which leads, naturally, to the question: Why SHOULD you listen to podcasts?

  • Learn New Things: As mentioned above, podcasts come in all different lengths and on all sorts of subjects. There are experts in their fields doing long form interviews about science, quickly digestible 25 minute shows, and my personal favorite, Dan Carlin’s Hardcore History, a 4-6 hour podcast that is posted about 4 times a year and takes a deep dive into a historical event. All of these shows will open up new ideas, and challenge you in new and interesting ways while giving you great “did you know” facts for your next cocktail party.
  • Optimize Your Time: Do you have a long commute? Spend time everyday doing chores? Use that time to listen to a podcast. I personally find that my commute feels shorter, and I am calmer in traffic, when I am engaging with a podcast. I try to keep it light in the car, often listening to The Tony Kornheiser Show on my way home.
  • Entertainment: As my choice of commuting podcast demonstrates, podcasts don’t always need to be heady. There are many great, entertaining podcasts out there. WTF with Marc Maron is a show where comedians and celebrities talk with the host, and in 2014, Serial, a true crime documentary series, was the talk of the listening community because of its gripping storytelling.
  • Feed Your Hobby: This is what got me into podcasts. I love comic books and became fascinated with what went into making them. I found dozens of shows devoted to comics, and amazing interviews with the people who created them. There seems to be a podcast for almost any hobby, and they can add a new depth of understanding to the things that you love!

Podcasts allow us to interact with the world and learn in a new way. They can make us smile and cry. They can make us more empathetic to our fellow people and remind us of what is good. You should give them a listen, if for no other reason than the next time someone asks; “do you listen to podcasts?” you can say, “yes.”

From 2003 to 2016: The Astounding Growth of Podcasting [Infographic]

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