Increase in podcast listeners proves radio is not finished yet

Alex Lisa | Staff Writer

We thought video killed the radio store, but the once-dominating field of entertainment may be making a comeback.

Podcasts have become the modern equivalent to radio, despite only being open to the public eighteen years ago. The term “podcast” was used because they were originally only available on ipod devices, but they have since spread to the iTunes store, YouTube, and apps such as Pandora and Spotify. While they are nowhere near as popular as television shows, they have officially surpassed the use of radio, and viewership is growing at an average rate of 21 percent every five years. The reason for this resurfacing of audio-based entertainment may at first seem similar to nostalgia, according to regular viewer Wrynn Boucher, but he said the true reason is different.

“Some people don’t want to have to watch their entertainment all the time,” Boucher said. “I actually listen to the Night Vale podcast when I do other things, like I’ll do it instead of reading, I just lay there with my eyes closed and listen to it. When I need to take a break from homework or something, when I need to relax, podcasts help me relax more than tv shows do, because they’re less sensually demanding.”

Advanced Placement United States History teacher Darin Little said he has also grown to appreciate different podcasts and prefers them to other types of media because of their accessibility.

“Radio tried to hang on for a while with online radios, but I personally, like to choose what I’m listening to,” Little said. “For a lot of people who listen to music, they’ll make playlists, but I’ll listen to podcasts when I’m working out or when I’m home alone.”


Graphic by Ryan D’Souza.


In the past, Little has used podcasts for the last unit in his class, in which he teaches students how to build their own histories.

“I came across the Tim and Brian Knight podcasts when I was reading and talking to people about leadership strategies, and since we used to have a bit of a lull at the end of the year, I figured I could give (the students) an opportunity to have a bit more personal of a project,” Little said.

Another teacher has found a way to use podcasts in the classroom on a consistent basis. AP Spanish teacher Rodney Stewart said podcasts allow his students to have immediate access to a means of bettering their communication in another language.

“In the earlier Spanish classes, students improved their speaking, conversation skills with listening recordings, but I think podcasts are more interesting for them,” Stewart said. “They’re more engaging, I mean they’re meant for entertainment, and students can use a specific podcaster to find another they might like listening to. Ultimately, it gives them the option to make this a somewhat regular outlet to listen and learn, without being required to do it in the classroom.”

While availability plays a large part in podcasts’ popularity, what some would argue is a larger factor are the specific ideas that can be explored better in a podcast than in another form of media. Little said he enjoys podcasts over radio or music because of the potential they have for depths in ideas.

¨A podcast picks an idea and goes into it, instead of what a lot of radio stations do where they have a general topic and they branch out with it,” Little said. “The fact that a podcast has the precedent of lasting for a half hour, or an hour, and you can pause it and come back to where you left off, it is much easier to explore a concept. The fact that it’s accessible on our phones has let it grow.”

Boucher agreed, saying that the thought behind a podcast is much more interesting to listen to than what makes up a typical news of sports update.

“I’ve been listening to the Night Vale podcast for about two years, and I like the ideas behind it much more than television,” Boucher said. “The podcast spends its time talking about abstract concepts. A desert community where an outside government controls everything, and those inside aren’t supposed to know, but they do. The hypothetical explanation ‘everyone must be mourned when they die. If someone dies and there’s no one to mourn them, it’s assigned to a random person, which is why you’re sad for no reason.’ Things that don’t have to do directly with real life because they’re clearly fiction, but make you think about your life anyway.”

Another reason Boucher prefers podcasts, and thinks the idea of radio survived through podcasts, is because of the potential for personalizing them.

“A character in the Night Vale podcast is Cecil Palmer, he’s sometimes the one talking ‘to’ the audience, and he has no finite description, like you have no clue what he looks like” Boucher said. “And it’s really cool, having a character that can be any color, any description, the emphasis is put on his personality. That way, everyone who listens can picture things a different way, and it becomes your story. That’s something I love about listening as opposed to watching. When you watch something, they tell you what things look like. But Cecil won’t look the same to me as he does to you, Night Vale’s town setting will look and feel different to me, no one person’s experience is the same as any other person’s.”