The future of digital media is here, and all you need to enjoy it is a free hour and a pair of headphones.
Welcome to the age of the podcast.
A Brief History
Podcasts – that is, audio-only shows that range from fifteen minutes to two hours – have been steadily rising in popularity over the last few years. But in that short amount of time, they've become something of a quiet mega-storm for digital media. Now, podcasters have created a new genre within digital media that fills the gaps between Youtube videos and reading.
Starting around the 1980s, it didn't really begin to take off until 2004. Since then, fans eagerly listen to creators gather with minimal recording devices and occasional music. It's the ease of creating and uploading the podcast that appeals most to listeners – with a captivating dialogue and the click of a few buttons, you can have a podcast on your hands.
The sharp resurgence in podcast popularity with Serial, a podcast devoted to telling to story of convicted murderer Adnan Syed. According to Edison Research, podcast listenership has grown steadily every year except 2013 (right before Serial). This was followed by a sharp intake, with podcast listenership increasing to over 1.6 billion subscriptions and 20 billion downloads on iTunes since it was added.
The New Frontier
There's a podcast for every kind of niche you can imagine, from entrepreneurship to storytelling. However, there's a new wave of popular podcasts that includes marginalized content creators; those who normally find themselves pushed to the margins of media and traditional platforms can now find themselves center stage in this uncharted frontier of content production. People of color, LGBTQIA-identified, disabled, and other marginalized people can create content without the constraints of traditional media.
Trendmakers will likely utilize this uptake of interest by creating more content that appeals to podcast enthusiasts. But for however long it lasts, the effects of the shift that podcast popularity has created will likely resonate with other popular forms of media.