Should you be listening to podcasts?
If you want an easy way of digesting news while walking, exercising or commuting, yes.
If you like to be entertained, whether by comedy, fiction or documentary, while working or commuting, yes.
If you just want a form of media that won’t take too much effort to consume, yes.
So, here’s where you start, either download an app or search for podcasts on the Internet. Let’s explore the first option. Apps make podcast consumption easy, as they usually have categories for you to choose from and a search bar that’s pretty easy to use. You’ll hear a whole lot about paid apps or services, but in my five years of listening to podcasts, never has it ever been necessary to pay for a podcast app. I’ve contributed to a number of podcasts that I support, but there are just too many free podcast apps that do what they need to do well, which is to help you curate podcasts and your subscription.
I use Castbox, and that’s pretty much it. There are ads, of course, but they have never diminished the experience of accessing podcasts or listening to them at all. It’s just not necessary to pay for an app, even ones that promises to remove all manner of ads anywhere. You can search for specific podcasts using certain keywords, and it will give you all the top podcasts in that niche and some more. I don’t know how it works if you pay for a podcast app, but for most people, this is enough. From here, you can be on your merry way and listen to as many podcasts as you want.
When using the Internet, it rather diminishes the podcast listening experience, but only to a small degree. For one, you don’t have an app to help you curate your podcasts. You have to search for them manually, and if you’re new to podcasts, looking for podcasts on the Internet isn’t the best first step. But, if you can give yourself five minutes to look for the best true crime or mystery podcasts, you should find what you’re looking for. Listening in your laptop may not have the convenience of listening in your phone, but to people who likes listening to something while working, this is a good option (especially if you don’t want to use a chunk of your data in one sitting).
The Problem with Quantity
One of the qualms of new listeners is that there are too many podcasts. On one hand, it’s true. Even in the infant niche of true crime podcasts, there are just so many shows. After the boom of Serial, there was an avalanche of podcasts looking for their own Hae Min and Adnan. But to understand why there came a sudden interest in unsolved cases, try giving Serial a go. The pacing is good enough to get your heart beating a little faster, and host Sarah Koenig sounds genuine. By the third or fourth episode, you’ll realize that this is happening in real life, which adds to the appeal of the show. To more avid listeners, they’ll probably pinpoint what it is that they like about the show, whether it’s the crime itself, the mere act of breaking the law, or the way an outsider can influence a cold case.
You can also try circumventing the quantity conundrum by focusing on one network, or even one podcast at a time. NPR and Gimlet are well-known networks famous for their quality, so you could start there. Slate is good for the politically inclined. If you’d like to start with independent shows, there are many. The Joe Rogan Experience is probably the most famous independent podcast right now, and the interviews (and interviewee) are never a miss. Two Up’s Limetown will sate your taste for fiction, and they recently released the show’s second season.
You’re never short of Best-Of lists, either. One quick search in Google, and you’ll find several collections of the most listened or most intriguing podcasts of the previous year. If you know your interests, you need not be lost in the world of podcasts. Much like adventuring, you start at one point and make your way from there.
What Else Do You Need to Know?
Do you need to know that in China, the podcast industry generated $7.3 billion? Do you need to know that there’s around 120,000 podcasts that are currently active right now? Do you need to know that podcasting is more popular in South Korea than it is in the United States?
To casual listeners, and even old heads who have a hundred or more subscriptions, none of these are important. At least, they aren’t as important as other internal developments in podcasting.
One very admirable quality of podcasting is that content creators make it easy for people to consume ads. As storytellers, content creators know how to weave parts of the podcast that aren’t integral to the story, such as ads, as part of the experience. An even better thing that’s happened is that ad companies decided to play ball with content creators because they are so good at delivering ads. Two cases of ads being important to the show is in Sandra and I Was There. The former, a show about The World’s Most Intuitive Virtual Assistant, director Mimi O’Donnell integrated ads into the storyline. According to O’Donnell, she loved having a say on how the ads were delivered. In I Was There Too, the listeners requested for the ads to come back because they were removed once the show was added behind the paywall of Stitcher Premium. They were also very, very funny.
What you also need to know is that you can get lost in the world of podcasts because the quality and variety is endless. Whether it’s fiction, comedy or documentary, there are probably several podcasts that discuss the same thing but all would sound refreshing in their takes. More than that, podcasting allows controversial figures, such as Ben Shapiro and the hosts of Chapo Trap House, to voice out and elaborate their points.
Podcasts saved radio, but maybe, it’s not really their purpose in the first place. Maybe podcasts are meant to teach us new things, make it easier for us to digest information or provide us a new medium for entertainment. For now, it’s hard to know what podcasts are and what they will be. But that’s a part of why the culture is so brilliant. It’s scattered, but everything and everyone is welcome to join in on the fun and discussions.