Podcasts: Nostalgic or Novelty?

At the age of 20, I am a dedicated podcast listener. I remember trying to understand what the section “podcast” stood for in my dad’s earliest iPod Classic, going through mostly documentary and news-like radio shows at around the age of 7. As we know of them today, podcasts come in a variety of formats dealing with a large scheme of subjects-politics, news, fashion, education, and entertainment to broadly name a few. The voice of tone of the host, and their chemistry with the guests make the unique characteristic of a podcast series.

For me personally they can mean anything from a friend, to a source of inspiration; from a mere reason for entertainment to an educational tool. They inspire me by allowing one-on-one connection with a group of people I carefully curate that results in the impression of having my own circle of online companions – companions that do not necessarily care about click-baits nor rely on the empty entertainment value of their content. I find that there is something very special about having to listen to someone without being able to respond, making the virtue of patience appear as very prominent during the process of content consuming in the era of fake news and exhausting flow of information.

Now, you might ask, why am I writing about podcasts instead of recording one myself?

I have had attempts in creating a podcast series with a friend which would go as “ninety-nine” named after the generation of people born in 1999. It would both deal with issues relating specifically to our age group, and to those of Gen Z in a broader sense. However; after recording an episode, I had the chance to observe the difficulties of conducting a conversation interesting and compelling enough to actually have listeners. Speaking is quite literally different from writing. Writing facilitates putting your thoughts into frameworks, structured paragraphs and a certain narrative. You know what to ask and when to answer. Argumentative speaking, on the other hand, can often get messy and the intended takeaway can easily get lost. In other words, I don’t feel ready and comfortable enough to record myself, as I fear being misunderstood. Nevertheless, talking about podcasts might be a way to record my journey that would eventually end up in creating a podcast on my own.

When I started really getting into listening many episodes in different languages, I asked myself the question: what it is that I really like about them?

Is it because it feels as a relatively fresh medium enabling to consume novelty content? Is it because I’m a sucker for all things nostalgic, given that podcasts are reminiscent of the radio era? Or is it simply because they often don’t need a great amount of attention and can be easily played in the background when cleaning and cooking?

These questions bring me to my point for this blog post. I would argue that the increasing popularity around podcasts depend on multiple factors and not just one. Given that everything old, nostalgic, manual, vintage -however you want to name it- is gaining demand, podcasts can be considered as brining back the times of the radio. On the other hand, according to some of my favourite podcast hosts, they come as the next step in consuming very effortless content, without even having to look at a screen as in the case with videos and TV series. Are we bound to get so lazy for the sake of multitasking? I have been exploring this rather curious contrast.

As I already mentioned, podcasts can be easily played in the background during walking, commuting, running errands, cooking, cleaning and so on. Yet in order to actually listen, one has to pay close attention for when it comes to carefully made podcasts dealing with more serious issues, those that you personally listen with intentions to get challenged and educated. And then there is the issue of podcasts disabling your means to respond, as you have to listen to them until the very end, only to be able to leave a comment or email the host if allowed. This precisely restores our gradually disappearing abilities of being a good listener, when it has become so easy to scroll down in times when we come across something we don’t like or to fake a reaction using emojis and insincere words on WhatsApp when speaking to a friend.

So, I invite you to be an observer of your own mind patterns when listening to podcasts, if you do so. If not, I invite you to question the level of responsibility you feel towards the person you watch or listen through a device. This does not necessarily go for TV series or movies, but rather with either audio, visual or audiovisual content that is being created on an argumentative base.

What do you think the future of content consumption looks like – or rather sounds like?