In October 2014, Sarah Koenig of the popular podcast Serial, brought the world of podcasting to the front of American public attention.
But podcasts are a lot more than just Serial. There are an estimated 115,000 English-language podcasts available worldwide, to anyone with an Internet connection and a device capable of playing audio files. And an estimated 39 million Americans are listening to them. They’re a fun way to branch out from TV and movies if you’re looking for some entertainment.
Podcasts are an incredibly easy way to consume journalistic pieces, educational material, or comedy shows while you’re also doing something else. It’s refreshing to change up the morning radio or Spotify station and listen to interesting new content while driving, walking the dog, or going to the gym. And because podcasts don’t require your visual attention, it’s easier to keep up with new episodes than with TV shows, because you can listen to podcasts at virtually any time.
There’s an enormous diversity of topics that podcasts cover.
Diversity of Topics
Podcasts as a group aren’t defined by any particular genre or subject matter. The term “podcast” just refers to the file type—while they can technically be videos, most podcasts are audio files that are published online and available for download onto computers, tablets, and smartphones. There’s no central authority controlling podcast production or distribution; anyone can make, distribute, and consume whatever podcasts they want, entirely for free.
Because of this, there’s an enormous diversity of topics that podcasts cover. There are popular shows on comedy, history, education, religion, fitness, and virtually any other topic that someone might be interested in (for example, podcast legend Myke Hurley co-hosts a podcast entirely about luxury pens, which now has close to 200 episodes).
If you’re coming to the world of podcasts from the somewhat-more-popular realm of YouTube videos, you’re in luck. Podcasts are a great way to get more content from popular YouTube creators. Hank and John Green, Link Neal and Rhett McLaughlin, and CGP Grey and Brady Haran all co-host podcasts for their fans to enjoy.
Most of the podcast world comes from creators who don’t have direct ties to YouTube; many podcast listeners still find themselves bonding with the hosts of their favorite shows. Podcasts often take the format of two or more friends chatting with each other about the topic of their show, and the friendly vibe adds to the podcast’s entertainment value. It isn’t just an education show, it’s listening to a couple of your friends hanging out with each other.
It isn’t just an education show, it’s listening to a couple of your friends hanging out with each other.
There are plenty of podcasts that bring their listeners new information and education about a variety of topics. For example, Stuff You Should Know delivers to its listeners twice-weekly lessons on topics as diverse as campaign finance and the history of grass. Educational podcasts bring a lot more “fun factor” than you might expect. They often garner huge fan bases because of the accessible and friendly feeling that they give off. Podcasts are a great way to increase your knowledge on a wide variety of topics, while still getting huge entertainment value.
Other podcasts, such as Radiolab and Planet Money, offer long-form journalism of a type that’s often hard for young people to access. These podcasts highlight specific human interest stories or examine complex environmental or political issues through 20-60 minute journeys. They offer amusing interviews, thoughtful commentary and analysis, and a depth of journalistic reporting that doesn’t have an accessible analog in the print journalism world. While excellent long-form journalism certainly exists in the form of articles and books, the ease of the podcast’s audio format allows busy people to consume more stories about the world than they otherwise might.
Podcasts enable people to broaden the scope of their entertainment. They’re portable, free, and diverse in topic, and offer thoughtful stories and lighthearted humor for interests and tastes across the board. Find one you love today!