We are facing a worldwide phenomenon that has revolutionised entertainment and digital communication. Podcasts represent the rediscovery of the pleasure of listening in an age dominated by images and graphic content. They are audio files published periodically online, which can be listened to at any time and in any place.
What is a podcast and how does it work?
The first podcasts were created in the early 2000s, their success was not immediate but exploded from 2017. In 2020, a survey conducted in Italy by the multinational Nielsen revealed that there were 13.9 million podcast listeners during the year, 1.8 million more than in 2019. A podcast is a technology that allows you to listen to audio files that are periodically updated.
In the past, it was necessary to download the audio file to your device. With the advent of streaming technology, it has become sufficient to have an internet connection to listen to the file directly on downloadable platforms on smartphones, such as iTunes and Spotify. A podcast can be listened to at any time and anywhere: at home, in the car, during sport or at work. The topics covered are very varied: politics, cooking, gossip, history, video games, reading stories, interviews, current affairs, etc.
Listeners and podcasters
The audience of podcasts is destined to grow more and more over time. Listeners are identified in an age range of around 18 to 40 years. The preferred contents are music, news and current affairs. Women are particularly interested in emotional narratives, while men mainly listen to podcasts about sports and business news. Podcasts have become a popular communication channel especially among young people, who are active consumers of digital services and sensitive to web innovations.
The creators of podcasts, nicknamed podcasters, develop content that entertains and engages the audience. The dissemination of information takes place through individuals who share their experiences, ideas and opinions with listeners, arousing their interest. This auditory-based sharing creates a sense of closeness between listener and podcaster, as the absence of a visual element engages the listener more, creating a strong emotional impact on their memory.
Companies have also recognised the potential of podcasts and use them effectively in marketing. Podcasts containing interviews, storytelling or audio mini-series have been created on behalf of major companies. The aim is to strengthen the image of the brands involved and reach more consumers in an alternative way.
Why people listen
The main reason for listening to podcasts is the desire of listeners to be informed, relaxed or entertained. Podcasts have proven to be a valuable means of entertainment and information, especially during the lockdown period due to the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020. Listeners found in audio files a moment of escape from reality, discovering podcasts that coincided with their interests. The genuine expression of the podcasters' creativity allowed for the creation of quality content that was able to engage with the audience.
The podcast format allowed consumers to choose a communication channel other than the visual one, helping to reduce the attention spans usually caused by visual media content. Unlike television, the podcast uses a purely auditory experience to connect with consumers, following in the footsteps of the old radio. Several psychological studies have shown that the mere presence of the narrator's voice produces a much stronger emotional and memory impact on the listener than a picture or a reading. Just listening allows the mind to create images in freedom, stimulating the listener's creativity and intensifying the reception of content.
The advantages of the podcast
The exponential success of the podcast is due to several factors, first and foremost its flexible nature, easily adaptable to consumer preferences. The wide choice of content allows each listener to find the podcast that comes closest to their personal interests and tastes. Another advantage of podcasts is their easy availability: a smartphone or digital device with an internet connection is enough to listen to an audio file online. Moreover, easy availability allows listeners to multitask, as a podcast can be listened to anywhere and at any time, even while doing something else at the same time.
The simplicity of creating a podcast is a key element. Usually the entertainment industry is looking for more and more complex models, but podcasts overturn this operational pattern. Editing is minimal, there is no visual support, the structure is the creator's choice as well as the content, there is free availability and easy online availability. Innovation based on simplicity has enabled the creation of a dynamic and effective communication channel, which is destined to expand further. In the future, we will hear more and more about podcasts, perhaps even preferring them to films and TV series.