A slower and more niche medium, podcasting is reshaping the way news is consumed.
In the years following the pandemic, the landscape of podcasting has undergone a seismic shift. A study conducted by the Nieman Lab found the number of new podcasts launched dropped precipitously, falling by nearly 80 per cent between 2020 and 2022. This startling decline in new podcast creations has left many questioning the state of the medium, wondering if it has transitioned from a gold rush into a more mature market. While the surge in podcasting during the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic was substantial, the subsequent drop in new shows and episodes suggests a market favoring ongoing, long-term content rather than limited-run productions.
Precisely because we are in an era of endless scrolling and perpetually refreshed newsfeeds where the estimated reading time written under headlines determines the worthiness of your read, I believe the future of journalism is in audio—more specifically podcasting.
Audio journalism refers to journalism that is done via the recording or transmission of voice on the radio, television or internet. Audio has been an important component in journalism since the invention of the radio. I think audio journalism, in particular podcasting, is a medium that will grow as essential sources of news, storytelling and opportunity within local communities, even if the frenzy of our daily lives and the rapid flow of information has made it difficult for the ordinary citizen to keep up.
In my opinion, podcasting embodies democratic media creation and consumption. In his work, Silvio Waisbord explains that in the digital age of journalism, we’ve witnessed a profound shift in the dynamics of news dissemination. Historically, news resembled a top-down pyramid controlled by a select few. Today, it has evolved into an egalitarian landscape where anyone can participate in sharing information. I think this transition from vertical control to horizontal openness and equality is embodied by podcasting, and will lead to more sustainable journalism.
Podcasting will thrive because audiences want content on a smaller scale that resonates with their communities. Katerina Eva Matsa, the director of news and information research at the Pew Research Center, highlighted that people are now making deliberate choices in their selection of social media platforms for news consumption, often driven by their personal identities. This shift indicates that individuals are not only seeking factual information, but also a sense of community through their news sources.
I feel that podcasting offers a more immersive and detailed approach to understanding current events and issues. Often readers don’t delve deeper than headlines, which can contribute to the spread of fake news and misinformation. Recent data from the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism shows that only 51 per cent of consumers who “read” an online news story actually read the whole article, while 26 per cent read part of it and 22 per cent only looked at the headline or a few lines.
In our hectic daily lives, where we’re always on the move and easily distracted, podcasts are becoming the go-to way for people to stay informed while doing their everyday tasks like commuting, working out, or doing chores. It’s like having a personal news companion, making news consumption more personal and accessible.
As trust in local news rises and the focus shifts from reaching large audiences to nurturing communities, I believe podcasting stands as a vital and enduring medium shaping the future of journalism.