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24/04/2019 Communication Science news and articles

My Podcast and Me: The Intimacy of Podcasts

Podcasts; the substitution to TV and radio among millennials. However, the statistics on podcasts listeners are respectively low in the Netherlands. Why are podcasts popular in other countries? And how come that we stay behind?


Podcasts are one of those inventions that feel like necessary transitions to a more modern lifestyle. The inevitability of streaming episodic audio files comes from both the buffet of online content available and the fast decline of media content only available offline. It wouldn’t be a controversial statement to claim that millennials aren’t avid TV watchers and, as such, they aren’t radio listeners either. In this environment, podcasts come as a replacement for the decaying radio, making for an easily personalisable listening experience when a substitute to video is needed.

The Rise of Podcasts
Today, the amount of choices available to the average listener are endless, as 2018 offered a surprising 600.000 different podcasts. People are listening more and more; with South Korea, Taiwan and the United States topping the charts for the amount of people following podcasts. On the sample used by the Reuters Institute for their Digital News Report of 2018, out of all people under 35 years old, just under half listen to podcasts instead of radio.

It must be noted, however, that in the Netherlands these numbers are significantly lower as only about 18% of people do listen to them. This is where it becomes interesting, as there is no established reason to why this is the case. The Reuters Institute hypothesizes that it’s due to Dutch people not driving as much as, for example, Australians. Now, I don’t know about you, but I have rarely seen people bike without earphones, which makes me unlikely to believe this. My reflection is that it may come down to radio loyalty, smaller productions and unsuccessful promotion instead. Or, additionally, they may just not know about Medium’s own Podcast yet.

The Reason of Podcasts
However, you may have noticed how podcasts are more talked about than they’ve ever been. One phenomenon that has been taking the internet by storm is what I call “youtuber podcasts” where already established channels on youtube start podcasts as side projects. This may be due to the fact that podcasts require a comparably different amount of labour but still guarantee videos (and income) coming out when necessary.

Just a voice talking directly inside your ears

The Intimacy of Podcasts
But why are people, even when they’re only 18% of the population, listening and watching these podcasts? Part of the reason may be explained by intimacy, as Olly Mann, co-host of ‘Answer me This’ explains. The difference between radio and TV is the level of intimacy, as radio often feels like someone talking directly in your ears. Podcasts are in this context even more intimate (“intimate plus”), as it is your personal choice, and more often than not, is just a voice talking directly inside your ears.

Now is where it gets preachy, as I do believe Dutch people are getting warmed up to the idea of podcasts which could definitely increase their popularity. In case this article has sparked in you the wish to have someone speak to you and ease the inevitably lonely human condition, here are some tips. While podcasts can also be your local old white man talking about stuff you really don’t care about, the choices are truly endless. Whether you enjoy some well timed genital humour (Recommended: Tiny Meat Gang on Spotify), some creepy fiction (Recommended: Welcome to Nightvale on iTunes) or are just looking for a fun way to improve your dutch (Recommended: Echt Gebeurd on Spotify), podcasts may have something more in store for you than you think!

Cover: Unsplash/ Simon Abrams / Final Editor: Ivo Martens

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