COLUMN: Podcasts foster connection through storytelling

Podcasts span a wide array of topics and their auditory nature allows the individual to use their imagination, pass time while commuting and share the human experience.

Cela Migan is a sophomore journalism major at MU. She is an opinion columnist who writes about Daily Life for The Maneater.

After a long day of staring at a screen for work or class, watching another screen can cause strain on the eyes. Podcasts are a great alternative to TV or reading that can engage and soothe the ears while resting the eyes.

Podcasts are like intellectual ASMR for the soul. They can cover a wealth of topics from economics to murder mysteries to breaking down albums and their inspiration.

The appeal of podcasts is that only a recording device and mic are required to make one. Further editing software and equipment is up to the discretion of the podcaster. Individuals can go on to record their podcast and discuss whatever they would like.

Podcasts saw a 157% increase in users from 2014 to 2017, rising from 9.5 to 23.9 million users. The number of users and podcasters has only increased since then.

Podcasts also have the benefit of portability. They’re a fun way to occupy time while waiting in line, walking around campus or driving to run errands.

Shiva Bhaskar’s article “How Podcasts Became So Popular (And Why That’s a Good Thing)” for Medium argues that podcasts appeal to the public more and more due to their simplistic nature as auditory narratives.

This allows the listener to invest their time and dive deep into a topic, employ their imagination to visualize things, pass time while commuting and share the human experience.

Bhaskar references Stanford University Professor Jennifer Aaker’s work, which suggests that the human brain is able to remember narrative information “up to 22 times more than facts alone.”

Podcasts allow the listener to learn about simplified concepts in a subject or go in-depth via narrative. Either way, the stories are better retained because their format appeals to the brain.

In Columbia, Mo., KBIA offers several podcasts, including Exam, which explores education issues in mid-Missouri, and Latest Newscast, which covers the latest newscast. In total, KBIA boasts 14 podcasts available through iTunes and released throughout the week.

Other Columbia podcasts are The Ukatsu Podcast and Keeping it Relevant. The Ukatsu Podcast discusses eSports and wellness in a kid-friendly manner and focuses on creating and fostering a safe space for all gamers through online events. Keeping it Relevant works to inform students on professional and social issues in the workforce.

Spotify has over 500,000 podcasts available on its streaming service, according to Spotify for Podcasters. Apple carries over 500,000 podcasts on its own platform, Apple Podcasts, according to a post by Ross Winn on Podcast Insights.

According to Winn’s post, 50% of all U.S. homes are podcast fans. The majority of listeners are aged 12 to 34, and South Korea currently leads the world with 58% of their population listening to a podcast.

Spotify’s new feature allows an individual to share a link with someone else so both can listen to the same song or podcast together in real time. This is especially helpful today in the era of social distancing: Listen with a friend who you can’t meet in person and share the experience. This can also be helpful for couples in long-distance relationships and serve as a virtual date option.

Podcasts are uniquely personal in that they are delivered right to the ear and block outside noise. Users are able to get to know the host of the show and learn their narration style and inside jokes, creating a sense of intimacy and connection with the host.

Users also have the power to choose whatever they’d like to listen to and where they’d like to listen to it. The combination of information and entertainment has caused podcasts to rise in popularity.

However, consumption of any type of media — including podcasts — can be tiring on the brain. The brain needs silence, rest and to not constantly be processing more information than it has to.

According to professor of communication Michael Grabowski, there can be negative effects of constantly listening to podcasts in addition to consuming other media.

“Consuming information is just the beginning — our minds need time to absorb and synthesize that information, to critically examine it,” Grabowski said in an interview with The Cut. “That’s something that we do in silence by actively disengaging from digital technology and focusing on the physical world around us.”

Although it may feel like podcasts are an intellectual learning opportunity and good for the brain, they still force the brain to work and can tire it out. Instead of constantly consuming different types of media, Grabowski suggests that individuals engage in mindfulness and treat their brains to silence on a regular basis.

Podcasts are a great way to unwind and take time to learn about a new subject. With this in mind, they must be consumed mindfully like other types of media.

After writing an essay or completing difficult math problems, consider resting with a nap or some music. These activities allow the brain to rest and recharge before having to take in and process new information.

A quick internet search or some good old-fashioned browsing can help one find their podcast niche, but a few podcasts to start with are NPR’s Code Switch, Every Little Thing, Serial and Call Her Daddy.

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Edited by Sofi Zeman | szeman@themaneater.com

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