Podcasts: Their potential for global influence.

By Elizabeth Jarrard and Annika Krusensten

When considering their potential for raising consciousness (or not) around the world, podcasters can carry enormous weight. Pindify is a global company with offices, employees, providers, and supporters in many countries. So we researched a number of areas around the globe where podcasts were making a difference.

New research argues that as the digital age propels globalized communication, it also spreads certain values such as tolerance for other cultures and people, and tolerant people tend to flourish more in a globalized world. Podcasting is an effective way to share ideas and values with wide audiences. We wondered with all the content out there in the digital sphere, how people go about choosing a podcast to listen to? And we wondered who are major influencers in the podcasting genre of media. We also wondered how podcasting could continue to change for the better?

The hotbed of podcasts: That one country.

The USA is a lot of things to non-residents or non-citizens. It is apparently the home of big refrigerators, sub-par jokes, weak coffee, and bland mustard, among other things. But what America does do well is consume media. The United States is also the third most populous nation in the world behind China and India (those nations combined, however, have 2 billion more citizens in their respective countries than does the United States). The most recent data shows that in 2018, 50% of American households were podcast fans. That is a lot of people listening to a lot of podcasts. The demand is high and so the competition is stiff. At Pindify, we were interested in researching which podcasters were really making it big in the United States and what they were doing to gain momentum.  

Joe Rogan is a huge name in American podcasting and hosts The Joe Rogan Experience. For most of his youth, Rogan lived near Boston Massachusetts and began a career in entertainment as a stand-up comedian and eventual television host and actor. His current podcast has gained wide acclaim as he tackles hilarious, controversial, and often darker existential topics with his guests. He has a small number of detractors but has many more fans. In 2015, for instance, his podcast generated 15 million downloads. Rogan attracts enormous names like Elon Musk and Steven Tyler to his program.

You really get to hear (and see) the humanity of these “untouchables” emerge as they answer Rogan’s free form queries. This same manner of questioning is the very reason Rogan tends to galvanize detractors who tend to charge him with having the potential “disarming” presence and platform to attract big names, without asking the difficult questions regarding some of his guest’s potentially unethical behavior. Who’s to say? Either way, Rogan is making a powerful impact and modeling just what success looks like for a podcaster.

Whatever the direction Rogan decides to go with his podcasting, his enormous sphere of influence is unquestionable.

Podcasting is gaining global acceptance as a very legitimate and compelling way to tell a story in other parts of the world as well. Its relative wide acceptance as a medium for journalism and storytelling means topics range from macabre to elevating. Why are humans fascinated with the macabre, anyway? This topic has researchers looking into what occurs in our brains. All we know is that the macabre attracts podcast listeners all over the world.

“The True Crime Hype”

There is currently a lot of hype around “True Crime” podcasts and documentaries series in Sweden, and according to metrics reflected in the popularity of Netflix and HBO’s new releases on the genre, its popularity seems to be global. Research shows the majority of “true crime” listeners are women. Some of these researchers believe it’s a form of safety-education for women, a way of informing listeners to consider what they may be “up against”. Another reason these podcasts seem to be popular could be that when the victims retell their stories, the cathartic “sense of justice” and empowerment they gain through their storytelling may help ameliorate a listener’s anxiety that horrific crimes may “go unpunished.”

In Sweden two of the biggest true crime podcasts are, “Mord mot Mord” (Murder against Murder) and “Vad blir det för Mord?” (What murder can I get you). These Swedish podcasts are primarily produced by women - and targeted at a primarily female audience. These podcasters openly talk about violent murders as “exposure therapy.” Perhaps this “exposure therapy” elicits “warnings,” or “red flags,” alerting women of the potential dangers around them.

The fascination for true crime podcasts continues to trend, and the growth of the genre may generate a continued demand for content. Social forces like the #MeToo movement may have had a big impact on the genre’s popularity and the need to talk about the violence and crime many women fear and some painfully endure.

Four of our favorite “true crime” podcast picks:

  • My Favorite Murder” - Fans call themselves “Murderinos” - American, produced by two women who take a scathing comedic approach to murder prevention.

  • “Serial” - Podcast (American). Led by host Sarah Koenig is the most downloaded podcast in history. “Serial” is considered to be an impressive feat of compelling investigative journalism, and is the only podcast to have ever earned a Peabody award.

  • All Killa No Filla” - British, led by two female comedians. Hailing from the nation that produced one of the most infamous serial killer of all time, Jack the Ripper, hosts Rachel Fairburn and Kiri Pritchard-McLean take on the topic of modern day serial killers like “The Blackout Ripper.”

Podcasts may just be the “book” of the next generation. The ease of listening to an audio recording lends itself to a completely different learning experience, even if the paperback is nostalgic, the podcast lights up the same areas of the brain. As one researcher explains,

“A good story’s a good story from the brain’s perspective, whether it’s audio or video or text. It’s the same kind of activation in the brain,” says Paul Zak, the director of the Center for Neuroeconomics Studies at Claremont Graduate University.

For more serious everyday news podcast listening, a couple more of our favorites.

  • The BBC is considered by many to be a very reputable source of world news and opinion pieces. The BBC podcast is likewise compelling.

  • With a little more of a lighthearted tone, The Crooked podcast delivers the world news in review with some great commentary.

With all the podcast content on the web clamoring for attention on larger digital platforms, why not utilize Pindify as a platform to publish your first podcast where you can monetize it? There are a number of reasons Pindify may just be the most relevant and innovative platform for content monetization. Read more about Pindify’s strategy to change the tide of current digital media platform trends here. We give you ideas about how to attract your friends and fans to your Pindify Portfolio, and how to strategize here. And finally, to get you started and publishing your own podcast, read our article that goes into detail about tips for podcasting here.

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Elizabeth Jarrard