Podcasts have come a long way since their birth in the early 2000s.
Since then, presidents have appeared on and utilised them, people have been sued over them, and you can pretty much find one on any topic under the sun!
Studies from Pew Research found that in 2019, the number of Americans aged 12 years old or over that had listened to a podcast was 51%. Or as Convinceandconvert.com explained: 144 million Americans have listened to a podcast (20 million more than last year). Within that, nearly one quarter of Americans (22%) listened to podcasts at least weekly.
National Public Radio (NPR) announced that the average weekly users who download their podcasts rose from just under 5 and half million in 2017 to just over 7 million in 2018.
And whilst long and extended podcasts still exist and are extremely popular, recently, podcast has seen the development of short and regularly updated episodes.
In response to the accelerated news cycle driven by the immediateness of technology and social media, and in a bid to stay relevant, some news organisations, such as BBC in the United Kingdom, have moved towards more intensive podcast models.
The BBC for example started a new podcast called BCC Minute in 2015 aimed at news and information hungry young-people. The podcast is updated twice an hour 24/7 by a team of young English journalists.
“BBC Minute has turned News on its head. Young people are information hungry, but only if it’s done in a way which matches their own energetic curiosity…”Stephen Titherington, Sr Commissioning Editor of BBC World Service English
The Wall Street Journal has also begun a podcast this year called: What’s News, that releases two 10-15 minute podcasts a day with an A.M and P.M focus. The Wall Street Journal also hosts an American version of BBC Minute called Minute Briefing, this podcast produces a new episode 3 times per day quickly summarising the top stories.
Whilst it is clear that there has been a trend towards, shorter, regularly refreshed podcast content from news organisations on both sides of the Atlantic, what remains unclear is the specific reason for this development.
As previously mentioned, the increased speed of the news cycle and instantaneity of social media and technology will certainly be playing a part, however the BBC and Wall Street Journal diverge from one another regarding what drives these new, shorter, podcasts.
Stephen Titherington from the BBC makes it clear that BBC Minute is designed for worldly young people but also hints towards (in the politest way possible) the urban myth and stereotype that young people have shortened attention spans, ironically debunked by his own organisation, and are not interested in long or even normal-form media.
One look at Logan Paul’s youth-orientated podcast ‘Impulsive with Logan Paul’ with episodes consistently well over an hour and ranked 41 by Spotify in the United States of America Arts and Entertainment category would also put an end to that type of thinking.
The Wall Street Journal on the other hand takes a different approach describing What’s News as perfect for commutes to and from work, and steering clear of Titherington’s youth-orientated description, categorises Minute Briefing as the way to keep up to date on economic news, stock updates and other headlines throughout the day
By extension, they could be thought of as an updated, shorter and broader version of their usual longer, more focused or deeper podcasts often listened to in the background of doing work or other activities.
However, the question remains: Has the trend towards shorter, regularly updated podcasts and episodes been spurred by an attempt to capture the upcoming generations? Or are they just broader, updated expansions of regular podcasts attempting to compete with the instantaneity our society now expects?
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