Podcasts are increasing in popularity, with a 2017 Edison Research study finding that 40 percent of the U.S. sample had listened to a podcast and 24 percent engaged in monthly listening.
Lisa Glebatis Perks and Jacob Turner of the Department of Communication and Media at Merrimack College examined why audiences listen to podcasts. The authors conducted five focus group discussions, splitting 23 participants—14 women and nine men—into five groups. Most of the participants self-identified as Caucasian. One participant identified as Chinese and one as Asian American.
Seventeen participants listened to podcasts through their iPhone and/or the Overcast application. Ten noted that they listened through their computer. Some of them listened using multiple devices.
Listeners experienced podcasts as replacements for radio, music, and television. They compared podcasts most similarly to audio books. A listener saw differences between contemporary radio and podcasts but similarities to radio as it once was. She noted, “Podcasts hearken back to like old-timey radio. So that’s part of what appeals to me about it is listening to stories on the radio.”
They also described contemporary radio and music as “boring” and “repetitive.” In contrast, participants saw podcasts as fresher, unique and more engaging in part because of their rapidly expanding content. A listener appreciated podcasts as part of her steady media diet because “there’s always something new.”
Another participant said, “I used to sit and watch TV constantly and that’s a lot harder now with the family growing. … So, there’s always something to do at the house, and I can get it done more easily if I’m listening to a podcast. And I can’t get it done at all if I’m trying to watch TV.”
Audiences also enjoyed a customized experience of podcasts. Describing the appeal of podcast listening, a participant said, “I think I might be like outing myself as a millennial but the best thing about podcasts for me is that I get to choose what I listen to when I listen to it and how I listen to it.”
Participants listened to podcasts to make better use of their time and feed their brain. A participant said, “I have an hour commute to work… so I’ll listen to a podcast and try to educate myself in some way or whatever, make it more productive than just sitting in traffic.”
To read the full text of the study: https://bit.ly/2SXMtMW
Perks, L. G., & Turner, J. S. (2019). Podcasts and Productivity: A Qualitative Uses and Gratifications Study. Mass Communication and Society, 22(1), 96-116.