The Popularity of Podcasts

By Catherine Cox, Contributing Writer

Have you ever wanted to just step away from a day filled with Zoom meetings or depressing news reports? Does listening to something that suits your individual interests sound like a heavenly escape? Podcasts can provide that escape and are becoming increasingly popular as people look for new ways to connect to the world beyond their homes.

For those unfamiliar with the term, the Oxford Online Dictionary defines podcast as a “digital audio file made available on the internet for downloading to a computer or mobile device, typically available as a series.” Available on streaming apps including Apple Podcasts, Spotify, and RadioPublic, podcasts are easily accessible. From silly to serious, there’s a podcast for every imaginable genre and topic, ranging from music to the economy, to true crime, to comedy and everything in between. Interested in current events? Then The Daily, a podcast based on the The New York Times recent articles, might be for you. Looking for a break from world events? You might prefer a podcast from your favorite influencers such as YouTuber Emma Chamberlain or TikTokers Charli and Dixie D’Amelio.

With so many people having limited access to activities they enjoyed pre-pandemic, the popularity of podcasts has grown exponentially. Students and staff at Boston Latin School have joined the podcast craze.

Roan Wilcox (V) is a fan of Planet Money. He explains, “Planet Money is a podcast from [National Public Radio] that breaks down how the economy is doing in twenty minutes two to three times a week. I highly suggest it to anyone who ever wonders how the economy and money works.”

Wilcox is not the only podcast fan at BLS. Maya Nelson (III) is drawn to Pod Save America. Nelson shares, “[Pod Save America] is a political podcast by four people who worked under Obama as speechwriters, publicity personnel, etc. and have founded a company called Crooked Media. They discuss current events, give personal takes on big issues facing the world and have guest speakers. Because they have insider knowledge about the White House, they are able to offer a very unique perspective.”

Ms. Courtney Garside, a seventh grade Earth Science teacher, states her thoughts about why podcasts are gaining popularity: “I think they are a good way to feel connected to the world. We’re all so isolated right now, but listening to podcasts is almost like having a conversation with someone outside our quarantine bubbles. I almost feel like the hosts of my favorite podcasts are friends I get to hear from every week, in a weird way.”

Eighth grade English teacher Mrs. Molly McDonald Long sees podcasts as a way to relax and escape from the world, explaining, “I bet that podcasts have grown in popularity because people are more open to new things during the pandemic. People are looking to relax and are spending a lot of time on screens, so it must be nice to close your eyes and listen.”

Podcasts are a more informational and engaging pastime than film. Ms. Catherine Arnold, an eighth-grade History and Civics teacher, sees a distinction between watching television and listening to a podcast, saying, “There’s something about listening that requires a different focus than watching TV. I think watching TV is a more passive activity — all the blanks are filled in for you by what is on the screen […] but with listening, you have to pay attention and at the same time, you have the room to make your own meaning and connections to the content, you get to imagine what you can’t see, so you’re more actively engaged.”

NPR hopes to boost their popularity with Stand with the Facts Hats. (Photo by: NPR)