What do Alec Baldwin, Snooki and Snoop Dogg all have in common? They each host an ongoing podcast.
Despite being multi-millionaire celebrities with household names, none of their shows this week are in the top 100 downloaded podcasts on iTunes. Instead, it’s weekly episodes from The New York Times, Public Broadcasting Service (PBS), the BBC and National Public Radio (NPR) featuring up-and-coming creators and former radio stars who hold the majority of these coveted spots.
Since these media giants like PBS and The New York Times were popularized by our parents and are holding onto the podcast market, then it would make sense that podcasts are mostly listened to by our parents’ generation, right? Well, not exactly.
According to the Edison Research Institute, nearly 70 percent of podcasts were listened to on a smartphone, and a quarter of those listeners were under the age of 24.
On a panel released via podcast by Law Technology Today, panelist Natalie Kelly says young people “are looking for more convenient mobile options for getting at information, and podcasts fall nicely into the fray.”
She’s right, as many of the most popular podcasts on iTunes fall under the “News and Politics” category.
When teenagers and young adults in this country are constantly bombarded by tweets and memes to tell them what’s going on around them, it must be comforting for a calm, human voice to let them know the news of the day.
It is true that many podcasts are about daily news, and that most daily news is about politics. That being said, podcasts also feature an inside, often intimate look, at the lives of young people.
The millennial media company BuzzFeed has their own playlists, featuring young people talking about issues affecting them, such as “See Something, Say Something,” which is narrated by young Muslim-Americans.
Also, even though this new media format is popular among young people, it is also heavily dominated by college-educated white men. According to “Wired,” two-thirds of podcasts on iTunes have a white, male host.
“Wired” writer Charley Locke said himself that the biggest problems among podcasting isn’t discovery, it’s diversity. This problem has gotten to a point that one of NPR’s newest podcasts is simply titled: “Soooo Many White Guys.”
However, many of the most popular podcasts run by young people for young people feature diverse hosts, including “2 Dope Queens,” which debuted at number one on iTunes and remained there for a week. It is led by two Black women: Jessica Williams and Phoebe Robinson. The series is currently streamed by NPR.
With many college-aged students tuning in to podcasts, many are wondering why.
Some say it’s because of their portability. If your podcast is downloaded onto your iPhone, it’s easy to plug in and get cutting-edge news and knowledge on the go, without having to read or watch anything.
But there are others who feel that today’s media climate is driving young people to this new way of consuming media and information. No matter why, how or whose podcasts college-aged students are listening to, they are beginning to get a lot of attention…and they’re also free.
Abby Shepherd can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org