2021… twas the year of Delta and Podcasting

Throughout the Pandemic many industries have suffered; particularly the entertainment industry… except for one sector that has actually managed to boom during the Pandemic. That is podcasting. During Covid lockdown, the popularity of podcast listening in Australia grew by 15%.

In 2019 podcast listening numbers in Australia were at 6.3 million, in 2022 they are now at 8.9 million. That means 2.6 million new podcast listeners in Australia since the Pandemic began in 2020. Keep in mind that 2022 has only just begun really so pretty much in 2 years they had 2.6 million new listeners in Australia which is crazy. 

Podcasts and lockdowns

The world underwent strenuous never-ending off and on again lockdowns. Where we had no choice but to stay in our homes with not much to do. At first, we didn’t mind the time off work, we spent the first few weeks organising our lives and doing odd jobs around the house we didn’t have time to get to before, then it went on to catching up on our favourite Netflix series and really settling into this lockdown no work lifestyle. Some of us got into working out and Yoga although after a while we started questioning if it was worth it if no one was going to see our hot new bod for months anyways? Then the joke kept on going with weeks turning into months and we had no choice but to take up knitting shoes for our dogs and baking cookies, lots and lots of cookies until we realised we were spending our days eating cookies wrapped up in hand-made scarfs…basically, after a while, it all got a little weird. 

We were craving human experience and conversation, sure some of us had family members or partners around the house but after being locked in a house with the same people for months on end people start to get… kind of annoying. It also turns out that working on historical jigsaw puzzles every Saturday night with your partner isn’t very romantic – All jokes aside the fact is things started to get tedious, and we needed something more…

We couldn’t listen to the news anymore, it was too depressing listening to the rising infection numbers every morning. Even conversations with friends over social media platforms started hitting a wall when there was really nothing more to talk about than Covid/delta/Omicron etc (downer) or how are you doing? Where we would answer fine thanks when really our mental health was declining and we hadn’t gotten out of our pyjamas all week, or what have you been up to? which was nothing other than knitting Whiskers her 20th pair of socks or baking those cookies we mentioned earlier, so that was always a bummer. 

What we needed was to escape out of this warped pandemic reality and restore a bit of normalcy by feeling human interaction in a familiar way.

So, in came Podcasts – our savior.  

The perfect way to immerse yourself into something else, and feel more connected to the world outside your apartment walls. The pandemic has seen podcasts fill a hole in our lives, providing companionship and a sense of community that was much needed during lengthy lockdowns. Especially for those living on their own, podcasting was a great comfort and gave people some normalcy in a time that was anything but normal. 

With consumers feeling stressed and unsure during the pandemic, podcasts with familiar voices and hosts offered comfort and escapism for listeners. Podcasts made us the 3rd person in the conversation, listening to our favourite podcast personalities discussing everyday relatable content. 

Podcast Intimacy and how it drew us in

Listening to podcasts feels like a one-on-one experience for many consumers – Podcasts feel intimate, with no in-the-room audience to remind you of your own distance. They can also be very long, and very long-running, which means masses of information about the podcaster can be communicated and a network of in-jokes and callbacks established. They are often collaborative, fuelled in part by listener correspondence. There are a lot of them and the bar to entry is far lower than for other forms of media (everyone could be a podcaster; sometimes it feels as though they are). That means you are not only more likely to find a podcaster who shares your outlook and sense of humor, but also one who shares the material reality of your life. In other words, someone who might truly be your friend in the real world.

That sense of community was much needed during the pandemic, and the shared experience of lockdown also benefited podcasts. As lifestyles converged and opportunities dwindled for everyone, hosts became more relatable than ever.

Additionally, lockdowns made people explore things that they didn’t have time for in the past because they helped them to stay motivated and keep going during tough times. Listening to podcasts is one of the things that people began to opt for.

Podcasting Post Lockdown… why there here to stay

So we understand why podcasts boomed during lockdowns now, but why are they continuing to rise as the world goes back to normal?

The Pandemic has made people think differently. It gave people the time (albeit lots of time we’ve had enough now you can stop now Covid, thanks) to re-evaluate their lives and look at what is important to them. High up on everyone’s priority was using this newfound time to focus on bettering themselves, learning new hobbies, and stay informed about politics and the world around them. No matter what your interest, there is most likely a podcast out there for you. From food, sports, myth-busting, current news, and events, to TV, movies, and music discussions, there are very few topics not covered by a podcast. Consumers can search Spotify for podcasts on how to play the guitar, bake a cake, for opinions on the best Netflix shows right now, and so much more. There’s really no limit to what’s available for consumers. 

Podcasts post-pandemic are quite literally ‘trending’. It is cool to listen to podcasts. You see on Instagram people’s goals for 2022… eat organically, start yoga, read more books, and listen to more podcasts. They have literally been given a spot on the ‘wholesome list’.

Increased Involvement Of Celebrity Talent (influencers) 

Influencers are an example of an industry that had to revaluate during lockdowns. All of a sudden these people that used social media to rave and post about their spontaneous fabulous lives – have nothing new to post about. There were no new parties they had been to or countries they could visit because they couldn’t- their content was halted and there was now nothing to separate them from the rest of us. Social talents were forced to dig a little deeper during the pandemic, get creative and offer content of more quality and depth.  

And so they found their lifeline – podcasts. Podcasts were a way for a lot of influencers to stay relevant during the pandemic, continue to produce content, (make money) and connect with their following/audience on a deeper level. Not to mention their initial following meant they already had a mass audience for their content to reach meaning they were destined to succeed. For this reason, during and post lockdown there has been a clear trend of influencers moving from short-video format content to starting their own podcasting channels to interact with their fan base.

Reasons Why Podcast Listening Will Continue To Grow 

Easily Accessible 

Podcasts are easily accessible, you can listen to them on your iPhone podcast app or apps like Spotify, another great benefit is that you can download these episodes at home and listen to them during a car trip, or on a plane without wifi. Podcasts episodes differ by episode length and frequency, but they are always available for listening, whenever a listener chooses. The opportunity to listen to podcasts when it is convenient is a very large draw, plus the programs being audio and not video allows consumers to multi-task at home while they listen. Podcasts are a convenient on-the-go option, perfect for busy schedules. 

2. Variety of Genres 

Podcast genres have become so diverse, offering something to listeners of all tastes and preferences. Covering anything from politics to why is my boyfriend cheating on me. Moreover, the content is specific to each individual’s requirement, which makes for the perfect break time from strenuous work schedules, providing a work-life balance everyone is seeking.

Podcasts genres on Spotify include; News & politics, True Crime, Lifestyle & Health, Educational, Comedy, Society & Culture, Sports & recreational, stories, Arts & Entertainment, Kids & family, games, and finally music. 

Popular podcasts at the moment include;

‘The Joe Rogan Experience’ which is so popular that it even has its own genre right next to True Crime. Where American commentator Joe Rogan interviews people from all walks of life, from NFT guru ‘Beeple’, world-famous director ‘Quinten Tarrintino’, eccentric comedian Russel Brand and even Amanda Knox. 

‘Every Little Thing’: A podcast that literally answers all your random questions and fun facts like Why do we shake hands? Where did Netflix’s Ta-dum sound come from? And Why do Auctioneers talk the way they do? – This is a great example of a podcast perfect for running errands or cleaning the house where you don’t have to be too focused and can enjoy the background noise. 

Call her daddy’: A sex podcast that discusses taboo subjects in reality shining light on them in a relaxed way – This is a great podcast for women and men in their 20s navigating their sexuality. It is honest, yet light-hearted.

‘The Daily’: A news podcast that covers breaking political stories told by the world’s 5 best journalists. This is a perfect commuter podcast, a great way to get caught up to speed on news and politics and what is happening in the world on your way to work or uni. 

Happy Hour with Lucy & Nikki’: A podcast dedicated to ‘the girls’, where co-creators of fashion label ‘Jagger and Stone’, discuss starting a business, relationships, wild party stories, and all that sh*t that’s on every 20 somethings mind. It’s the perfect 3rd person podcast where you can join in on their happy hour discussions and feel like you are just in a conversation with a bunch of your girlfriends. 

As you can see from this shortlist, there is a wide range of podcasts available that cater to all different tastes. Some are on the more serious side, some quirky, and some just made to feel like you’re talking with a friend. 

3. Multi-task friendly 

As the world becomes busier, the podcast format has become incredibly popular. Audio content allows the listener to multitask. A recent study showed that while 49% of podcast listening happens at home, 22% happens while driving, 11% at work, and 8% while exercising.

This means, listening to a chatty podcast while cleaning the house or doing errands. Listening to a political podcast on your commute to work. Or putting on your favourite inspirational podcast while on your afternoon walk to reset and wind down from the day. 

Podcasts are perfect for commuters to pass the time on the way to work or uni. Music can get boring after a while, there is only so many times I can listen to my morning playlist on repeat, and I don’t know about you but I get nauseous looking down while moving, which means reading a book or watching Netflix isn’t an option… solution? Podcasts!

Podcasts are also great for car trips when the car sing-along playlist gets old after about an hour into your 5-hour drive or the radio keeps cutting out because the signals gone on the highway, incoming podcasts – download a gripping true-crime podcast series before you leave and you will have no cutouts, and arrive at your destination before you know it, (probably wishing you still had an hour left so you could finish the last episode, what happens)?!

4. Provide instant community – 3rd person effect

Listening to podcasts feels like a one-on-one experience for many consumers. Certain genres of podcasting e.g. influencers – means you are listening to typically two people, talking and chatting about life. This gives the 3rd person in the conversation (YOU) a sense of belonging… you laugh at their jokes, you agree with their opinions you feel as though you are involved in their conversation. Hence you feel a part of something and this adds a send of comfort and belonging to the listener, especially those tuning in each week for new episodes, you grow an emotional attachment to these hosts and look forward to your 1-hour catch-up each week. 

Let’s wrap it up – so we get it podcasts are great, covid made them cool but what does all this mean?

In semi-short, the Covid-19 Pandemic will have many devastating long-term effects that will continue to be discussed and seen in our society in years to come. But one thing we can say for now that may have been one small glimmer of positive in a whole sea of negative is to see how humans have taken time to self-reflect. We have had time to sit back and look at how we spend our time, what we value, and how we are working to become our best selves. 5 years ago it was Netflix, it was binge-watching TV series (it still is, and will continue to be) however, we are now seeing this wholesome, and quite large movement of people wanting to educate themselves and learn new things – people are listening to a medium with more substance than just reality TV, and choosing to better themselves. 

People are choosing to put on a podcast about climate change or mental well-being and going for a walk after work, instead of jumping on the couch and watching TV. Now this for sure isn’t all of us, and I’m in no way trying to claim podcasts are changing the world here. And there are definitely a whole lot of other aspects to back this notion of human reflection prompted by the pandemic, meaning exercising, meditating, etc. but the fact is its all intrinsically linked, and podcasting is one of the many facets that humans are now exploring on their way to a more wholesome, nourishing life. So here’s to that!

Interested in this topic? Check out our blog on how covid affected the mental well-being of uni students in Australia here.