Brady: Podcasts, the Newest Old-Fashioned Technology

I was on the phone with my grandmother when I had quite the realization.

In a media-crazed culture that seems to become more technologically complex by the day, there are ways in which we’re not developing at all.

In fact, in certain areas, we’re going backwards.

My grandmother was asking what I had been up to earlier in the day, and I responded by saying I had recorded a podcast with a friend. She wasn’t familiar with the term “podcast”, so I had to explain it to her. In my explanation, I tried to find a certain connection between podcasts and something she would understand. Rather casually, I said it was like listening to the radio, but the more I thought about it, the more I realized just how interesting this comparison was.

When my grandmother was a child, she would switch on her radio and tune into her favorite style of music or the daily baseball game. That was her way to be entertained; experiencing media aurally. Later on in her life, entertainment moved to television, adding a visual element to the experience of the audience. In more recent years, “4D” movies have been created that implement a physical stimulus, and virtual reality has transported viewers into the content.

Over the years, media has become more and more immersive. But yet, podcasting is bursting onto the scene as one of the fastest-growing forms of entertainment. Why is that? In a world with more technology than we know what to do with, why are we so fascinated by the source that relies on the least amount of stimuli?

Why is podcasting suddenly so popular?

Quite simply, our culture is built in a way that allows podcasts to thrive. We live in a multi-tasking society, where hustling and bustling is the norm, and no one has time to slow down. We no longer prioritize live content or the latest releases: if we’re going to consume media, we’re going to do it on our own time.

Enter podcasts, the form of media that can be consumed in conjunction with the completion of other activities. Doing homework? You can listen to a podcast. Going for a run? You can listen to a podcast. Taking a shower? You can listen to a podcast. With this style of entertainment, you don’t need to allocate time to experiencing it. You can fit it in with your jam-packed life, and still get your fix of comedy, sports, politics, or whatever content you may be interested in.

Don’t get me wrong, “total immersion” media has its place. These forms of entertainment are most successful when their audience is willing to devote their entire focus for a certain amount of time to that specific show, movie, or whatever the content may be. However, that’s becoming more and more rare by the day. Our society isn’t as interested in putting this kind of time and attention into one thing alone, and podcasting is emerging as an attractive alternative.

In 2019, we are listening to our media just as our predecessors did nearly 100 years ago. Podcasts are taking us back in time, but that’s not a bad thing. It’s what we want. It’s what we need.

Podcasts are putting us in the past, and that’s ok.

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