Podcasts – A Formidable Competitor for Mainstream Media

Podcasts- A formidable competitor for mainstream media

Why has podcasting taken off as alternative media compared to mainstream? This argument that has been going on
for almost the past decade has suddenly gained momentum and with good reason. Mainstream media is more or less controlled by corporate moguls and therefore, never unleash the unbridled truth. Their financial interests are often at odds with the information that demands sharing with the masses. This is the primary reason why so many people have started listening to the underground voices of today- the podcasts.

The rise and fall of podcasts

Let’s go back a decade, shall we? The podcasts were first introduced by Steve Jobs back in 2001. A novelty at the
time, it soon became a mini industry and a safe refuge for all the rebels and tech savvy youngsters of our time. Many television channels also began hosting podcasts- BBC Podcasts being a popular example. The popularity began to decline rapidly again by 2009. Why? Well, maybe we just got bored of it. Apart from “The American Life” topping iTunes charts, not much exciting was happening on the podcast front.

The Joe Rogan experience- The podcast revival

Just when podcasts had almost hit rock bottom of its decline, actor, comedian and sports commentator, Joe Rogan
began his very own live weekly audio/ video podcast, “The Joe Rogan Experience” in December of 2009. The show was co-hosted and produced by Rogan’s friend, Brian Redban. This podcast was an instant hit and gained popularity among
listeners across the globe with spawning community of listeners in every continent. The show is still going strong with its 1000th episode aired in August, 2017.

In 2012, The Times magazine marked this podcast as the most popular podcast in the United States. It was
also voted as the best podcast by iTunes listeners in the same year. The podcast has also received the prestigious Stitcher Award for consistent Best show. With a staggering fan following of over 11 million listeners, this single
show turned the tables on podcast popularity for good. By October 2015, this popularity further bloomed to an astonishing 16 million listeners worldwide.

The Fighter and The Kid- the ultimate podcast revolution

Another example of the best podcast of its time is the Fighter and The Kid. This comedy podcast not only brought podcasting back in the game, it also single handedly revived the declining MMA industry. Brendan Schaub and Bryan Callen are hosting this show- Brendan being a comedian and former MMA wrestler himself with Bryan following his lead as an actor and comedian.

The psychology behind it all

A good story captivates the mind regardless of the communication media- be it video, a text or a simple audio
file. It stimulates identical response in the brain. This is what Paul Zak, the kind director at the Center for Neuroeconomics Studies at Claremont Graduate University has to say.

During his research, he gauged people’s reaction after watching a series of audio/ video files. He found out
that when the human brain is under stress, it releases oxytocin in the blood. Oxytocin is known to invoke empathy and transports the listener or viewer right into the story.

No story is a good story unless it has you sitting at the edge of your sofa biting your fingers in tension. The
research also discovered that listeners are more reeled into the story when the characters’ emotions are described in narrative.

This is why podcasts gained so much popularity so quickly. The speakers finally got through to their listeners
and were able to invoke empathy in them. Empathy is what gets you hooked.

Conspiracy theorists and podcasts

With more and more people listening and spreading conspiracy theories, podcasters also began sharing such
information in their programs and gained immense fan following overnight. Anyone can say anything, make a podcast and put it up on iTunes. If what they’ve said grips the masses, well, there’s no turning back. There are no
sponsors associated with them and so the message is transmitted as is. No “we’ll be right back after the break” messages interrupt podcasts and this is what attracts so many people to them.

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