The growth in popularity of podcast culture

Rahsaan “New York” Thomas, Nigel Poor and John “Yahya” Johnson, from left to right, celebrate the “Ear Hustle” podcast that was born in the media lab of California’s San Quentin State Prison. // Photo courtesy of Antwan Williams

Pop culture is constantly evolving and taking on new forms. Over the last few years, podcasts have been one of the most recent mediums that have changed the way people take in and spread content.

Whether on a morning commute, a walk to class or just as background while studying, podcasts have become common to listen to. With a wide range of topics, there is a podcast for everyone. A significant reason that podcasts have emerged so strongly into the mainstream scene over the past few years is that they have the unique ability to present all topics lightly and conversationally. Each podcast differs in the number of hosts and this, in turn, changes their approach.

With single host podcasts, it feels like the listener is having a conversation with the host, and the two of them are going through the episode together. When it is a one-on-one conversation or a panel discussion, this is a time when two co-hosts are having a lighthearted conversation with each other, and the listener has a front row seat to it.

When major news headlines hit, many people are now turning to podcasts rather than reading about it due to a few key reasons.

The first reason is that through society’s increased social media platforms, content has become more geared to short form. With a podcast format, listeners can engage with the flow of conversation while multitasking.

Secondly, a key advantage of podcasts is the ability to take a deep dive on the various sides of a given topic in an easily understandable and engaging way.

In current news and social media, one of the more far-reaching terms has been “clickbait.” Clickbait is the idea of making headlines or statements in a way that will entice people to explore more or “click” on the topic.

In the sports world, several players are taking to creating their own podcasts, with many of the most shared athlete quotes being from snippets from their own podcasts. This idea can go beyond the sports world, with areas such as the political landscape. Often the most viral headlines can come from podcasts.

For example, during the NBA season, several players, such as Draymond Green, have podcasts that generate some of the next big headlines from the next day. In the NFL offseason, Aaron Rodgers would frequent the Pat McAfee show and provide updates regarding his team status which would also become headline material.

With how widespread podcasts have become, their accessibility appeals to anyone who wants to make their own podcast. Sharing ideas through a podcast can be easier than publishing them through print media. An advantage of podcasts is that they can give a voice to the “little guy” and also give a platform to important social movements, giving a voice to the under-represented.

A famous instance of this was with the podcast “Ear Hustle.” This podcast is famous for being the first podcast created in prison. The co-host, Rahsaan Thomas, would share experiences in prison. Hearing about some of the hosts’ experiences led to pivotal movements in their cases, including the commuting of Thomas’ sentence. San Quentin State Prison and California Gov. Gavin Newsom released him on parole in February 2023.

Podcasts allow different groups, each with a variety of unique lived experiences, to share their truth. Despite the possible toxicity of online scrutiny, there are beacons of times the community has come together to uplift coexistence. For instance, the “Women In Tech” podcast by Espree Devora brings in a wide range of powerful women sharing their experiences to inspire several more.

Podcast culture continues to grow and evolve. It is highly accessible for both listeners and creators and proves to be an empowering way to share meaningful messages with others. Whether you are a veteran or first time listener, seasoned creator or venturing into the content creation world, step outside your comfort zone and test the waters on a new topic and medium of content.