Educational entertainment: podcasts gain popularity among students

Noah Isherwood, Campus Carrier assistant arts and living editor

In our increasingly technological society, the ways in which we entertain and educate ourselves are constantly adapting to the newest iteration of the digital landscape. While not the most recent addition to the fold of multimedia streaming formats, podcasting has only lately begun to make significant inroads into the mainstream. Over the past several years, the population of podcast listeners has grown exponentially. According to a series of Edison Research studies spanning six years, 2019 has been a record-breaking year in terms of weekly listeners gained. In 2018, 17 percent of Americans listened to podcasts weekly. This year, that number jumped to 22 percent. Five percent may not seem like much, but that number represents 62 million Americans. And many of those are aged 12-24; that demographic saw a 30 percent increase in listenership.

So what is the reason for the recent boom in podcast popularity, especially among college-aged listeners? An oft-cited reason is the versatility of the form. Entertainment and education are increasingly expected to be on-demand, as well as intertwined, and podcasts live up to these expectations quite well. With the tap of a screen, we can learn about nearly anything we want, with content delivered in an engaging format that easily allows for multitasking. The “nearly anything” part is key as well. Podcasts cover a dizzying range of topics, both obscure and mainstream, from a wide array of perspectives. There is quite literally a podcast for every interest; currently, there are over 29 million recorded episodes created by 700,000 active podcasts. Variations in length also influence popularity among students, as there exist podcasts to fit into nearly every schedule. Longer podcast episodes routinely run four to five hours, but much shorter ones exist as well, packing a story or lesson into under 30 minutes.

If you don’t listen to podcasts yet and don’t know where to start, or if you’re looking for some new podcasts to enrich your listening experience, you’ve come to the right place. Thomas Frank with College Info Geek has compiled the 40 Best Educational Podcasts in 2019, a comprehensive list that covers many subjects and styles. Highlights include:

Hardcore History, a long-form podcast that listens more like an audiobook, delivering sweeping panoramas of historical events

The Tim Ferriss Show, a unique business podcast that details the routines of successful celebrities to equip listeners with new tactics and habits

TED Talks Daily, where all your favorite TED Talks are rendered in audio form Radiolab, a diverse topical podcast with an ever-changing focus

This American Life, an NPR production that masterfully tells compelling tales about average, and not so average, Americans

Hackable, a show that explores the fascinating world of cybercrime with an eye towards enabling better protection from that crime.

As busy students, we are always looking for ways to streamline our learning process. Podcasts can supplement your chosen area of study in new and exciting ways, providing interesting new perspectives that can revitalize old information. If you have some down time this week, listen to a podcast. There are whole worlds to listen to out there.


Carrier Staff Recommends…

“My favorite podcast is ‘Ologies’ with Alie Ward. This is a science podcast that details quirky and cool facts as well as scientific discoveries in the form of funny and comedic stories. Host Alie Ward asks smart people dumb questions about science, and chaos follows, which I love because it is an entertaining way to learn new facts about science.”

(Caroline Jennings, assistant photo editor)

“My favorite podcast is called ‘First Person’ It’s produced by Foreign Policy, a magazine on global politics and international affairs. Every week the host interviews a person directly involved in some major world issue…. It’s a really interesting way to get a clearer and more direct perspective on major international incidents.”

(Annie Deitz, deputy news editor)

“My favorite podcast is ‘Welcome to Night Vale.’ It’s weird and cool and I like the storyline a lot.” Welcome to Night Vale is set up as a radio show broadcast to the fictional town of Night Vale. Each episode details the odd happenings of the desert town.

(Kendall Aronson, social media editor)

“‘My Favorite Murder’ is a true crime comedy podcast in which the two female hosts address fascinating and horrific true crime cases in an accessible manner. I became hooked after the first episode because the hosts discuss these events in a way that respects the victims and informs listeners of how to stay safe.”

(Cassie LaJeunesse, editor-in-chief)

“My favorite is ‘FiveThirtyEight Politics.’” Host Nate Silver and the FiveThirtyEight team discuss each week’s big developments in politics, cover the latest news and track major trends.

(Kevin Kleine, student publications adviser)

“‘The Way I Heard It’ is my go to podcast. Mike Rowe calls it ‘the only podcast for the curious mind with the short attention span.’ He tells compelling stories about famous or influential figures in modern history, all without naming his subject until the final moments of each short episode, filling the listener with a sense of déjà vu. The reveal is always shocking.”

(Noah Isherwood, assistant arts and living editor)

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