2017: The year podcasts broke into the mainstream

By Oliver Smith 4 July 2017
This American Life producer Ira Glass. Image: Getty/ Larry Busacca / Staff.

It's time to tune in.

There are two types of people in the world. Those who love listening to podcasts, and people who haven’t discovered them yet.

Podcasting is like the Netflix of audio, listening to pre-recorded radio shows whenever you like, from comedy chat shows to highly produced radio dramas and gripping audio documentaries.

While the first podcasts can be traced all the way back to 2004, it’s in the last five years that the medium has really gained traction with shows like Serial and Untold: The Daniel Morgan Murder, and as smartphones have made it easier than ever to subscribe to and download episodes.

“In the UK, No Such Thing As A Fish, and My Dad Wrote a Porno are becoming close to household names driven by launching shows using, respectively, the QI and Radio 1 hosts to bolster their audiences,” Jamie Wareham, former podcast producer of City A.M. Unregulated and host of upcoming series The History of the Internet, told The Memo.

Indeed if the US is anything to go by, podcasting in the UK could be about to take off.

This American Life

Highly-produced US shows like This American Life, Planet Money and Serial have exploded in popularity, with audiences quick to follow.

Over the last decade in the US, according to Edison Research, podcast listenership has exploded from around 13% of the US population in 2007 to over 40% today.

Weekly podcast listeners in the US spend an average of 5 hours 7 minutes listening to around five podcasts each week.

Because it’s so easy to listen while doing other things, like commuting or cleaning, podcasts are perfect for binge-listening.

“What remains to be seen is whether – like with video there is Netflix – a platform will similarly become synonymous with listening,” says Wareham.

Currently Apple’s Podcast app is the most popular podcast listening app, with iPhone-owners being among the most prolific listeners.

But there are millions of Android users, and iPhone owners too, who have yet to discover this fantastic format.

Are you one of them?