Flexing our podcast muscles

Zoë Scorer, Director
  • Stimulate multiple parts of your brain by listening to a podcast
  • How popular are podcasts in the UK?
  • Storytelling: on demand
  • Our journey to developing a podcast

Next week we are launching our first foray into podcasting…unfortunately I can’t divulge any further information at this time…watch this space! But, in the meantime, I want to reflect briefly on why podcasts hold the power of authentic storytelling.

A recent convert, I can fully understand the personal benefits of listening to podcasts. Whether it’s listening to true crime (e.g. This American Life) or a comedy podcast (such as Sh**ged Married Annoyed) our brain muscles are being flexed. A study by University of California, Berkeley, found that listening to narrative stories (like podcasts) can stimulate multiple parts of your brain. So, if you’re listening to the culmination of a true crime podcast series, an adrenaline rush will flood your brain or if it’s a comedy that you’re listening to, your endorphins will be boosted – and we all know that laughter is the best medicine. So, we should all be listening to podcasts every day, right?

Well, compared to some countries, the UK is a bit behind the times. Even though in 2020 there was an estimated 15.6 million podcast listeners in the UK, this is actually small fry compared to countries like South Korea and Spain. In the State of Podcasting survey for Reuters Institute’s Digital News Report South Korea tops the chart of countries where the most people have listened to a podcast in the past month with 58%, Spain comes in at 40% and in the UK it is 18%. Having said this, there was certainly a boost in figures in 2020 because more people were accessing on demand services thanks to the COVID pandemic. In Q1 and Q2 of 2020 (a.k.a. height of lockdowns the world over) Netflix enjoyed 17 million new subscribers and podcasts also saw an uplift in subscribers and listeners – for example, The Daily Telegraph’s podcast saw its listeners upswing by 55%.

Going back a couple of years, the PRCA (The Public Relations and Communications Association) predicted that 2019 would be the Year of the Podcast and, while this may have been accurate, I think 2021 will actually be the year that podcasting comes of age. With what looks set to be a year of more remote working and restrictions to socialising, people will be searching for ways of escaping from their four walls at home and what better way than stimulating a rush of adrenaline or endorphins by losing yourself in a good podcast. And, there is a wealth of content to choose from. Similar to on demand TV services, podcasts give people the power to choose; the power to select content that suits their own tastes and interests. Of course, there are different formats and styles but generally speaking podcasts are a platform where perspectives, insights and stories are shared – in effect an authentic voice on a topic of the podcaster’s choosing. What’s more, hearing a voice (or voices) is personal, even intimate – much more so than words on a screen or in print – meaning that listeners can’t help but feel connected, whether that’s to an issue, a campaign, an individual or something else. For the podcaster, there is the opportunity to capture and retain a loyal audience.

Developing, recording and producing our podcast has been no mean feat; it has taken time, effort, commitment and dedication to plan, research, curate interviewees and importantly get to the root of major issues that impact real people. The final result is a 6-part docuseries which will take listeners on a journey. We will be telling a story using authentic voices of real people – now, unfortunately ours is not a ‘happily ever after’ story (yet), but we’re hoping that it resonates with listeners, stimulates discussion and brings about positive change.