Tuesday, December 4th, 2018

Podcasts: A New Way to Tell Stories

Jonathan Blum

We now live in a digital world full of content, apps and internet connectivity—and podcasts have managed to position themselves well thanks to all this technology.

They are an ideal way to share stories, whether personal or not, allowing authors to reach large audiences. They cover a wide variety of topics and let writers use their imaginations to craft narratives that connect with their listeners’ feelings through effective storytelling. But although they have a significant impact now, this was not always the case.

To give you a bit of context, we have to go back to 1936, when Walter Benjamin wrote “The Storyteller.” In it, he analyzed the meaning and purpose of narration, speaking of its inevitable decline due to poor storytelling. Back then, radio had burst on to the scene as an innovative narrative option, offering an opportunity to tell stories and report relevant news and events in an immediate, clear and straightforward manner. This led to a new way of telling stories.

Many years later, podcasts made their appearance, leading to a much-needed revival and expansion of storytelling. As new as they are, podcasts themselves have evolved since their inception. Do you remember when listening to a podcast meant you had to transfer it from your computer to your music player? Not to mention the number of subjects discussed was as limited as the number of people who listened to them. But as more podcasts were created on different topics, more people began to listen, and the format began to bloom. With the help of telecommunications technologies, they soon gained ground, covering more and more topics and reaching many more listeners.

Podcasts have become an immediate, creative and simple way to access entertainment, news, testimonials and more, accompanying millions of users as they drive, exercise or shower. A great example of this alternative narrative is The Times’ “The Daily” podcast by former reporter Michael Barbado, or the famous 2014 “Serial” podcast by Sara Koenig.

But just as YouTube will not replace television, we should not expect podcasts to oust radio. That said, their popularity will most definitely grow, as they are now the means of communication through which messages can be conveyed most creatively, with a focus on telling their listeners a story or sharing a personal perspective. They are a valuable new medium, and one we should expect to see more of in the future. Perhaps it’s time to start considering the business applications of this new format?