Painting, learning a new language, reading or banana bread baking; many of us have turned to new hobbies to keep us entertained over lockdown. It should come as no surprise that Spotify has recently reported a continued spike in engagement with podcasts on their platform over the past year.
In a similar vein, BBC Sounds have reported record listening figures for the past year with podcasts such as Grounded with Louis Theroux receiving scores of hits.
But what is it about podcasts that make their popularity so far-reaching and why exactly are we discovering, or even re-discovering, our love for podcasts over lockdown?
I assume, if you’re reading this article, you’ve almost certainly listened to a podcast, or two, and may even consider yourself a podcast enthusiast. Research by Radio Joint Audience Research (RAJAR) has shown that young people are turning increasingly to smartphones as a medium for listening to radio.
Compared with other entertainment platforms, which can be costly and simply incompatible with many devices, podcasts can be praised for their accessibility. Some of the most popular and well-known apps are Spotify, BBC Sounds and Apple Podcasts, however, there are several other noteworthy names.
Many students don’t see the value in forking out hundreds of pounds for a TV license – and rightly so. Free platforms for entertainment, such as podcasts, reflect our changing and evolving tastes for entertainment, and with many young adults eschewing traditional modes of evening television watching, morning radio listening and even reading, podcasts appear as an accessible and free alternative.
As with all forms of media, representation matters. One quick search on Spotify tells you that’s there tens, if not hundreds, of podcast shows for students. This suggests that picking out a podcast that represents your own identity and talks about topics that are important to you is more straightforward, than say, picking from a range of radio or TV shows.
Lockdown has given us plenty of time to develop and enjoy our own hobbies, and podcasts reflect an even broader horizon of interests. Got a niche passion for beekeeping? There’s podcasts for that. Want a straightforward introduction to Marx to keep up in lectures? Shocker, there’s even a podcast for that.
I’m sure we all know or have heard of someone setting up their own podcast in the comfort of their own bedroom, and, hopefully, more and more people will be inspired to do the same.
A nine o’clock seminar, then two hours of lectures, a quick walk to Sainsbury’s with your flatmate, a call with your family at home then a society meeting. Not to mention making tea, getting in your daily walk, and just about trying to stay on top of keeping the flat clean. And that’s during lockdown!
As we move out of tighter restrictions, our lives will inevitably become more hectic and busy. And yet, a podcast perfectly compliments most activities described above.
Some are even designed to boost productivity, which is great news for those late-night sessions in the library. Others simply provide some soothing background noise to brighten up mundane tasks.
An integral part of my daily routine is listening to a new and engaging podcast on my daily lockdown walk, which, over the past year, has provided much needed mental stimulation and a feeling of being part of a conversation when I’m missing my friends.
Spoiled for choice? Here are some of my personal favourites:
Great for: during the height of the pandemic when you’ve been missing out on some girly chat. No topics are off-limits for presenters Sophia and Cinzia: from cheating boyfriends to toxic friends, this podcast is one of my guilty pleasures.
Grab a coffee, go for a walk and put this on, it’s almost as if you were catching up with two of your closest pals.
Great for: murder mystery binges. Don’t be fooled by the presenter’s dulcet Australian tones, this is one of the creepiest detective series I’ve come across. The investigation centres around the disappearance of Lynette Dawson, a young mother who is suspected to have been murdered by her then-husband, former rugby star Chris Dawson.
New evidence is constantly being uncovered by this podcast so the drama is always fresh. Be warned: the series is long, with many twists and turns, best saved for a rainy day (or two).
Great for: inspiration, for days when you feel unmotivated or burnt out. I listen to a lot of motivational or psychology-inspired podcasts, but this series is by far the best. I appreciate Africa’s cut-to-the-chase approach to self-help.
Over the winter, listening and re-listening to this podcast during a walk became one of my daily lockdown staples, and never failed to improve my mood.
Great for: staying up to date on the latest world news (and inevitably sounding clever in front of all of your mates). Like many, paying for newspapers lies outside of my budget, despite wanting access to quality journalism. The Economist offers many free, thought-provoking podcasts which explore recent news stories.
What I like about their morning briefings is its simplicity: each episode is released every morning and lasts for roughly four minutes, making it one of the quickest podcasts you’ll listen to. Perfect for those speedy walks between lectures.
Words by Connie Eyles