Long-form Discussion in a Heated Political & Social Climate
The social and political zeitgeist is plagued by soundbites and name-calling. Many political pundits, activists, commentariat, and even politicians themselves have taken to podcasting. They want influence in the modern moment of podcasting and digital media. This strategic move allows them to spread their messages to audiences in their kitchens and on their commutes.
Is this explosion of audio content new? Yes, but people have always enjoyed listening to content. The broadcasting of radio went mainstream in the 1920s and still exists. With the arrival of satellite followed by internet radio via podcasting, the form has become ubiquitous. Technology advances in bandwidth, streaming and production have enabled the rise of podcasting. From Stitcher to iTunes to Anchor to Overcast, consumers have myriad options to customize their listening wants and needs.
As media companies and non-media companies alike develop creative approaches to the form, there appears to be a land grab for the overlooked niche of long-form discussion. When the problems we face are difficult and deep, extended discussion is a fertile ground for imagining solutions.
Activism from Seeds of Sanity
It has long been thought that messages should be dumbed down for the average listener. But education levels have improved and there are large pockets of critical listeners able and eager to break down arguments to their important details. As major news outlets like NPR organize their podcast content to follow trending stories like immigration, listeners benefit from a more rigorous journalism. Podcasts offer a platform for long-form discussion that the public is yearning for more and more. Complicated problems often demand nuanced discussion. Even politicians are getting onboard.
A number of politicians do have their own podcasts, as they provide a place for political candidates to explain and expound upon their policy proposals. But even though politician-led podcasts haven’t been overly successful, a single podcast episode has the potential to stir or strike the heart of numerous listeners. Consider Andrew Yang’s podcast appearance with Sam Harris, where the 2020 presidential candidate spoke about universal basic income, the freedom dividend, and other policy proposals for over an hour: the podcast has reached millions of listeners a full three years ahead of the next presidential election.
Other hosts from Joe Rogan to Dave Rubin to Ezra Klein to Ben Shapiro have started shows where guests sit down with the host in person for one or even several hours. The good news, for politicians, is that they needn’t only talk about politics when carrying a two-hour conversation. This outcome is good for the audience, too, as listeners gain an appreciation for the individual beyond a simple policy agenda.
An Outlet to Advocate for Policy
Instead of trying to score points against an opponent in a 30-second TV spot, or (gasp), a six-minute mock debate, podcasts provide the space to expound on ideas, inspire intellectual rigor, and help groups organize. Ultimately, podcasts have quickly become an outlet to advocate for policies and to increase political activity from various political parties.
Consider the following list of podcasts with guests ranging across the political spectrum:
- The Dave Rubin Show
- NPR Podcasts tagged with Immigration
- Today Explained
- The Weeds
- The Ben Shapiro Show
- The Andrew Klavan Show
- The Waking Up Podcast
- The Joe Rogan Experience
Understanding the Political Audience
If you are starting a podcast or trying to understand who exactly is listening to these podcasts, and why, you might be intimidated. After all, podcasts like Joe Rogan’s arguably garner much more attention than the nightly news on CNN. There are ways to analyze an audience of even this impressive size spread across the web. The ability to dissect these audiences could help non-media and media companies alike understand their audience and tailor political messages to them.
Armed with the world’s most detailed and actionable set of podcast analytics built on Backtracks’ open source OPA standard, even podcasts with Joe Rogan’s engagement numbers could grow. Podcast publishers, listening apps, aggregators, and ad networks can finally know, understand, and even predict their audience’s listening and consumption behavior across native mobile apps and the web.