Humans tend to think in stories. Podcasts bring stories in a familiar and credible form. There are many reasons why podcasts have become so popular.
Podcasts have become a phenomenon in the United States
73 million Americans, i.e. 26 % of the US population, listen to podcasts every month, and 17 %, i.e. 48 million people, listen on a weekly basis. The podcast popularity grows at a rate of 10 to 20 % annually. It is likely that this trend will continue into at least the near future. Over the past decade or so podcasts are amongst the most prominent cultural phenomena not only in the United States.
Psychologists say that humans tend to think in stories. Our brains are attracted to narratives. Stories are important in helping us understand our place in the world. Moreover, scientist point out that character-driven stories cause our brains to release oxytocin, a neurochemical which plays an important role in feeling empathy towards others. Jennifer Aaker of Stanford University says that we remember information more when it is conveyed as part of a narrative “up to 22 times more than facts alone”. Storytelling appears to be based on our evolution since it helps foster cooperation amongst people in a society. Those who can tell good stories, are often popular social partners, and likely to have more children.
Podcasts = credible stories
Podcasts bring you stories. They present stories in any area you are interested in, i.e. news, politics, science. Actually, you listen to narrated stories. Over time, you get to know your host/narrator. His/her voice, opinions, perspective, and communication style. His/her overviews become familiar to you. And thus, sense of familiarity and credibility is built.
Another reason why podcasts are so popular is that they fit into our busy lives. It is ideal to listen to them when driving or commuting. Time you can dedicate to listening is not a restriction. You can find a podcast that would suit you and your situation.
When listening to radio or audiobook you have to focus. If you are distracted you usually miss on an important fact or even a plot. That is not true about podcasts. You return to them at any time. Or you just listen again. It is another pro of podcasts, they are easy and free to listen to at any time.