Inside the Podcast Brain: Why Do Audio Stories Captivate?

This post by Tiffanie Wen originally appeared on The Atlantic on 4/16/15.

The emotional appeal of listening

In my all-time favorite episode of Radiolab, “Finding Emilie,” a young art student named Emilie Gossiaux gets into a terrible accident while riding her bike and, rendered blind and deaf, is unable to communicate with her loved ones until she makes an incredible breakthrough. Listening to it on my drive home only got me to the middle of the episode, so I sat in my parked car staring at the garage until it was over. I was captivated by the voices of Emilie and her family. I’ve been an audio convert ever since.

It’s likely that thousands, if not millions, of others had the same experience last year when they discovered Serial, the This American Life spinoff considered to be the most successful podcast* of all time (5 million downloads and counting) that launched the medium back into the spotlight.

As a New York magazine piece noted last year, the increasing popularity of audio storytelling owes a lot to technology, as smartphones allow people to consume shows on demand anywhere, and cars increasingly come equipped with satellite radio and Internet-friendly dashboards. A recent report by Edison Research estimated that 64 percent of 12- to 24-year-olds and 37 percent of 25- to 54-year-olds in the United States listened to online radio weekly in 2104. The same year, 30 percent of respondents reported that they had listened to a podcast at least once, with 15 percent indicating that they had listened to a podcast within the last month.

*[Publetariat Editor’s note: this content may be behind a paywall]


Read the full post on The Atlantic.


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