Why Podcasting Matters Now More Than Ever


The Throwback

A few years ago, I created and hosted The Cultured Podcast (TCP). Each episode only drew in about 500 listeners. By traditional marketing standards, that number might as well have been zero. No sponsor wants to buy ad time for content with an audience that small. 

Although my audience was small, they were loyal. TCP had a high listener retention rate; the people who tuned into one episode also listened to the next one and the one after that. Listeners incorporated The Cultured Podcast into their weekly routines, often listening to episodes the day they premiered.

About a year into launching TCP, I deviated from my upload schedule and didn’t communicate the delay to my listeners (please learn from my mistakes). Within days, an email landed in my inbox from a concerned listener in Italy. She asked me about the delay, worried if it signified an abrupt end to the podcast itself. 

That email was proof not only that my podcast mattered, but also that it had formed a tight-knit community around it. And perhaps most importantly, its value couldn’t be measured only by the quantity of listens. I often tell FRQNCY’s clients to prioritize creating an engaged community over a large audience. In the podcasting world, to quote a criminally underrated musical, it’s far better to be “nine people’s favorite thing than a hundred people’s ninth favorite thing.” 

That email was proof not only that my podcast mattered, but also that it had formed a tight-knit community around it. And perhaps most importantly, that its value couldn’t be measured only by the quantity of listens.

The Possibilities

Ask somebody about their all-time favorite podcast. Their eyes will light up, and they’ll start talking about a podcast with a super-specific focus that’s totally underrated, like Let’s Not Meet. It’s me, I’m somebody. But I’m not alone! Even as more and more celebrities, business leaders, and companies turn to audio, listeners still actively engage with smaller shows.  The way that listeners connect with podcasts defies our traditional understanding of entertainment.

This dynamic can be attributed to the unique audience experience offered by podcasts. Historically, we consume entertainment as a crowd. When we go to a game or a movie, we’re surrounded by everyone else who bought a ticket to the same event. Browser extensions like Teleparty skyrocketed in value during the pandemic because they offered a virtual way for groups of people to experience content. Consuming entertainment alongside other people creates a quick sense of community, but it also creates a feeling of performance as an audience. We’re not just watching the show; we’re watching each other watch the show. Our reaction to the performance becomes a performance itself. In fact, reaction videos have become a booming content category across all video platforms.

But when we listen to podcasts, we listen alone. There is no pressure to monitor or perform our own reactions. This privacy empowers listeners to engage with the content they actually like rather than what they think they should like. This privacy also creates an intimacy between listener and host that encourages listeners to open their minds to new and challenging ideas and perspectives. In the best possible way, podcasting lowers our defenses.

Humans are investing more and more time into creating and consuming shorter and shorter forms of media. Twitter, Instagram, Reddit, and TikTok excel at reducing complicated arguments into quickly consumable and easily digestible content. Something I myself am grateful for (for real, TikTok brings me so much joy). But, as with all things, balance and nuance are important as we continue navigating life together. And I know I’m not saying anything revolutionary when I make this point: There is little room for nuance in a 280-character tweet, a series of memes, or a 3-minute video. By its very nature, microcontent relies on oversimplification. 

Podcasts, in contrast, provide a platform for discussion, exploration, discovery, and long-form storytelling. It thrives on nuance, on detail, on unfurling the multifaceted. In a world dominated by sound bites, podcasting offers conversations based on in-depth research in the midst of a dangerously divided nation, oftentimes running on oversimplified and misguided information. 

The Purpose

I have dedicated my career to audio because I want to platform nuanced and honest conversations. With every project, FRQNCY works with the intention to amplify the frequencies that heal, enlighten, and uplift. Each member of our team aligns with this intention, and together we work diligently to create work that makes the world a high-vibrational place.

With gratitude, 

Michelle Khouri

On The Wavelength

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