By: Abi Hillrich

I had my first experience with a podcast in middle school. My younger brother, at age 12, convinced me to download a show he’d religiously listened to for about a year. It came out every Friday, was called “The RELEVANT Podcast” and was created by the same people who make Relevant Magazine, and I listened to it for years.

However, in the early 2000s, podcasts were a new concept. Recently, they are more widespread and much easier to talk about in culture; interest in this form of media has been growing consistently by 10-20 percent every year since its conception, with 67 million Americans listening to podcasts monthly by 2017.

In high school, my friend and I, sensing that podcasts were a thing of the future, attempted our own. It had no real direction, and I remember listening back and thinking it was just an irrelevant conversation between friends. It dawned on me then that there must be some art to it; there must be something that podcasts can offer the world while retaining this simple format of a conversation between friends. The podcasts I love make me care about the hosts in order to feel involved in what they’re talking about. The best podcasts invite the audience to join the conversation as equals, with a unique feeling of becoming good friends.

This is one thing that is so easy to love about this form of media. Not only is it easy to consume, it is so easy to create. Podcasts have been made in basements all over the world (“I Only Listen to the Mountain Goats,” for example) and in high-tech podcasting studios.

A special thing about going to Greenville University is the opportunities that are provided for students — one of these being access to a podcasting studio and equipment. Dr. Matt Bernico, professor of communications, teaches a class on podcasting and even co-hosts a podcast himself with Dean Detloff called “The Magnificast.” Many students on campus have used these resources to create podcasts in genres ranging from narrative to conversational.

As a writer, I’m always searching for the intrigue and meaning in different forms of media. Fiction stories remain captivating because an author knows how to make the main character relatable, while still experiencing things that seem exciting and out of the ordinary to the reader. A good editorial makes the audience see things in a different way, and continue thinking about it afterward. What does podcasting have to offer — and what makes it so appealing?

There’s a diversity and togetherness in podcasting that is nearly unrivaled in other forms of media. For example, reading an article about Dungeons and Dragons isn’t even comparable to the experience of listening to an episode of “The Adventure Zone.” There are podcasts for fictional storytelling (“Welcome to Nightvale,” “The Truth,” “Alice Isn’t Dead”), podcasts about religion (“RELEVANT Podcast,” “The Red Couch Podcast”), podcasts about comedy (“WTF with Marc Maron,” “My Brother My Brother and Me”), and podcasts about crime (“Serial,” “S-Town,” “Up and Vanished”). Even incredibly niche topics have their own podcasts. There’s one in which a couple of dudes talk about pens and office-related accessories (“The Pen Addict”). In “Gilmore Guys,” a group of men comments on the show “Gilmore Girls.” Basically, if you’re interested in something, there’s a podcast about it, as well as a podcast for seven other things you didn’t even know you were interested in.

Podcasts offer individuality and passion while remaining cutting edge. Still fairly new, they have the aura of being “cool” and “educational” while actually being extremely popular. Podcasts include the intrigue and drama of a good film or a great magazine article, while taking advantage of the audio medium. By requiring about as much of a person as music does, podcasts can be enjoyed at work, at the gym, or as a way to relax.

They offer a break from the entertainment of screens, while containing the same amount of excitement and intrigue. It’s easy to consume podcasts, and it feels good. Listening to podcasts impacts the brain in the same way a fictional story does. Good stories (and good podcasts) release a chemical called oxytocin which increases empathy in the reader or listener.

There’s something extraordinarily encouraging about the fact that podcasts exist, that we are always discovering new ways to experience and interact with other humans. Podcasts help us to feel less alone. The rise of podcasts only affirms the fact that media continually helps us to better understand the world in which we live.

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