There is a direct correlation between my move to Los Angeles and my obsession with podcasts. Why? Traffic.

In January of 2017, I quadrupled my weekly podcast listening by founding EarBuds Podcast Collective, a listening movement that sends out a weekly theme and 5 podcast episodes on that theme, each week curated by a different person. I started this listening movement as a way of finding more content to listen to – yes, because of traffic, but also because of a desire to expand my interests and to get out of the “news I listen to reinforces itself” bubble.

While podcast listening is traditionally thought of as a solitary experience (to enjoy while going for a walk, driving, grocery shopping, cleaning…), I’ve been thinking for a while now about how we can change this paradigm. How can podcast listening become like TV watching? You get home from a day at work or school, sit down on the couch, and flip on the TV with housemates. Will we come to a time when we get home from our daily activities and turn on the latest installment of This American Life to enjoy with our friends and family? I sure hope so, but I’ve gotten some pushback from friends who are less podcast-obsessed than me and think it would be awkward to sit in a room with nothing to stare at.

In 2015, This American Life released Serial, a serialized podcast that detailed the story of Adnan Syed. Syed was convicted of murder in 1999 of his then girlfriend, Hae Min Lee. Recent evidence and interest in the case suggested that the outcome might not have been as black and white as initially thought. This podcast really took off and millions of people throughout the world were hooked, waiting, week by week, for what the next episode would bring. This instance is often sighted as the first time that podcast content made it to water cooler chatter. Then, this American Life did it again in March of 2017 with the release of S-Town, another serialized account of a death, this time of a horologist, John B. McLemore from Bibb County, Alabama. I, along with many of my friends, was hooked on both serialized podcasts. Are we on a path towards more of these community-fostering audio experiences?

You may be wondering, why am I so into the idea that podcast/audio enjoyment should no longer be a solitary experience? There’s so much content being produced right now for our ear-enjoyment. And by so much, I really mean a great deal of programming. According to Convince & Convert, 112 million Americans have listened to a podcast. That’s a pretty large number of Americans, which means that this medium of entertainment has the power to reach and influence. We can leverage these numbers to create engaged, active, and conscientious communities. We can especially see these numbers as an opportunity for bubble-breaking. Let’s challenge ourselves to get out of our own social bubbles by listening to content outside of our natural proclivities.

Luckily, there has been a move towards a more communal aspect of audio content enjoyment. Here are several ways you can get involved with podcast communities, both in-person and online:

  • Podcast Brunch Club – It’s a book club, but for podcasts and there are chapters in cities all over the world.
  • place as both large ComicCon-like gatherings and as more indie festivals.
  • New York Time Podcast Club is a growing group on Facebook that also occasionally hosts live meet-ups.
  • EarBuds Podcast Collective is a listening movement that produces listening lists and live storytelling shows, including online discussion forum for listeners.
  • Attend live podcast recordings/tapings – check with your favorite podcasts if they’re touring anytime soon.

And last but not least…

  • Host a podcast listening salon – email me to brainstorm and let’s shift this listening paradigm!