The Power of Podcasts: what made us start listening?

The love of podcasts among Generation Z is frankly bizarre. Having spent our childhoods accustomed to television, a few years ago many of us would likely have found it quite strange to tune into an ‘episode’ of a show made up entirely of audio. Growing up, my sole engagement with radio was in the car -and that was only if my mum was sick of her Wham CD – so my first inquiry into podcasts certainly felt peculiar. But from consistently remarking, “That would make a good podcast” when drama unfolds, to sharing recommendations on a group chat, it seems as if podcasts have come to occupy a unique space in our culture – one that radio never did for our generation. The huge variety of content that podcasts now offer means there is practically something for everyone, and I’ve even found that my love for podcasts has even led me back into radio. But why do we love podcasts so much?

I would argue that podcasts offer us a new space to explore things that frequently have been censored or hidden from visual platforms. In an overwhelming, over-stimulated age, where the most extreme and most extraordinary things go viral, the pause from visual media offered by podcasts requires less commitment from us as listeners, as well as using up far less emotional and intellectual energy. Podcasts can fit into the everyday; they give us the chance to fill mundane moments with new knowledge and new ideas. With that in mind, here are five of my current favourites to explore:

Ways to Change the World

Hosted by Krishnan Guru-Murthy, this show brings some of the most interesting writers, musicians, politicians, and thinkers to chat about what they do, how they feel they can explain noteworthy events of our time, and the answers they can offer to some of the biggest challenges we’re facing. My personal favourite was Naomi Klein talking about the Green New Deal.

Intelligence Squared

Intelligence Squared is a platform that organises debates around the country, and as well as recording events, they also host multiple podcasts. Whatever your interest, you’ll certainly find a conversation t worth listening to. I would recommend the series ‘How I Found My Voice’ with Samira Ahmed which explores the inspiration and success stories of different artists.

Doing it! With Hannah Witton

It’s brilliant that positive, frank dialogues surrounding sex and sexuality have found a home in podcasts, and Hannah Witton’s series is one of many. The prominent YouTuber started her podcast after the publication of her first book, Doing It, and she has now brought out another book titled The Hormone Diaries. Every episode of her podcast offers an open, informative discussion, with guests imparting their knowledge and personal experiences of everything from periods and pregnancy to sex and disability. I particularly enjoyed the most recent instalment, ‘Racism in Sexual and Reproductive Health’.

Free Thinking, BBC sounds

This is an academic series bringing together academics and writers with overlapping research interests. My personal favourite episode is ‘How we See Pregnancy, Past and Present’, which explores representations of pregnancy within art and social media, as well as an 18th century hoax known as The Rabbit Breeder that reveals attitudes to the female body and reproductive system in restoration England. This is a radio show but it can be listened to on the BBC sounds app.

The Gemma Collins Podcast

If you’ve ever come across this podcast, you’ll know why it has to make this list. It is a chaotic, unstructured but beautiful composition of Gemma Collins’ mind palace. She really does discuss almost everything; a highlight of mine is when she tackled the question ‘what is time?’ and encouraged listeners to send in their explanations (among my favourite responses were the suggestion that time as we know it began with the building of Big Ben, as well as one listener’s claim that she doesn’t adhere to Daylight Saving Hours and won’t allow anyone in her life to turn the clocks back).This podcast may be comedic, but it is genuinely wholesome and heart-warming. Give it a go – no matter what your TOWIE affiliations are.