Monday, July 08, 2019

Why do People Listen to Political Podcasts? Initial Research Findings

Political podcasts have become one of the most popular types of podcast (Chan-Olmsted, 2019). Recent download figures reveal The New York Times podcast 'The Daily' is downloaded nearly two million times a day (Evening Standard, 2019) and the BBC 'Brexitcast' podcast was downloaded over six million times in April 2019 (Sofos, 2019). There is clearly something about the nature of political podcasts that resonates with the audience. In my recent survey (n=1,346) I explored what motivates people to listen to political podcasts and whether these motivations are satisfied.

The survey included 17 potential motivation statements, which were rated by respondents on a scale of 1 to 5 (strongly disagree to strongly agree).

Cognitive and Social Motivations

The results indicate there are strong cognitive and social motivations for listening to political podcasts. Below are the average scores for the three cognitive motivations.

4.71  I listen to political podcasts to improve my understanding of political issues
4.50  I feel more knowledgeable after listening to political podcasts
4.38  I find political podcasts more insightful than mainstream media political reporting

The following social motivations also scored highly:

4.22  Listening to political podcasts enables me to better engage in political discussions
3.92  I feel more confident about expressing political views after listening to political podcasts
3.91  I discuss political podcast content with friends

Taken together these scores indicate a cognitive social motivation for listening to political podcasts. Political podcasts can increase an individual's knowledge and intellectual capital, which in turn enhances their social capital. The knowledge gained can increase their confidence and ability to engage in discussions and enhance their credibility, status and social standing. A recent study of The Making History podcast in Israel (Samuel-Azran et al, 2019) found that appearing knowledgeable was valued highly by listeners, particularly in higher social groups. The knowledge and learning from podcasts provides social utility as it is embedded in a social context and in ongoing social relationships. Over 78% of survey respondents reporting discussing the content of political podcasts with friends.

The Nature of the Podcast Medium

The convenience and productivity, through multi-tasking, of podcasts was also valued highly by respondents. The following two motivations scored highly.

4.65  I can listen to the podcast when it fits my personal schedule
4.16  Podcasts enable me to listen while I do something else

Podcasts as an Intimate Medium

Podcasts are an intimate medium that provide an impression of closeness without being physically close. They create a ‘deeply sonorous intimacy’ where the listener can feel like they are sitting in on a private conversation (Llinares et al, 2018) and this can return emotion, connection and community (Brabazon, 2012). This was reflected in the rating of the following motivation statements.

3.94  I select podcasts where I respect the values of the presenter
3.88  I feel like I get to know the presenters of political podcasts
3.54  I feel like I am sitting in on a private conversation

The intimate nature of podcast listening can create a sense of informality and emotional authenticity which builds loyal relationships with presenters (Platt & Truant, 2013) and can lead to podcasts being perceived as a more genuine, trustworthy and reliable media form (Sheppard, 2016).  

The only other motivation which scored above 3.5 was 'I listen to be entertained' which scored 3.61. All of the other motivations scored less than 3.5.


Uses and gratifications theory predicts that where the gratifications an individual obtains from a medium meet or exceed the gratifications sought, the audience satisfaction will lead to continued or increased use of the medium. In this case over 87% of respondents had increased their podcast listening over the last two years and 47.6% had increased their listening significantly. This indicates that political podcasts are satisfying listener expectations. Political podcasts also appear to be creating a strong core of committed listeners, with 32% reporting that they listen to 5 or more political podcasts a week and 22% reporting listening to political podcasts for over 5 hours a week.

In my next post I will reflect on the significant differences the survey highlighted between the motivations of men and women.

This is a link to my previous post on the profile of the political podcast audience.


Brabazon, T. (2012). The sound of a librarian: The politics and potential of podcasting in
difficult times. In Brabazon, T., ed Digital Dialogues and Community 2:0: After avatars, trolls and puppets (P137-162) Oxford, Chandos Publishing.

Chan-Olmsted, S. (2019). Today’s Podcast Listener: 2019 National Survey Report, University of Florida College of Journalism and Communications retrieved from

Evening Standard. (2019). The Daily host Michael Barbaro on podcasting, Trump and the changing world of journalism retrieved from

Llinares, D., Fox, N, & Berry, R. (2018). Podcasting : New aural cultures and digital media. Cham, Switzerland : Palgrave Macmillan

Platt, S., & Truant, J. B. (2013). Write, Publish, Repeat. Realm & Sands. Published Online: Sterling & Stone.

Samuel-Azran., Leor, T., Tal,D. (2019). Who listens to podcasts, and why?: the Israeli case, Online Information Review,

Sheppard, E. (2016). Podcasting: ‘It Builds Trust, Credibility and Brand Loyalty.' The Guardian. Retrieved from

Sofos, D. (2019). BBC Brexitcast download figures for April 2019. Twitter. Retrieved from