Last month we learned that an estimated 98 million people have listened to a podcast in the US, and 57 million listened in the last month. According to the newly released Infinite Dial study from Edison Research, of the 13% of the 12+ population that listens weekly, more than half listen to several each week. All of those stats are gains on a year ago, and it’s a trend that is likely to continue to increase.
A new study by the journal Nature helps explain this upsurge in podcast listening. In the study, the researchers played episodes of the very popular podcast series The Moth Radio Hour for several volunteers and watched the way their brains responded. According to this article about the study, “widely dispersed sensory, emotional and memory networks were humming, across both hemispheres of the brain,” a reaction that was different than predicted.
Storytelling, it seems, causes an “internal living reality” to take over, which engages the listener, and feels good. The storytelling aspects of podcasts are indeed their appeal, according to this new data.
The article gets pretty technical, with a beautiful interactive brain viewer that supports the research and informs us that “right angular gyrus will probably respond most strongly to words that describe people or dramatic events,” while other areas of the brain respond to words that describe shape, place, and numbers.
Listening to stories makes the brain fire on all cylinders and that feels good. It’s a good explanation for the growing popularity of podcasts. Of course, The Moth Radio Hour was an excellent content choice for the study, given it’s high quality, enormous popularity, and storytelling genre. Those storytelling aspects were present in Serial’s enormously successful first season as well, and are the basis for so many of the new podcast series being released these days.
Understanding the way a listener reacts to a podcast is interesting data that can help potential advertisers both justify investments and develop campaign strategies. That makes this very useful info for revenue development as well.