Students, teachers listen to podcasts to learn, relax

Charlotte Tomlin

It all starts with the click of a button. Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Audible, Google Podcasts, Stitcher, TuneIn Radio.

Podcasts began with the rise of Apple’s first iPod, when software developers Adam Curry and David Winer devised a program that allowed downloads of online radio broadcasts from the internet directly to an iPod. In Feb. 2004, journalist Ben Hammersley published an article about the rise of online radio on the iPod and dubbed it “podcasting.” From then on, podcasts started to catch on. In Oct. 2004, the first podcast service provider,, emerged. By the end of the year, the number of Google hits for the word ‘podcast’ reached 100,000.

“I seek podcasts not for news,” Tolly Salz, an English teacher and avid podcast listener, said. “But rather to explore various topics, to understand new ideas and perspectives, and to delve into something so interesting that I find myself lost in another world altogether.”

2014 was the year that arguably changed the course of podcasting. This American Life published an investigative journalism podcast titled “Serial.” This was the first podcast to be parodied on “Saturday Night Live” and the first podcast to win a Peabody Award, kick starting a cascade of other shows in the true crime drama.

“I’ve always loved stories and storytelling,” Salz said. “It was my oldest son who got me hooked on listening to podcasts. He encouraged me to start with “Serial,” which I did–and from then on, I was sold. Listening to podcasts is like having company during a long drive, giving you something to think about for those three hours.”

Nicholas Quah, a writer for “Vulture” magazine, researched the rise of podcasts and reported astonishing numbers. The number of monthly podcast listeners increased from 39 million to an estimated 90 million in the five years after 2014.

Podcasting continued to gain traction with seemingly unstoppable momentum after President Barack Obama appeared as a guest on Marc Maron’s show. Later, the New York Times debuted a podcast titled “The Daily,” a podcast “designed to match the fast pace of modern news [featuring] original reporting and recordings of the newspaper’s top stories,” according to the Times.

In recent years, podcasting has reached a colossal milestone. In 2019, it was reported that 165 million people had listened to a podcast, and 90 million Americans listened to a podcast monthly. Viewership is not the only thing to have increased tremendously in recent years. Podcast acquisition deals are being signed for $100 million, and by 2021, ad revenue is projected to pass $1 billion.

“Podcasts can provide further insight into a topic because students are hearing a greater variety of perspectives and ideas than just the class readings or the teacher.”

Bryan Cupp
History and ethics teacher

Podcasts have also taken a hold on the ESD community, as more and more students and faculty began listening to podcasts.

“I listen to ‘NPR Consider This’, ‘Thick & Thin’ by Katie Bellotte and ‘Anything Goes’ by Emma Chamberlain,” senior Mary Grace Altizer said. “I started listening to podcasts during quarantine while I ran. I would run 4 miles a day as a way to escape, and I don’t really like running to music. For me, podcasts would make me excited to run and get outside because I could just zone out and listen to what the person was saying.”

Students listen to podcasts in a wide variety of genres, ranging from news and political podcasts to sports podcasts. House of Highlights, a popular YouTube channel, created a podcast called “Through the Wire” to discuss all things NBA.

“I listen to ‘Through the Wire,’” sophomore John Carley said. “I listen to it whenever I play basketball. One of my favorite YouTubers started it, so I decided to try it out. I like how the episodes are an hour long, so I can listen to the same episode over the course of multiple days. It expands my love for the sport, and helps me win at fantasy basketball.”

Many social media influencers, like YouTubers and Instagram influencers, have started making podcasts, drawing many, including Altizer. Emma Chamberlain, a popular lifestyle YouTuber, created a podcast called ‘Anything Goes,’where she talks about her thoughts, her life and gives advice on topics from relationships to dealing with failure.

Chamberlain’s podcast is one of many examples about the accessibility of podcasts, showcasing the ease with which one can take the initiative to make a podcast. From a Nov. 1 poll of 172 students, 23 percent said that they would make a podcast.

“I think starting a podcast could be really fun,” Altizer said. “If I ever did, I would definitely want to do one with a friend because I do not think I could talk by myself for that long.”

Many students use their time in the car during the day to listen to podcasts, taking advantage of the many platforms available to listen to podcasts.

“I will listen to ‘NPR Consider This’ on the way to school because each episode is roughly 15 minutes,” Altizer said. “I like to listen to keep myself updated with current global events. I listen to ‘Thick and Thin’ and ‘Anything Goes’ while I clean my room, run, write in my planner, etc. because they are more light hearted.”

History and teacher Bryan Cupp assigns podcasts to his students in order to enrich his students’ learning experiences.

“Podcasts can provide further insight into a topic because students are hearing a greater variety of perspectives and ideas than just the class readings or the teacher,” Cupp said. “Sometimes [podcasts] stimulate students to pursue more topics on their own.”

Faculty members, like Salz, believe that more students should listen to podcasts.

“I think that podcasts can ignite wonder and curiosity,” Salz said. “They can allow us to see various perspectives and to understand various experiences better. We can learn new information, we can seek entertainment, we can grow. There’s something out there for everyone– you name it, you can find it.”

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