How podcasts can bring people together and their lives in order during quarantine

A picture of a person holding a phone connected to headphones.
Photo by Melanie Pongratz on Unsplash

Self-isolation during the pandemic has caused a rise in podcasting and podcast listeners, according to a recent report by PMG: Digital Marketing Agency.

The world saw the highest five-day average of podcasts downloaded ever in mid-March with a 30 per cent download increase. When the pandemic hit in Canada and the U.S. many people started listening to podcasts for the first time in their lives.

According to PMG: Digital Marketing Agency, podcast listenership for iHeart Radio and Acast was up 15 per cent and seven per cent respectively during the pandemic.

“Listening to podcasts for the first time was a good thing for me, as I got bored of music,” said Sulieman Sulieman, a mechanic from Toronto. “I mainly listened to comedy podcasts to fill time when I had nothing to do. Each new episode became something I looked forward to.”

According to Gavin Whitner of Music Oomph, this year saw one million active podcasts and over 30 million episodes, while in 2018 these numbers were at 550,000 podcasts and 18.5 million episodes.

Three Toronto journalists , Alex Wong, Vince Capano and Bianca Teixeira, each took on the challenge of starting a brand-new podcast of their own. 

Wong started Steven LeBron Radio, a show where he talked about  a variety of random topics, like his favourite movies, tips for young writers, and old World Wrestling Federation pay-per-views. 

Capano started Sport Chat, a podcast where he speaks with sports world professionals to get a better understanding of the work involved in different sports fields. 

Teixeira started Bee’s Nest Podcast, a show that was all about pop culture and lifestyle, but she also said anything she could ramble about was on the table.

Podcast consumption has been on the rise during the COVID-19 pandemic because people are seeking education, information, entertainment and comfort, according to PMG: Digital Marketing Agency 

Adjustments had to be made to daily routines with work from home policies and restaurant closures forcing people to find new things to keep busy.

Since people have been confined to their own homes, they have had to find new ways to utilize their time and new ways to stay entertained. Wong, Capano and Teixeira shared how they used their free time to start a new project.

Wong is a freelance journalist based out of Toronto. He has had his work featured in GQ, Complex, and Yahoo Sports Canada. He  mostly works  in print and video, but he said that both those things slowed down during the pandemic.

Steven Lebron Radio via Apple Podcasts

“As a freelancer of many years, I’m a huge creature of habit, and for better or worse, I need a schedule and things to do in my life to keep me busy,” said Wong. 

Wong was also looking for something to keep him busy for the rest of the year because he mainly reports on the National Basketball Association (NBA) and their season came to a stop in March. 

“I also had no idea whether the NBA was coming back, so I thought this was something that would keep me busy for the rest of the year,” he said.

For many, the past eight months in quarantine during the  COVID-19 pandemic has been a whole new way of life. Podcasting is becoming an increasingly  new popular form of media – and something that has to be adjusted to.  

“For me and from a work perspective, a lot of the things I did day-to-day [such as] covering the Raptors and the NBA at the arena and going into Yahoo to shoot video hits, [were] all grounded to a halt,” said Wong.

Capano is a recent graduate from Brock University’s sports management program and has been struggling to find a job due to COVID-19.

Teixeira is an associate editor for HELLO! Canada Magazine and was not doing much of her usual work, so she looked towards podcasting.

Both Wong and Teixeira said they’ve wanted to start a personal podcast for a long time, but never got the chance due to their hectic schedules. 

Capano started Sport Chat to use his time post-graduation with no job.

Sport Chat. Image via Apple Podcasts

 “I decided to use this time to my advantage to learn new skills and grow both personally and professionally,” said Capano. “I have also enjoyed learning about digital marketing and communications. When this pandemic hit … I could either be sad about the lost job opportunities or I can create something positive. I always choose the positive.”

PMG: Digital Marketing Agency’s report also stated, “Consumers are turning to radio shows and podcasts as sources of social connection over the streaming of music itself.”

Listening to people speak provides a closer connection with people in a time when many cannot see their friends and family. The same could be said for people making podcasts, and how important their guests are to them.

“My podcast made my lockdown so much more enjoyable. Whenever I book a day to talk to someone, it’s something to look forward to,” said Teixeira. “I get to laugh through an hour or so with someone that I miss seeing from before the pandemic about a topic that I find interesting.”

Some people also say that they get bored while being stuck in lockdown because they were not able to commute to work and they were most often stuck working from home in front of a computer screen for hours. PMG: Digital Marketing Agency’s report found that a lot of people were listening to podcasts as entertainment while working.

“Being in lockdown during the pandemic was really getting to me. I needed something new in my life that would make me feel like I was shaking things up while also connecting with other humans,” said Teixeira. “And, honestly, dressing up and video chatting with hilarious people about fun things has been a real sanity saver.”

One of Sulieman’s favourite YouTubers started a podcast during the pandemic, which  was the main reason he started listening to podcasts. 

“[They were] a big reason I got into listening to podcasts because I was now watching his new videos and also listening to his new episodes each week,” said Sulieman.

Podcast listenership is increasing which allows for more success in smaller podcasts while gaining credibility allows for faster growth. Especially with high-profile guests having lighter schedules, it became beneficial for newer shows.

“I do believe there are many pivotal moments for Sport Chat. Mike Ross, PA Announcer with Toronto Maple Leafs, or Jack Armstrong, a broadcaster with Toronto Raptors, being guests early in the journey because it gave the show respect and credibility,” said Capano.

Wong and Teixeira also enjoyed being their own boss and having full creative control over the work they were putting out. They had no editor to answer to and they were able to touch on a variety of topics.

“Anything and everything pop culture and lifestyle. I’ve talked about old and new T.V shows, horror movies, athlete style, skincare, body positivity, nail art and good-looking celebrities. Anything is on the table as long as I can gab about it,” said Teixeira.

Bee’s Nest Podcast. Image via Spotify

PMG: Digital Marketing Agency’s report also found that sports podcasts took a hit during quarantine due to the lack of  live sports on television. This allowed Wong to talk about new things he never usually covered.

“That kind of creative control and just the ability to show off your personality and creative range is very important,” said Wong.

Capano used his podcast to learn about new things in sports and to further his career progress. These topics included sport business trends in sales, marketing, or events within the industry, the importance of internships, sports professionals’ daily tasks and responsibilities, as well as how COVID- 19 has changed the sports industry.

One common thread between all three podcasts is that Wong, Capano, and Teixeira all credit the COVID-19 pandemic with the launch of their successful podcasts.

“One hundred per cent the pandemic is the reason I started this podcast. Looking back, I think it was something that brought a bit of routine and schedule to my life,” said Wong.

“The pandemic changed everyone’s life in some respects and the world is shifting to a more virtual and digital landscape,” said Capano. “I’ve been able to speak with sports industry professionals and gain valuable insights, best practices and advice that I am certain will help advance my career when the industry opens up.”

As people become accustomed to the new normal, podcasts may continue to be a staple of many people’s’ everyday lives.