The rise of podcast


The number of podcast listeners in the U.S. has been on the rise in 2019. According to Edison Research, over 50 percent of Americans listen to podcasts, rising from just 11 percent in 2006.

The emergence of podcasts has been a slow yet steady climb. There are over 750,000 podcasts in the world and 30 million episodes as of June 2019. Out of the 30 million episodes and counting, there are three that belong to H-F social science teacher, Jon Elfner.

Elfner is a national contributor to Our American Stories, a syndicated radio broadcast that airs on weekdays to over 140 stations, with an estimated audience of 2.2 million listeners weekly. The broadcast also has a daily podcast that makes each story available after they’ve aired.

He began working with Our American Stories three years ago after engineering a broadcast for Alex Cortes, the Vice President of content development at the show. After working on the story for 10 months, Elfner produced his first story “Teddy Roosevelt Saved Football?” in September of 2018.
Creating the stories is no easy process. It takes many long hours of research and writing, but in the end it always pays off and is a rewarding experience for Elfner.

“I really enjoy the creative nature of the working on stories. After many hours of work, the pieces begin to fit together and a good moment will fall into place. When that happens, it is really satisfying,” Elfner said. “I often will listen to what I have recorded to hear it the way that listeners will hear it when it broadcasts. When I am in my car listening to a new segment that is working well, I really enjoy those moments.”

Elfner combines his love for history, teaching and story telling to produce them. He has been telling stories his entire teaching career, but now he’s telling them to millions of people.

“I love telling stories, which is what I do a lot of as a history teacher. Spending time in front of an audience of kids has given me a chance to work everyday on how to make stories more compelling,” Elfner said. “Those stories began as one thing, and over the years have developed into something more engaging. I wanted to share those stories beyond my classroom and the radio show seemed like a great opportunity to do that.”

Despite the fact that Our American Stories is a broadcast program, they decided to take advantage of the booming podcast industry.

According to the Nielsen’s 2019 Audio Today Report, 272 million Americans listen to traditional radio weekly. This is only a 2.5 percent increase from 2016 and listenership has remained stagnant since 2017.
These numbers reveal that radio is doing alright for now, but it will face some serious issues and decline as the means of mass communication continues to evolve.

Even H-F’s broadcasting program has seen a shift in radio and adapted to the change in communication by video recording radio broadcasts. Broadcasting sponsor, Mark Cieleski has noticed a slight change in the radio trends, but doesn’t think that radio will be going anywhere anytime soon.

“Radio [listeners] are those that listen in their cars and I think that’s where radio is it’s biggest right now. I don’t think the elements of podcasts will ever replace radio, it’s just too convenient,” Cieleski said.

There have been major changes in broadcasting and communication, but like Cieleski, Elfner also believes that radio is here to stay.

“I do think that there is a lot of good about podcasts. I listen to several podcasts a week and it’s great to be able to select a story for the exact time you are driving somewhere, going for a run, or just relaxing, but there is some magic in radio,” Elfner said. “Turning on a station and not knowing exactly what you will get, and then finding something new you like, or an old favorite is a magical experience. I think there will always be some place for radio even as podcasts become more popular.”