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On The Table Read, “the best entertainment magazine in the UK“, we look at research into whether the increase in podcasts means podcasting is replacing reading.

Because of how the podcasting ecosystem is set up, it is expanding at a dizzying rate. The need for podcasters is growing as more and more people subscribe to podcasts. Increasing numbers of people are entering the podcasting industry because of the financial benefits it provides. More podcasters mean more content, more listeners, more podcasters, and so on, in an ever-increasing virtuous cycle. But are podcasts replacing reading? We’ve set out to find the answer.

A studio for podcasts on The Table Read
Are podcasts replacing reading?

The numbers don’t lie

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There has been a meteoric rise in the popularity of podcasts in recent years. But the number of people who read printed books has stayed about the same or even declined. Over 80 million Americans listen to podcasts weekly, a 17 percent rise over 2020 and a trend that has been continuously expanding since 2018, according to Edison Research’s Infinite Dial 2021 study. Incredibly, there are already over 1.4 million podcast series and 57 million episodes accessible.

There’s also the fact that podcast listening is handier than reading books because of how we do it now. And there are so many topics they cover! From how to deal with burnout to true crime, anything is on the table. Any podcast can be listened to with a smartphone and a music streaming service like Spotify or Apple Music.

Are podcasts replacing reading because of the nature of the medium?

When compared to novels, podcasts are far less interactive. Books take more time to write, whereas podcasts may be broadcast simply within days or even hours to address the newest happenings. Podcasts can last anything from a few minutes to a few hours, but most books have a much longer recommended listening or reading time.

A book with glasses and a cup of coffee on The Table Read
Podcasts replacing reading would mean no downtime.

Considering the accelerated pace of modern life, this is more relevant than ever. Fewer people nowadays have the luxury of devoting many hours to reading a single book. The convenience of podcasts lies in the fact that listeners can choose to listen to a brief episode at any time, even on their way to and from work.

How podcasting changes the book as we know it

The rising prominence of audio has effects on the imaginative procedure as well. Many new authors even go as far as to change their writing process with the audiobook in mind. They want it to sound more like a podcast. This can be a great advantage if done well and may enrich a piece of media. For example, there are plenty of good options for WordPress to enrich with audio. You can utilize some of the best podcast plugins for WP to create an interactive online space.

Another issue with podcasts is that anybody can create one. This leads to a wide range of quality, and a lot of podcast material is weak and awful. Books, on the other hand, often have more in-depth and high-quality information since authors must go through a publisher who ensures that it does.

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Why the popularity of podcasts?

It’s no secret that podcasts and audiobooks have become more popular with listeners of all ages in recent years. The most obvious explanation is that it is now a lot more convenient to listen to audio than it was in the past. That’s because many things have changed in the past decade, including the ease with which people can listen to audio content on their smartphones. Additionally, podcasting apps, with their simplicity, are abundant. And, of course, inclusivity. People with dyslexia might find books difficult to read, but nowadays, most are in audiobook format.

Person listening to podcasts replacing reading.
Podcasts are convenient for busy people who are always on the go.

Concentration might be what’s stopping podcasts from replacing reading

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It’s important to remember that it’s human nature for our thoughts to wander, whether we’re reading or listening to the content. This is something an author should be aware of, and our friends at keep reminding writers about it. It can take seconds (or even minutes) to snap out of these short mental sojourns and concentrate our attention.

It’s simple to locate the spot in a book when you lose interest and return to it afterward. If you’re listening to a podcast, it’s a lot harder. If you’re trying to understand a challenging passage, reading may be preferable to listening since it allows you to go back and reexamine the content more quickly. The act of turning a page serves as a little respite. This pause might give your brain a chance to file away or digest the knowledge you’ve just taken in.

Moreover, 10%-15% of a reader’s eye movements are regressive. This means we are going backward and double-checking. This happens rapidly and is seamlessly sewn into the act of reading. This reading quirk likely aids understanding and may be analogous to a listener requesting that a speaker “hold on” or repeat something. The speaker’s words are replayed in your mind’s ear while you ask that question. In theory, you can rewind an audio file or pause it in the middle of playback, but many would agree it’s more trouble than skimming over text with your eyes again.

A person holding an open book on The Table Read
For now, the books are here to stay.

Will podcasts replace reading in the future?

Reading Never Goes Out of Style

Due to the fact that some novels are better suited to printed language, many do not believe that all ebooks will become audiobooks or podcasts replacing reading. Books are worth reading slowly so that each word may be appreciated. Also, many forms of nonfiction, such as lengthy works of biography or history, are more enjoyable when read on paper than heard. While you might enjoy reading biographies in print, devoting 18 hours to a podcast biography might be too much like a history class.

However, some specific genres may learn a lot from podcasting and become more interesting when presented in the audiobook format. This would be useful not just for pop culture journalism but also for self-help books, business publications, and other sorts of nonfiction. Applying the techniques of narrative podcasting to audiobooks might prove a great way to interest younger generations in literature.

Then there are interactive novels. For decades, authors have been exploring the possibilities of incorporating visuals, audio, and various digital forms into their works. It is possible that this trend of digitally reimagining texts, with audio included, will persist.

Final words

So, are podcasts replacing reading? We don’t think so. Listening to podcasts surely has its benefits. It is a great way to pass the time while doing other activities like exercising, doing dishes, or traveling to and from work. However, there will always be a place for the written word. Due to the beauty, convenience, or just the smell of a new book, printed media is here to stay.

Meta: Are you wondering about the possibility of podcasts replacing reading? Then this article is for you! Read on and find out all about it.

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