I remember the school run fondly. My mom would load me, my brother, and sister into the car and take us on the 30-minute drive to school. The journey had a familiar routine – passing by the same places, chatting and laughing. Someone else was always in the car though – the radio. There was a DJ cracking corny jokes at the same time every morning, making a predictable prank call, playing the number one song on the charts for that day (in 1992, it was Whitney Houston’s ‘I Will Always Love You’, which meant that we all had to hear that song every day for months, so that it was tattooed on the inside of our skulls and infected our dreams), and someone reading the news headlines. Those morning drives were the context for my teenage years.
When I became a DJ, I suppose I set the context for many of my listeners – which, upon reflection, was both a massive responsibility and great privilege.
Now, there are a billion things vying for your attention on your way into work or school – YouTube, WhatsApp, social media, notifications, electronic billboards, online streaming, and podcasts. Did you know that there are over 700 000 free podcasts available on Apple and Google podcasts alone? Headphones, AirPods and even screens built into the driver’s headrest means everyone in the car can now watch or listen to any of these things at any time, and they don’t have to all do the same thing. Many will bemoan the death of conversation, but that’s an argument for another day. Public transport, taxis, Uber and even air travel have opened up new spaces for both content and advertising – and everyone is curating and designing their own experience daily. Our behaviour in the morning commute has changed.
With these changes in behaviour come new ways of connecting with people, ideas, info and amusement. It’s not so easy to broadcast to everyone anymore, and the only people you’re likely to reach the old way are the people too poor to have options.
As much as I love to wallow in the nostalgia of hearing Whitney every day on the way to school, we were living in a different time and there’s nothing pulling me back. I was stuck in a traffic jam for an hour and a half this week, and listening to Sam Harris talking to Ricky Gervais for the duration of it was like being an exclusive dinner guest with two of the smartest people I’ve never met. You can keep your hit music, prank calls and traffic updates… I’ve found audio heaven and my behaviour is changed, for the better.
It is, without doubt, the most exciting time to be connected, creative, energetic and open-minded. And what better way to tell these stories, and indeed store them to be passed on to the next generations who may not even remember old-fashioned radio and television, other than through podcasts? And besides being able to nurture a genuine relationship with your listeners, podcasts are a very cost-effective way of marketing.
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