Why the f*ck is everyone starting a podcast now?

Perhaps the last February will go down in history as the month in which print journalism in Germany reached a preliminary stage of what could one day be its end: The former Gruner&Jahr publishing house announced a tough austerity course in February this year, and just a few weeks ago the Axel Springer publishing house announced job cuts at its Bild and Welt newspapers with the aim of publishing “digital only” in future.

The closure of so many newspapers came as a surprise: in recent months, years and seasons, print journalism has experienced a real rivalry – thanks to nostalgia and elegy. However, print journalism now seems to have got the final nail in the already closed coffin. Due to more and more (German) mainstream outlets closing down numerous journalists are being dismissed into the unknown. What is the future of journalism in these uncertain times and where will homeless journalists go? And especially: is this the end of journalism as we know it?

What happens now? We suspect that the age of the indie outlet is now upon us (and we’re not just saying this for selfish reasons). It may seem strange that we are seeing a resurgence of independent magazines at a time when traditional print has never been more unstable. But far from dying, independent publishing is enjoying a renaissance. These are not the A4, glossy, free DVD-inside commodities that dominate the newsstand. These are objects as much as magazines, collectible and shareable in the best sense of the word. 

Some of the publications, such as Accent, a magazine that celebrates “misfits and free spirits”, make a virtue of their niche appeal. Stitch, Bitch!, which aims to “make fashion better and fairer for young people”, and the London-based Sonshine, offering tips for those “raising boys for an equal world”, also fall into this category. Others tackle the broadest of topics. Ernest, biannually printed “for curious and adventurous gentlefolk”, takes “curiosity and slow adventure” as its theme. Yet, whether readers are choosing to read a magazine about travel, food or feminism, the real attractions are a maverick editorial attitude and high design values.

These outlets have one big advantage: they are not beholden to anyone or anything. Their subjects are as diverse as their production techniques, from mental health to trans rights, from football to streetwear. They are driven by a passion for both their content and the printed form, and thanks to technology, they are able to reach audiences around the world.

You can’t really expect every homeless (or rather, magazine-less) journalist to start an indie. Especially since many independent media do not cover the topics that the editors in question do. 

Enter the medium of the moment: podcasts. The popularity of the audio medium has grown so dramatically in recent years that the industry has its own conventions. And the genres have long since gone beyond talk formats or true crime. In the German-speaking world alone, tens of thousands of programmes compete for attention and airtime. At the same time, listeners have become more demanding in terms of sound quality, editorial standards and entertainment. “We’ve got a podcast now” is no longer enough. The hype has given way to a real, mature audio landscape with new challenges and new demands. 

Many outlets are already successfully tapping into podcasts. But not only publications: Many journalists are extending their content with audio.

And podcasts offer huge advantages – especially for journalists. For one thing, it is a long-form format that can be accessed on-demand at any time. Sure, there are online articles, but easy access is something that print media in particular has long lagged behind. Secondly, we all rush through our daily lives. Some more, some less. As a result, we have less time to be surprised and discover new things.

The advantage of a podcast is that it is an audio contribution. This means that the listener only needs their ears and a minimum of concentration. Reading blogs or watching videos, on the other hand, requires so-called screen time, i.e. focusing on a screen.

Or have you ever noticed that reading requires more concentration than listening?

So you can comfortably listen to podcasts on your way to the office, while jogging or ironing your shirts – because your eyes and hands are free for the “physical” activity. Unlike text and video, podcasts are easy to consume on the go. And that’s what makes them so popular with listeners.

In the end: Time will tell what lies ahead for journalism as we know it. For now, don’t be surprised to see more and more podcast suggestions appearing in your Spotify feed.