In 2015, TIME Magazine cited a then-recent study saying that humans now officially have shorter attention spans than goldfish. Similarly, soon-to-be college graduates are told that an employer will spend something like 5 seconds looking at their resumes before moving onto the next one. Isn’t that terrifying?
While folks once settled in for the evening to watch the news at home, it’s become more and more common for them to pick up some other medium to skim the highlights of the day.
Our media has perhaps understood that better than anyone. Marketing firms and ad agencies have been acutely aware of that when looking to catch someone’s attention to sell a product. While folks once settled in for the evening to watch the news at home, it’s become more and more common for them to pick up some other medium to skim the highlights of the day. Then, they can move on with their day by tuning into a show like The Office, Scandal, Big Brother, or The Bachelor.
A little less than a year ago, a friend of mine introduced me to The Skimm, a daily email that, well, skims the news for me. It breaks down what is happening in politics and in the world in general, and it also gives me a sense of why those things are important for me to know each day. Since I started reading it, I’ve definitely become more informed. Now, The Skimm has launched a daily podcast called Skimm This. This podcast is about 15 minutes or less in length and covers big news stories each day. It comes out in the evening too – just in time for folks getting off of work and stuck with a long commute to get home.
Very similarly, The New York Times does a “daily briefing” that covers news events. It is also home to a standing podcast called The Daily.Every weekday, host Michael Barbaro welcomes a guest to discuss a relevant news topic for most of the show. He then segues with a calm “here’s what else you need to know today” to briefly discuss other important news items. Unlike Skimm This, The Daily arrives every morning to greet you on your way to work.
Do people actually listen to the news?
The National Public Radio (NPR) is, of course, also in the podcast game. Its show, Fresh Air, is the “Peabody Award-winning weekday magazine of contemporary arts and issues.” Each day different topics are covered. Episodes have included primatologists, Saturday Night Live cast members, lawyers, priests, and so many others able to talk about art and culture. Interestingly, these episodes are much longer than both The Daily and Skimm This at roughly 45-50 minutes; however, NPR’s popularity continues to rise across its podcasts. The Pew Research Center created the following chart just to prove that:
So we’re still listening. New data from when I last tackled podcasts notes that listening has risen once more. Only 44% of people had listened to a podcast in 2018. In 2019, 51% of folks have, according to Edison Research and Triton Digital. 32% percent of folks had listened in the last month, a jump from 26% in 2018.
And there continue to be more and more ways to listen. And, while I’ve said that before, I also have a new perspective on the proliferation of news-related podcasts.
Make like The Skimm and Skim It for Me
We’re once again returning to an age of listening specifically. While often no less politically leaning than any other network, these allow people to listen to the news in the way that best suits them. This does, hopefully, also return us to the same result hoped for by the government when it gave networks the mandate to at least offer some news-and education-related programming. This result was to inform the electorate so that they could make educated choices when going to the polls.