This year may be considered one of the most popular years for podcasts, marking an era of a reformed identity for what may have been known as a once niche platform. The emergence of new cross-hybrid style podcasting such as 2015’s phenomenon ‘Serial’s’ success represents a pivotal milestone in podcasting history, becoming the fastest downloaded podcast on iTunes. Productions like Cheryl Strayed’s newly released ‘Dear Sugar’ further illustrates how this on-demand feature may transcend audiences through unique and innovative content merging a column style format of topical discussions with audio. This form may be unlike anything created thus far, which may suggest an evolution of groundbreaking possibilities for podcasting.
‘Dear Sugar’, founded by the author Cheryl Strayed, was transformed from a weekly advice column on the literary site ‘The Rumpus’ from 2010 into an engaging audio platform this year. It’s ability to transform a conversationalist column style format into live discussions has created an array of episodes on subjects such as body image, motherhood, marriage and other contemporary experiences which may conventionally be discussed amongst women. The topics are based on account letters from anonymous writers which direct each episode’s debate that compiles full episodes which are released biweekly, with shorter episodes on off-weeks sparking vibrant and thought-provoking discussions with a critical edge.
This advice style format tag-lined ‘Listen To Your Heart — Radically Empathic Advice From Cheryl Strayed And Steve Almond’ confronts many debates of authentic, and at times traditionally ‘taboo’ female experiences, drawing attention to the universality of these experiences which may be shared by women globally. This female-centric space created by Strayed may contribute to creating a community of women whose experiences may be discussed confidently and may substitute for the intimate discussions women may hesitate to have with one another.
Cheryl Strayed’s success in transforming the intimate exchange of her column into a podcast format may reflect the way in which podcasts have developed as an increasingly intimate and cutting edge concept beyond print, with a powerful ability to utilise an audio platform to reach wide audiences and with the capability to unite woman universally in their experiences of womanhood.
Podcasting, an essentially free-form radio show delivered on-demand over the Internet, may be considered one of the fastest growing phenomenon’s in the past decade. According to Edison Research about 39 million Americans, or 15 percent of the over-12 population, listened to a podcast last month. While high demand podcasts such as ‘Fresh Air’ feature celebrities such as comedy actress Mindy Kaling, others like ‘The Bret Easton Ellis Podcast’ guest stars artists such as Kanye West proving the medium may have finally taken on an inventive identity as a form of entertainment.
Technological development and the immediacy function of Smartphones may contribute as the driver of this growth, making podcast downloading and consumption easier. As well as this, the renaissance of podcasting may go hand-in-hand with the improved quality of podcasts, as more first-time content makers turn to the platform as a cheaper alternative over hosting a TV show or radio show. Podcasting also gives individuals an open space to share their ideas with unchained freedom and be reverberated almost instantaneously with consumer and or fan base feedback. Delivery, style and tone may enhance reactionarily to cater to audiences and address niche subjects of current affairs, which may be receiving small amounts of coverage in mainstream news.
‘Dear Sugar’ may be unlike the pre-conceived notions of conventional podcasting, shifting boundaries both formally and stylistically as well as through it’s uniquely intimate content. It also may have the ability to transcend beyond women with a selection of male letters and may suggest experiences faced in work, family and love may be inclusive to all.
How might ‘Dear Sugar’ engage new audiences to podcasts?