The Podcast Phenomenon

Where Podcasts Currently Are

By Liana Naccarato

The Daily, Moral Sin and Dateline NBC are just a few of the most popular podcasts in Canada. According to ‘Made In CA’ 71 per cent of Canadians have listened to at least one podcast in their life.

In just over a decade, podcasts have evolved from niche audio shows to a global phenomenon, captivating audiences across demographics. What began as an experimental medium has now become an integral part of modern entertainment and education. With millions of shows covering every imaginable topic, podcasts offer unparalleled diversity and convenience, catering to varied tastes and preferences. Podcasts have not just come far; they’ve established themselves as an enduring cultural force. 

Paul Cross has been podcasting for around 10 years, Cross Talk is one of his public podcasts. In this podcast, he commentates and analyzes things that are happening in contemporary media, sometimes in comparison to historic media. 

“That one was really a matter of needing an outlet to say some things that I feel I needed to say from a position of decades of experience in audio media,” he says. “Things I think about and would write about and just started thinking more out loud maybe putting it to audio.”

Paul Cross is a Radio Broadcast professor at Humber College with his own podcast. Courtesy of Paul Cross.

The podcast is about media history, and his commentary, and analysis of things that are happening in contemporary media.

What makes a good podcast? Cross believes that having a good podcast is about being happy with the content you create and put out, if you are finding a listener.

“I don’t know if that’s a pipe dream, but that’s a long way off for a lot of podcasts. You can judge your standards, your success, I would think by any of those pillars depending on what motivates you to put out,” Cross says.

He enjoys listening to repackaged radio, Daily News podcasts, and pieces that explain aspects of media. He also enjoys drama series, unknown voices, and he also listens to a large range of podcasts.

“I’ve always loved radio, so I love repackaging old versions of it.”

He brings that love of radio to his students in the Radio Broadcasting at Humber College. 

There’s something really primal about the human voice.

Paul Cross

According to Exploding Topics, there are about 3.02 million podcasts in the world hitting an all-time high in 2020.

Since the pop up of many podcasts, some may wonder if the number of them is too high. However, Cross doesn’t believe so.

“I don’t think there’s any danger of having a great preponderance and wealth of podcasts to choose from,” he says. “If the content is of value to you to produce, it’s probably of value to someone else to listen to.”

His conclusion to why so many people like podcasts is simply because people like radio, “Listen, there’s something really primal about voice, about the human voice… It’s the voice that appeals to our most intimate senses.” 

Francesca Centosan agrees, even encourages people to start a podcast.

“I feel like it’s nice that people are putting their opinions out there and I don’t think it’s oversaturated,” she says.

Centosan has been podcasting since the beginning of the pandemic in 2020 with her sister Sam. 

“We pride our podcast is on the hyper relatable,” she says.

Francesca Centosan at her studio during production. Courtesy of Francesca Centosan.

Her podcast is lifestyle with a unique sister dynamic, “What makes us a bit different from other lifestyle podcasts is just our sisterly banter.”

Centosan’s advice for what makes a successful podcast would be not to be afraid of your opinions.

“Being who you are, the podcast is genuine and that would attract the community you want to have, and also attract a lot of listeners who will relate to you more than you think.”

Podcasting is traditionally associated with media and radio; Centosan did not come from a media background, she learned everything she needed to with her sister.

“As long as you do your research and as long as you have people to help you, or even network to people in the media space, it can help a lot,” she says. “It’s a lot more than just sitting down and talking about a topic.” 

Like Centosan, Kevin Sexton believes many people don’t realize the behind the scenes.

“I think some people get into it without really thinking about how much work it is or really thinking about the long-term vision,” he says.

Sexton has been podcasting for eight years and studied radio at Humber College during a time where there weren’t many podcasts. What drew Sexton to podcasts was the experimentation element of it.

Kevin Sexton, a podcast producer and host for Canadaland. Courtesy of Kevin Sexton.

“There was a sort of casualness and a kind of fun to it, that I think it didn’t exist on terrestrial radio,” he says.

Sexton currently creates for Canadaland, a newspaper in Canada that is a podcast. They report on stories in the country and analysis of the Canadian media. He says that the popularity of podcasts can’t stop growing.

Podcasts can also be a place for people to get informed, Canadaland prioritizes telling stories about the history of Canada, more specifically Native voices.

“Whether it’s entertaining and it’s also, listening to other people open up I think has value to it,” Sexton says.

His advice for anyone wanting to start a podcast, just try.

“It’s really a medium that you can play with and experiment with and you can kind of grow as you go.” 

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