Today’s communications students pride themselves on keeping up with the hottest media trends. This is particularly essential when preparing for the quickly evolving fields of journalism, marketing, and PR, where the communication landscape looks dramatically different than it did a few short years ago. Podcasts can be a key tool for communicating in this evolving environment, so it behooves aspiring professionals to embrace this exciting medium.

What Is a Podcast?

A podcast is a special type of audio program that can be directly downloaded to mobile devices. Originally developed for MP3 players such as the iPod, these are now primarily listened to via smartphone. Programs cover all types of topics and range from a few minutes to several hours long.

History of Podcasts

It would be impossible to explain the origins of the podcast without touching on the iPod for which this medium is named. The concept originated in 2004 – just a few years after the original iPod was released. MTV’s Adam Curry teamed up with software guru Dave Winer to create a solution for downloading online radio shows directly to the iPod.

Sooner after, journalist Ben Hammersley wrote of the internet radio phenomenon and speculated on possible titles for the emerging media sensation. While his suggestion of the portmanteau podcast (combining, of course, iPod with broadcast) was not meant to be serious, it ultimately became the official term, and, in 2005, the Word of the Year.

Since then, podcasts have become a dominant force in the media world. While their prominence grew steadily after 2004, their appeal skyrocketed with the 2014 release of the investigative journalism podcast Serial, in which the acclaimed Sarah Koenig brought the appeal of true crime to the podcasting world. This spurred a variety of increasingly inventive podcasts while also cementing their mainstream status.

How Podcasts Are Influencing Media & Journalism

Today, podcasts command as much respect as other, more traditional forms of media. Increasingly, they fall within the scope of multimedia conglomerates that provide content in text, audio, and video forms. Although highly respected, the practice retains a grassroots vibe that makes podcasting a great option for both laid-back shows and hard-hitting investigative pieces.

If nothing else, podcasts should be embraced because they are quickly becoming one of the most popular means of learning about the world around us. Professionals who want to reach either a broad or niche audience can do so via podcasting. With well over one-third of the U.S. population listening to podcasts at least once a month, this medium has a greater reach than even the most forward-thinking communications professionals could have anticipated.

Types of Podcasts

From casual entertainment to academic insight, modern podcasts are incredibly diverse. Many appeal to aspiring media professionals. PR, marketing, and journalism, in particular, are heavily covered in podcast form. With so many to choose from, however, it can be tough to know where to start. To help, we’ve highlighted the best podcasts of 2021 for communications students:

Best News Podcasts

Typically released on a daily basis, these podcasts provide an overview of the day’s top stories. Weekly news roundups are also common. These informative podcasts contain interviews and expert analyses.

While everybody can benefit from listening to news podcasts, these are especially important for communications students and professionals who want to keep up to date on the latest headlines.

  • The Daily. This popular New York Times podcast is released, as its name indicates, on a daily (or near-daily) basis. Every episode dives deep into a current issue that is relevant to the podcast’s highly informed audience.
  • Marketplace. Every weekday, this NPR podcast brings much-needed context to the day’s top stories and statistics. Talented Marketplace reporters interact extensively with influential entrepreneurs and policymakers to determine how the latest developments will impact listeners.
  • The Takeaway. Heavy on live reporting and listener conversation, this podcast from PRX and WNYC offers international, national, and regional coverage in a fresh format that listeners should find compelling.
  • Ken Rudin’s Political Junkie. Bringing historical context to today’s top issues, this balanced podcast draws on the perspectives of many politicians and journalists to get behind the headlines while also providing interest with fun trivia tidbits.

Best Journalism Podcasts

If, in addition to keeping up with the news, you want to learn more about the practice of journalism, several podcasts can provide the in-depth insight you crave. These cover news about prominent journalists and outlets while providing intriguing insights and context.

  • On the Media. While this WNYC podcast integrates several aspects of modern media, it’s a worthy listen for anyone who is interested in modern journalism. On the Media has earned the Edward R. Murrow Award, a Peabody Award, and the National Press Club’s Arthur Rowse Award for Press Criticism. Join over one million weekly listeners while learning “how the media shapes our worldview.”
  • It’s All Journalism. Don’t be put off by the tagline “the broccoli of media-focused podcasts,” because It’s All Journalism is a fun listen. It’s also a healthy addition to the podcast lineup of current or aspiring journalism professionals.
  • WriteLane. Learn more about the writing and storytelling process while listening to WriteLane. As Poynter explains, this show is ideal for “journalists who like to talk shop.”

Best Marketing Podcasts

Do you aspire to a career in marketing? The field is constantly changing — and your professional success depends on your ability to remain up to date with all the latest trends and technologies. You’ll find it easier to keep up with help from podcasts that delve into the most impactful developments from the marketing field.

  • This Old Marketing. Focused on content marketing, this podcast examines the latest trends while also exploring how business leaders and marketing professionals can capitalize on these developments. The show also highlights past marketing success stories, plus current examples of what to try and what to avoid.
  • Everyone Hates Marketers. It may seem gruff at times, but this bold podcast can be deeply refreshing for anyone who has tired of the typical marketing lingo. It’s hosted by a self-described contrarian who is eager to shake up the industry.
  • How I Built This. While this show is targeted at “innovators, entrepreneurs, [and] idealists,” its emphasis on the value of storytelling will appeal to marketing students and professionals. Get the inside scoop on how today’s top business successes made their mark.

Best Social Media Podcasts

While some marketing podcasts touch on social media, it’s worth your while to check out podcasts that specifically focus on this important area. Look for podcasts that provide insider details on what, exactly, prompts social media success and how you can make the most of today’s top platforms.

  • Savvy Social Podcast. Delving into the ‘why’ of social media outreach for entrepreneurs, this podcast is worth a listen for anyone involved in marketing or PR. Hosted by a social media strategist, it provides insight into the best tactics for branding, digital storytelling, and more.
  • Social Media Decoded. Struggling to understand how social media functions and where it’s going? Look to Social Media Decoded to break it all down in a way you find both interesting and insightful. Perfect for the busy professionals, each episode lasts just a few minutes but is packed with essential information.
  • Social Media & Politics. Social media has a far greater impact on politics than most people realize. This podcast breaks down the many ways in which Facebook, Instagram, and TikTok influence policymaking and grassroots movements.

Best Public Relations Podcasts

Podcasts can be a surprisingly influential component of modern public relations. They are also great for connecting with fellow PR professionals. The best PR podcasts explore this field’s rapid evolution as it relates to marketing and social media.

  • Hanson & Hunt. As one of the longest-running shows dedicated to PR, this targeted podcast provides hot takes on public relations ethics and brand-driven communications. Many episodes include interviews with the field’s most influential figures.
  • Spin Sucks. As the line between PR and marketing blurs, Spin Sucks helps both current and aspiring professionals navigate the constantly changing world of communications. Host Gini Dietrich advocates for the integrated PESO model, which she believes is crucial to building trust in today’s PR sphere.
  • #FuturePRoof. Sarah and Stephen Wadington can be thought of as the reigning couple of public relations. Their popular podcast demonstrates their expertise while providing an audio outlet for the effort to assert the modern value of PR. 

Best Podcasts About Podcasts

As we’ve discussed previously, podcasts are an influential medium worth studying in their own right. Many podcasts actually dive into the process of creating a podcast, providing much-needed guidance from those who have perfected the craft.

  • PodCraft. The motto “honing the art of podcasting” accurately conveys what PodCraft is all about. It breaks down the podcasting process for novices who find this medium confusing.
  • Podcast Engineering Show. Ace the technical aspects of podcasting with the appropriately named Podcast Engineering Show. Hosted by expert podcast producer Chris Curran, this show details the audio equipment and software required for podcasting success.

Broaden Your Horizons at Siena Heights University

Podcasts provide helpful insight into several facets of communications, but it’s also important for aspiring professionals to seek insight from dedicated academic programs. Therein lies the value of Siena Heights’ Bachelor of Arts in Professional Communication. Reach out to learn more about this wonderful degree program and how it can boost your career.