Podcast popularity has skyrocketed; between 2015 and 2016, listening grew by almost 25%. Around a fifth of all Americans over the age of twelve have listened to a podcast in the past month. Since 2013, monthly podcast listenership has increased by nearly 75%.
Originally intended as a “Netflix for Radio” solution, podcasts are beginning to turn away from news and politics and into the creative sphere. The all-audio platform has gained traction in several fringe circles, including political extremists, conspiracy theorists, and lovers of horror. From interview-based shows to creative readings and intense research, these fringe podcast creators can be incredibly prolific–sometimes creating two or more shows each week.
Many of us love horror podcasts—from the edgy Astonishing Legends to the incredibly popular Lore, the platform has something to offer everyone. But what place do podcasts hold in horror culture? How much will we cherish this archaic format decades from now?
Unfortunately, we believe that podcast horror is not suited to the long-term cultural zeitgeist. Similar to horror movies and television shows, the podcast format is necessarily passive; listeners often experience the stories while completing a separate task, such as cleaning the living room or driving to work. Horror books provide an entirely immersive experience, commanding complete attention of the reader. Podcasts just can’t do that.
This is not to say, however, that podcasts can’t be a great source of horror. Limetown, for example, is one of the best-written serialized stories we’ve ever seen (heard?). The NoSleep Podcast has an audience of hundreds of thousands of listeners, providing a combination of subgenres to ensure that every person is satisfied. We are merely saying that these podcasts will not be the first examples of horror that spring to mind. That designation goes to the horror books and films of our youth.