Runs In Transit

Month: February, 2015

The Future of Podcasts

Podcasts have historically been exclusive to niche markets, but I think that’s going to change, and quickly. Here’s why:

1. You can do whatever you want while listening. I’ve gone on walks, shoveled snow, and played video games, all while listening to podcasts. Basically, all activities where you don’t need to hear, which is almost everything, is a great activity to listen to podcasts. In an age where leisure time is competitive, it is natural to cram as much as possible into our daily lives. What better way to do that then multi-task? Podcasts are educational, entertaining, and can supplement any activity. The people who listen to podcasts know and relish this, and it’s only a matter of time before the masses realize it too.

2. It’s a proven formula. There was a time when radio was the number one form of communications. Today, the radio plays a smaller role in mass media, but people are still accustomed to the habit of listening to the radio while driving. Listening to the radio is ingrained into our culture, but podcasts are not. Unequivocally, they are the same thing. Podcasts are simply radio shows without the music, and the success of the latter has been significant. Shows like Howard Stern and Rush Limbaugh are immensely popular, and there is no question podcasts can reach the same level of popularity. What is needed is for podcasts to transcend their stereotype and become the radio of everything else but the car.

3. They are gaining traction. This year, the Serial podcast by Sara Koenig has made podcast history by reaching 5 million listeners, an unprecedented number. It did so by introducing a form of audio story-telling where the host learns information at the same pace as the listener, creating an interactive medium that grips audiences. Millions of Americans were hooked because they wanted to solve the mystery presented in the story, feeling as though they were part of it. The next season of Serial is set to repeat its success, creating more podcast fans and bringing other podcasts into the spotlight.

4. They’re educational. Podcasts, more so than radio shows, tend to focus on education rather than entertainment. This is because podcasts, by nature, are not one-and-done experiences like radio but rather works that are meant to be enjoyed regardless of time. Take This American Life, which still gets downloads on episodes from the 90’s. The reason this is important is because the world is shifting towards mass information where the ability to curate it is crucial. Podcasts tell a small story from a bigger picture, and as people desire an understanding of a deeper topic, podcasts become a useful tool. This, combined with fact that people are becoming more educated and desire learning outside of work and school, take MOOC’s and online classes, make podcasts a very attractive supplement to education.

5. They’re accessible. Not only are they free, which is valuable in and of itself, but they are easy to make and access. Anyone can make a podcast-all you need is a recorder, which our phones and laptops all have. What this means is that anyone can make a podcast, and while it may not be popular, it is a great outlet for curators and content producers. This increases competition and ensures a large pool of quality podcasts to choose from. Not only that, they are easy to access. With apps and websites dedicated to navigating the pool of podcasts, people are able to find what they want and get it consistently.

For these reasons and more, I am bullish on podcasts. If you are a content-seeker, get on it. If you are a content-creator, utilize it. If you are an investor, invest in them. The medium is going to blow up, I guarantee it.

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Looking for a place to begin? I recommend This American Life to get started, and if you like finance, business, and economics, Planet Money and Freakonomics.

The Job Market for College Grads

The US economy is at an interesting cross-roads. The effects of the 2008 recession were massive and lingered much longer than the duration of the financial crisis. Unemployment reached a peak of 10% in 2009, but today it is 5.6% and dropping rapidly. I’m no macro-economist, but I do have a good understanding of what this means for the job market.

You see, many people might think that with hard work and determination, we have full control of our lives and careers. That’s simply not true. College students who graduated between 2008 and 2014 entered the job market to an ultra-competitive job market marked by scarcity. Companies who were ravaged by the recession were hesitant to hire employees that weren’t essential. Older workers who were preparing for retirement saw their pensions shrink and decided to keep working at their positions. Middle aged workers with secure jobs were suddenly laid off and had to find jobs much lower-paying jobs. For college graduates who didn’t go to elite schools, this meant little to no chance of finding an entry-level job with good career prospects – they simply weren’t competitive.

On the other hand, if you graduated in the mid 2000’s, you entered the job market when the US economy was growing at an unprecedented rate. The unemployment rate was as low as it could get realistically (around 4%) and companies were desperate for smart young professionals whether they had experience or not. Employees were in high demand, and wages were high. If you couldn’t get a job in 2004-2007, then you were either an English major from a low tier school or hopelessly incompetent. This was a dream period, and those that found jobs then were set up for great careers.

But unfortunately, if your parents had you a few years later, then you would face economic turmoil. Your resume paled in comparison to desperate workers with a decade of relevant experience. Service jobs became a temporary necessity and graduate school seemed like a good option. Suddenly, your whole mental structure of life: go to school, get a job, and start a family, was cut prematurely. This can be daunting, even shattering. But today, you’re in luck. The unemployment rate is going back to 2004 levels and the US economy is on pace to have its strongest decade of growth since the turn of the century. If you tried to enter the workforce during this period, hopefully the recession didn’t hit you too hard and you didn’t have to settle for a job at Cubicle Co. filing paperwork. Even if you did, this is a great opportunity to turn things around. But how, you might ask?

Well… like most things, it depends, both on your goals and abilities, but here’s an anecdote that may help. You want to do something you’re passionate about, right? That way you have the motivation to pour everything you have into your work and become the best in your field. Now do it. The thing is, technology is so prevalent that you have no excuse to do something about your passions. The camera on your smartphone is amazing. If you love film, make a movie with it. Do you enjoy boxing? Make youtube videos analyzing boxing matches. The alternative is selling yourself on the job market with nothing but a resume. An employer doesn’t see your potential, and you won’t get your worth-you won’t even get freedom. I believe the economy is moving toward increased specialization on the level of the individual. Produce what your dream job entails and keep doing it. If you really love it, you will get good, people will come to you, and you will be discovered. Companies will offer you money to do the exact same thing for them, and you will get your true value.

Of course, this is an anecdote and does not apply universally, but the fundamental idea stands true. The economy is on the upswing and the supply of jobs is increasing. You won’t have companies fighting over you, at least not any time soon. But don’t wait for the “perfect time”, now is the perfect time. If you like economics, like me, go ahead and learn the shit out of it and produce something out of it. Make videos, write articles, record podcasts-everything you need is at your fingertips. And if you’re not motivated to do that, then you might not deserve to get your dream job.

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Ah, what a beautiful trend-line.