Podcasts – Oral tradition goes digital
- Podcasts and oral tradition’s digital migration.
- The numbers.
- Popularity: style, the tea and controversy.
- Future listening.
South Africa has a rich history and heritage of “oral tradition”. Described as information passed down through generations by word of mouth that is not written down, oral tradition ranges from legends to proverbs, folktales and customs to historical and cultural traditions. The Podcast can be seen as todays incarnation of “Oral Tradition”, although with a discernible shift in content.
Now, more than ever, podcasts in South African pop culture have become profoundly impactful with many stating that they document, deconstruct and analyse important cultural and topical societal issues. As South Africa undertakes the digital migration, the success of podcasts is understandable. As a people we are already wired for the spoken word. Its digital format is incidental.
The numbers speak for themselves. 43% of South Africa’s online population have listened to a podcast in the last month. Podcast listeners in South Africa went up by 50% in 2018. More than 475 million people are actively listening to podcasts around the world, according to the Reuters Institute Digital News Report.
As a story telling medium, podcasts are dynamic, agile, and intimate. South Africa’s biggest hip-hop drama, that of Rap Lyf Records, was driven and amplified via the medium. Different members of the label went on different platforms to share their side of the story in very vivid detail.
Style – tea & controversy
Stylistically, South African podcasts are characterised by their longform format, in depth approach and unfiltered & conversational interviews.
They have not been without controversy. Earlier this year, MacG and co-host Sol Phenduka faced rebuke for calling a trans person a ‘woman with a dick’.
There is no doubt that podcasts and their audiences will continue to grow. They have proven to be a media disrupter in South Africa by establishing long form content that not only works, but thrives online. They are also cheap to produce and distribute. More importantly, the subject matter is keyed straight into an audience already primed for it, with listeners absorbing podcasts into their lifestyles, at their own pace – choosing when to plug in.
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