The Genetic Code of Podcasting: a summary of the research

Note: Would you like to give feedback on or ask a question about this research? Be part of the Open Peer Review! Please visit the comments section at the bottom of this page to participate.

The research questions:

Can a framework for defining the underlying characteristics of podcast content be established?  Could these characteristics then be used to improve access to listeners to podcasts of interest?

See Abstract for the Genetic Code of Podcasting here.

Professor Beckstead situates her research towards the bottom of a proposed pyramid that looks like this:

The podcast characteristics that were measured in this study were:

AuthenticityHow authentic are the hosts and people on the podcast? (The decision was made to rate audio fiction podcasts, in which actors are playing characters, at “0” for the purposes of this study)
CelebrityAre there celebrities on the podcast, as a host or a guest?
Evergreen vs TimelinessIs the podcast timeless (evergreen) or is it connected to something immediate (e.g. current events, news of today, etc.)?
Narrative/ StorytellingDoes the podcast contain storytelling? Do the hosts or guests recount stories with a narrative, such as a personal experience, or a story about someone else?
InformativenessDoes the podcast contribute to a listener being ‘well-informed’, or gaining a greater understanding of a topic?
HumourHow much is humour a factor in this podcast? 
Niche vs General InterestWould this podcast appeal to a particular niche group (e.g. people who sew quilts), or is it more of a general interest podcast?
Production QualityHow good is the production, based on things like good mixing, no plosives, well-recorded material, no distortion or poor levels, no sloppy editing, etc.
Sound DesignHow much does sound design play a part in this podcast (i.e. incorporating creative sound production to enhance the mood or narrative, using sound effects and/or music to paint pictures, illustrate ideas, set a tone, etc.)
EmotionalityDoes it engender feelings in the listener, such as anger, happiness, sadness, worry, empathy, sympathy, etc.? Note that this is different than simply ‘enjoying’ or ‘liking’ the podcast (which may spark an emotion of satisfaction or something similar). We’re looking for something that is emotionally moving.

Note that Intimacy was determined also to be a defining characteristic, although it was left out of the data collection process by accident. Therefore the selected podcasts were not rated on Intimacy.

Which podcasts were studied?

A mixture of some top-charting podcasts from Canada and the US, as well as critically acclaimed podcasts were chosen.

A table entitled "Podcasts Analyzed for The Genetic Code of Podcasting: a new approach to thinking about discoverability". Row one: Apple Canada - Top 20 podcasts from Sept. 2019
Row 2: Apple US - Top 20 podcasts from Sept 2019
Row 3: Spotify Canada - top 20 podcasts from Sept 2019
Row 4: Spotify US - top 20 podcasts from Sept 2019
Row 5: Time Magazine - 10 best podcasts of 2018
Row 6: CBC Podcast Playlist - Best podcasts of 2018
Row 7: Total Podcasts Studied (without duplicates) - 76

The list of podcasts studied:

10/3: Canada Covered
30 for 30: Bikram
And That’s Why We Drink
Armchair Expert with Dax Shepard
Articles of Interest
Attention Control
Bear Brook
Binge Mode: Harry Potter
Call Her Daddy
Canadian True Crime
Chelsea Handler: Life Will Be the Death of Me
Cocaine & Rhinestones
Crime Junkie
Diana: Case Solved
Dr. Death
ESPN 30 For 30 Podcasts
Everything is Alive
Fantasy Focus Football
Finding Cleo
Front Burner
Getting Curious w/Jonathan Van Ness
H3 Podcast
Hell and Gone
Hell and Gone
Hit Man
Home Cooked
In the Dark
Keep It
Last Podcast on the Left
Life Kit: All Guides
My Brother, My Brother And Me
My Favorite Murder with Karen Kilgariff and Georgia Hardstark
Not Another D&D Podcast
NPR News Now
Oprah’s SuperSoul Conversations
Over My Dead Body
Pardon My Take
Party Lines
Patient Zero
Punch Up the Jam
Repeats Removed
Reply All (2018)
Revisionist History
Room 20
Serial Season 3
Slow Burn Season 2
Spittin Chiclets
Stuff You Should Know
TED Radio Hour
The Adventure Zone
The Atlantic’s Daily Idea
The Big Story
The Bridge with Peter Mansbridge
The Clearing
The Daily
The Dream
The Habitat
The Horror of Dolores Roach
The Joe Budden Podcast with Rory & Mal
The Joe Rogan Experience
The Journal
The Killing of Marilyn Monroe
The MFCEO Project
The Misfits Podcast
The Off Season
The Promise
The Wilderness
Tiny Meat Gang
Trump, Inc
Up First
VIEWS with David Dobrik and Jason Nash
Why Won’t You Date Me?
WSJ Minute Briefing

How were the podcasts rated?

Here is a copy of the data collection tool, used to rate specific podcasts on these characteristics. Students in the researcher’s class were assigned to rate specific podcasts from the list. More than one student rated each podcast, then compared their ratings and agreed upon a common rating.


Radar Charts analysing commonalities within genres_News PodcastsHistory PodcastTrue Crime Podcasts

Radar charts showing commonalities among podcasts of differing genres:

Note: Would you like to give feedback on or ask a question about this research? Be part of the Open Peer Review! Please visit the comments section at the bottom of this page to participate.



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