Posted by: marionmbarnes | October 29, 2017

Podcasting Excluded from Social Media Efficacy Debate

In The Political Power of Social Media, author Clay Shirky paints a dire picture of social media’s efficacy as a tool for prompting political change. He cites two reasons: first that social media is nothing more than a platform for “slacktivism,” and second that repressive governments are now savvy enough to use social media to squelch dissent. The latter assertion was addressed in Youmans and York’s piece Social Media and the Activist Toolkit, but the first point invites an exploration into a tangential platform: podcasting.

Podcasts are generally excluded from the social media category. But as podcasts move from the niche-interest realm into the daily news milieu, that omission becomes less justified. On the Social Media Today website, writer David Simons argues podcasts have evolved, adding functionality that invites listeners to contribute to the conversation via websites, live call-ins and other interactive options. In addition, listeners often recommend or share subscription links with friends, similar to the way one might “like” a Facebook post.

Assuming podcasts are part of the social media landscape, what does that indicate about users’ involvement in political activism? In Listening In: Building a Profile of Podcast Users and Analyzing Their Political Participation, the authors find that listeners are statistically more likely to be politically active. The study establishes “an empirical relationship between podcast use and political participation, both online and offline. This relationship remains constant, even when controlling for the effect of other media consumption on participatory behaviors.”

Because podcasts are considered a newer addition to the “new media” category, the platform has been excluded from conversations about social media efficacy. To gain a broader view of usership tendencies, podcast listeners should have a place at the table.


Chadha, M., Avila, A., & Zúñiga, H. G. (2012). Listening In: Building a Profile of Podcast Users and Analyzing Their Political Participation. Journal of Information Technology & Politics, 9(4), 388-401. doi:10.1080/19331681.2012.717481

Shirky, C. (2011). The Political Power of Social Media: Technology, the Public Sphere, and Political Change. Foreign Affairs, 90(1), 28-41. Retrieved from

Simmons, D. (2012, May 8). Do you Consider Podcasting part of Social Media? Retrieved October 27, 2017, from

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