The native podcast: understanding its development, questioning its future

International symposium: Call for papers of the OBCAST research program

(Podcast Observatory, CARISM laboratory, with the support of the DGMIC)

The native podcast: understanding its development, questioning its future

Institut Français de Presse, University of Paris-Panthéon-Assas

December 14-15, 2023, hall 214


Although this media has existed for about twenty years, the podcast has only really taken off in France and in Europe in the last few years (Button, 2020), whereas on the other side of the Atlantic it is already well established. This growth in production and consumption has been encouraged by the delinearization of radio, by the invention of the RSS feed, and by the generalization of smartphone equipment. It is materialized, in France, by the success o some emblematic titles such as “Transfert” (Slate audio, 2016), “La poudre ” (New listens, 2016), or “Les couilles sur la table ” (Binge Audio, 2018) on the native podcast side, or by the replay podcasts of the major radio stations (“2,000 ans d’histoire”, France Inter; “Les Grosses t.tes “, RTL).

For amateurs as well as for sound professionals, we observe a strong craze for this media these last years: to inform; to entertain; to spread knowledge; to promote institutions, brands, groups; to militate. However, the podcast, a digital audio file that can be downloaded and listened to on the move, is not a recent invention. The first professional initiatives in France date back to 2002 with the creation of Arte Radio and at this same period (years 2000- 2010), the digital audio universe was already teeming with numerous experiments, as Juliette Volcler (2018) has shown. Podcasting, especially educational, was the subject of initial research in Canada and the United States as early as 2005 (Campbell, 2005; Weiss-Lambrou, 2007).

The more recent period of development of the podcast (past its use as catch-up radio) would therefore only be a second, or even a third time in its history, which it is already possible to identify (Bottomley, 2015; Cohen, 2019). Regarding native news podcasts (not previously broadcast in a linear fashion), the Obcast database helps to show that the boom began in France in 2017 and really took off from 2018, with an increasing number of podcast titles produced by the media each year (Lesaunier, Di Sciullo, Mercier, 2022). It is therefore appropriate to question the reasons for this success offset compared to the emergence of this technical device, partly heir to radio (Gago, 2006; Berry, 2016; Equoy Hutin & Deleu, 2019; Poulain, 2022).


One of the keys to understanding is undoubtedly to look for the side of the democratic imagination that accompanies the podcast, both from the point of view of thematic and formal potentialities as well as technical and economic dimensions.

1° Democratization of the access to the public word. The podcast is surrounded by many democratic ideals regarding the thematic and formal potentialities it offers: recourse to in-depth testimony and enrichment of the transmitted information compared to the media emergency, with a greater editorial freedom; possibilities to make alternative or militant speeches heard, with an ease to be able to give voice to the voiceless, to tackle taboo subjects; conception of hybrid formats with an assumed subjectivity well accepted by the audiences; promise of an . la carte consumption, in mobility, that would renew the uses of the radio, while putting sound in the spotlight.

2° Valuation of the subjective word and place offered to the intimacy. Whether on the side of its “producers” or on the side of the guests who express themselves, the “I”, the experience and the subjective point of view, the particular case, the intimacy are often central. The podcast is often associated with the idea, even the ideal of an easier evocation of intimacy for the interviewees and an increased feeling of proximity with the listeners. In that, it represents a specific device of enunciation (rather of the “me to you”) which contrasts with that of the radio (rather of the “us to you”). It is part of a trilogy: “broadcast, narrowcast, podcast”. The tone, the vocabulary, the contents of the podcast, as of the contemporary radio, significantly changed during these last twenty years. We can think that this subjectivity of the podcast is not without incidence on its reception and its success.

3° A technical achievement that seems accessible to everyone. The feeling of democratization is strengthened by the perception, by those who use it, of a certain technical ease to produce episodes. This places the podcast in the participatory and democratic imaginary of the digital world. If a polished and careful work can be relatively expensive to produce, requiring own skills, anyone can nevertheless record audio and put it online easily, as long as one is equipped with a smartphone. There are several players providing beginners and professionals alike with more or less free tools for managing the distribution of podcasts (Acast, Soundcloud), but also for creation (recording, editing), such as Anchor or Vib3S, a French platform launched in 2022. In this sense, the podcast relates to the phenomenon already observed of User Generated Content, i.e., the production of multimedia content by amateur users facilitated by digital technology (Chantepie, Le Diberder, 2010, MarkMan, 2011). Likewise, the original technology on which the distribution of podcasts is based, the RSS feed, accentuates the ideal of sharing, in that it makes it difficult to put brakes on the circulation of audio files (Hurard report, 2020).

4° A craze from an economic and strategic point of view. Various players are experimenting with podcasts, sometimes in a logic of diversification of audiences (traditional media in particular), sometimes in a context of digital advertising driven by the marketing practice of brand content. Branded podcasts and sponsoring have thus emerged as the main revenue vectors for producers (studios or media). Intermediaries specialized in podcasts are positioning themselves on the advertising market and we are already witnessing concentration movements. We also find many actors who do not necessarily intend to monetize their podcast productions, but who want to use this medium to complete the range of their communication tools, knowing that it is adjusted to certain specific objectives (targeting a young public; maintaining a modern and “cool” image; but also discreet broadcasting to make it a counter public space to express morally condemnable ideas). This may concern activist networks, public organizations, private companies, universities (especially for educational use), etc. If the international situation deserves just as much specific attention, it already appears that in France, it is a whole ecosystem that has been emerging for a few years, structured around four types of players: creators, producers, technical hosts, and aggregators.

At the same time, we see the emergence of traces of an institutionalization of the sector, via the creation of unions (the Union of Independent Audio Producers (PIA) – founded in 2020), festivals (the Paris Podcast Festival is created in 2018, the Printemps of Podcast in 2020), specialized media (launch of Podmust in 2018, Podcast magazine in 2022, or in 2017 of Podnews on the English side) cultural reviews entirely dedicated to podcasts (the “radio” pages of Télérama are opening up to podcasts, and podcasts on podcasts, such as “Without algo ” on Slate audio, are becoming more and more numerous), the setting up of observatories to analyze podcasts (the Arcom observatory announced in the winter of 2022 and the Obcast research program created in the fall of 2021 at IFP).

In the academic world, we see flourishing in recent years training in the realization ofpodcasts, Master’s theses on podcasts, dissertations in audio format … All these phenomena clearly indicate that the podcast has become a media support and a cultural object visible and legitimate.


It is to this work of visibility and legitimization of the podcast and to this allround commitment of multiple actors, and in particular information actors, that this symposium is dedicated, questioning past choices, present adventures and future prospects. This booming ecosystem indeed deserves to be questioned because, both from the point of view of supply and demand, the podcast remains a niche.

On the supply side, we have been able to observe, for example, in the print media that although many editorial offices have launched on the podcast, an overwhelming majority have not (yet?) invested the sector. Only half of the regional daily press titles produce podcasts, and less than 30% of the magazine press titles. In addition, the viable economic model for the podcast remains to be found. The issue of the fair measurement of listening, with a view to monetization in a two-sided market, continues to affect the sector. Finally, the “coronation of the amateur ” (Flichy, 2010) mentioned above, is also to be questioned, insofar as the main studios were founded by actors who already enjoyed a certain reputation, where the podcasts that work best are replay programs, where we observe concentration movements (Bonini, 2015 ; Sullivan, 2019), where the issue of discoverability of podcasts in the face of the ocean of productions also requires means and know-how (Clifton and al, 2020; Morris, 2021). Many enthusiastic actors, therefore, but few who monetize, and a majority who do not take part in the ecosystem.

On the consumer side, 70% of French men and women do not listen to native podcasts, 30% of whom simply do not know that this format exists (CSA/Havas survey, 2022). In addition, the different studies that have focused on the profile of consumers of podcasts highlight a very specific profile, niche, far from a democratic ideal yet carried by the podcast. The typical user is young, urban, hyperconnected to social networks and a multimedia consumer: music streaming, TV series, television, print media, books (Ibid.).

Lastly, on the side of the contents, the imaginary of intimacy linked to the podcast is to be reinscribed in a media genealogy, since intimacy on the airwaves is far from having started with the podcast (radio programs like “Hello Menie!” on RTL). In the same way, the democratic imaginary of the podcast is also to be questioned and recontextualized, so much it is true that many other media (free radios, local TV…) have already been invested with similar hopes.

In other parts of the world, podcasts also seem to be consolidating, or even already well established in some national media landscapes, like in the United States where 79% of the population is familiar with podcasts, 62% have listened to a podcast, and 38% have listened to one in the past month (Statista, 2023). In Europe, podcast listening also appears to be growing exponentially: up 52% in the UK, 64% in Germany, 244% in Italy and 298% in Spain (Spotify, 2022). Taking into account what is happening elsewhere seems to us to be able to shed light on the state of the French podcast market, which we take as a central but not exclusive focus. Monographs from other regions of the world or international comparisons by invited foreign researchers (United States, Canada, Australia…) will thus mark the symposium.


So the question is: where is the podcast going in France and Europe? Why, when it does not present a major disruptive innovation and has been around for a long time, has the podcast recently developed so quickly and so strongly? How can we explain the social, economic and technological drivers and challenges of this success and its ambivalences?

This call for papers aims to encourage proposals that will shed light on some of the social issues and logics at work. A particular attention on the information podcasts is wished for a part of the proposals. The Podcast Observatory considers that the study of podcasts is not intended to become the prerogative of a few specialists, even if we can only be delighted that podcast studies are being organized at the international level but encourages all researchers to study this medium as an additional corpus in the range of all the media and means of expression that different social actors use. The podcast can therefore be the subject of a communication in our symposium for specialists : sociology of mobilizations; political rhetoric; brand marketing; media economics; anthropology of reception; journalism or ICTE studies; popular science; discourse studies on history or literature; semio-discursive analysis of sound formats; gender studies; media and communication law… All disciplines are potentially concerned and this colloquium hopes to be the proof of it thanks to the diversity of the proposals received and accepted.

We expect the papers, whatever their theme and methodological approach, to bring elements of response to the two questions that drive this symposium: How to explain the rise of the native podcast? What is the future for this medium (to remain a niche or to become widespread)?

The proposed communications may be related to one or more of the following themes

(indicative and non-exhaustive list)

– Overview of the actors investing in the podcast: traditional media, specialized studios,listening platforms, brands, universities, public institutions, activist networks, etc.

– Analysis of the speeches on the podcast: mythology, idealization, imaginary of the podcast

– Study of the socio-professional dynamics of the production of native podcasts, especially for information

– Narrative modes, formats, press genres

– Economic model of the native podcast: business models, intermediation chain, role of listening platforms, technologies, reception

– Podcast and branding for companies and institutions

– Mediation and transmission of knowledge, the podcast as an educational tool

– Elective affinities of the podcast with certain themes (sexuality, taboos)

– Podcast, activism and public issues

– Podcast as a visibility tool for communities

– Podcast and the radio: hybridization and remediation

– Regulation, copyright, ethical and legal issues


The expected proposals are up to 3,000 characters long (excluding bibliography). Please attach to your proposal a brief biographical note specifying your affiliation. Proposals should be sent no later than June 10, 2023 to the following address:


Deadline for submission of proposals: June 10

Return to the authors after evaluation: July 15

Sending of the written version of the papers for the conference proceedings: November 30th

Holding of the symposium: December 14-15, 2023

Publication of proceedings: First half of 2024

Organizing committee

Flore DI SCIULLO, postdoctorante au CARISM, programme Obcast

Marie-Eva LESAUNIER, postdoctorante au CARISM, programme Obcast

Arnaud MERCIER, professeur . l’IFP, responsable du programme Obcast

Scientific committee

Lucie ALEXIS — Universit. Grenoble Alpes

Ma.lle BAZIN — Universit. Paris Panth.on-Assas BOURDELOIE — Universit. Sorbonne Paris Nord

Marie-France CHAMBAT-HOUILLON — Universit. Paris Panth.on-Assas

Christophe DELEU — Universit. de Strasbourg

Flore DI SCIULLO — Universit. Paris Panth.on-Assas

Pauline ESCANDE-GAUQUI. — Universit. Sorbonne Universit.


Agn.s GRANCHET— Universit. Paris Panth.on-Assas

Marie-Eva LESAUNIER — Universit. Paris Panth.on-Assas

Tristan MATTELART — Universit. Paris Panth.on-Assas

C.cile M.ADEL — Universit. Paris Panth.on-Assas

Arnaud MERCIER — Universit. Paris Panth.on-Assas

Sophie NO.L — Universit. Paris Panth.on-Assas

Chlo. SALLES — Universit. Grenoble Alpes

Brigitte SEBBAH — Universit. de Toulouse 1

Nathalie SONNAC — Universit. Paris Panth.on-Assas



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