Newsletter: Play Next: The next generation of audio listeners is sliding podcasts into your DMs


Good morning, I’m Paige Hymson, a podcast producer at The Times. Today we’re looking at what podcasts younger people are listening to and how they’re sharing them. But first, if you’ve been keeping up with our “Larger Than Life” documentary podcast, Episode 5 is out now. If you haven’t listened, it’s not too late to start. Subscribe and download the podcast here or wherever you listen to podcasts.

This week, I spoke with a group of L.A. Times creative technologist interns, ages 20 to 27. The group is sophisticated and diverse. They come from local California colleges and have varying academic interests that include journalism, technology, design, engineering and developing. I wanted to find out what millennials are listening to, and how and where they listen. One thing that became loud and clear: Many like to share podcasts via direct message, or DM, on social media.

“All of my podcasts are recommendations from my friends,” said Zhen Fan, a full-stack developer on the L.A. Times internship team who is a master’s student in computer science at USC. “I love sharing podcasts on my social media. If I hear something really wonderful, I’d share it, I would even DM my friends the things I listen to.”

The Los Angeles Times 2019 creative technologist internship team consists of, from left, Genesia Ting, Zhen Fan, Alex Li, James Tyner and Mansi Ganatra.
(Max Lu / Los Angeles Times)

Designer and developer James Tyner is a USC journalism graduate and has been listening to podcasts since sixth grade: “I listen usually on trains and buses. If I’m walking to the store or something, and while I’m doing laundry.”

Listening to audio across various platforms is more popular now than ever before, and Edison Research finds that the surge is gripping young people the most. The group’s 2019 Infinite Dial Study finds 40% of Americans ages 12 to 24 have listened to one podcast in the last month. That’s a significant increase from previous years. “Millennials and Gen Z listen the most, spending more than 18 hours each week and 2.6 hours or more each day listening to audio,” according to a new study written by the market research firm Ipsos and commissioned by iHeartMedia.

“I listen right before bed. Or on an airplane,” said Genesia Ting, who is a design and user research intern at the L.A. Times.

Alex Li, an augmented reality photogrammetry specialist, listens to podcasts because he doesn’t want to waste time. “Sometimes you’re just waking up in bed doing nothing, you want to absorb something passively. You want to absorb information,” Li said.

So, where do these young listeners find audio content and what draws them in?

Mansi Ganatra listens to the BBC’s “The Infinite Moonkey Cage” for the hosts Brian Cox and Robin Ince. And Ting finds herself relating to the podcast “Asian Boss Girl,” which is about three Asian women who live in L.A: “They’re really engaging hosts and the topics are more relevant to me as a person.”


The intimate nature of the audio storytelling medium also kept the millennials I talked to coming back for more. “I always want to learn more about myself,” said Li. “I will listen to something about psychology lessons or how to overcome sadness, but I will never share that publicly on social media. But sometimes I will DM a link to some of my friends.”

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Picks of the week

Each week, different Times staff members will share their personal podcast recommendations with you. Here’s what Mark Olsen, an entertainment feature writer and reviewer and host of “The Reel” podcast is listening to now.

The Watch,” the Ringer: As well as any other, this show works the line of being both like listening in on friends talking, and also being an incisive snapshot of what is going on right now with the confluence of cinema, television and streaming services. Hosted by Chris Ryan and Andy Greenwald, with able assists from their colleagues at the website and podcasting company the Ringer, “The Watch” is an easily digestible way to keep up with what’s worth knowing and talking about in the entertainment landscape.

Popcast,” New York Times: As one gets older, the pop music charts can become an alienating place, full of artists one has never even heard of and creating an anxiety that one is losing touch with what’s up. Hosted with a giddy, freewheeling enthusiasm by New York Times pop music critic Jon Caramanica, “Popcast” is here to help. The show covers a wide range of musical styles and topics, recently covering the enduring career of Hootie and the Blowfish, the rise of rapper Megan Thee Stallion and a moving obituary of Brazilian musician João Gilberto.


Night Call,” Audioboom: Billed as “a podcast for your strange days and lonely nights,” this show is one of the greatest relief valves to the dizzying, paranoiac feelings of our current cultural moment. Three friends — writers Molly Lambert, Tess Lynch and Emily Yoshida — share their very specific fascinations, such as erotic thrillers, haunted murder houses and energy drinks, often with a hint of conspiracy theory and a lot of healthy skepticism. Unpredictable, a bit flaky and very fun, “Night Call” may be the show I currently look forward to most every week.

Coming Up

Next time on “Larger Than Life:” Host Daniel Miller explores the drug trade and gang violence of 1980s South Los Angeles. Big Willie Robinson finds himself without a racetrack and sees his influence waning. But after the city burns again, he seizes a chance to start anew.

Plus, a brand-new podcast: Set to release on July 30, “Room 20” is the story about the search for a man’s identity, hosted by investigative reporter Joanne Faryon. Her two-year journey is filled with twists and turns as she tracks down the truth behind why a man remained unidentified and unconscious for more than 15 years. The trailer is out now. Listen here.

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