Saturday, March 9, 2024

Government by Podcast.

The February 22 Economist examined podcasting, which caused me to reflect on that industry's similarity to live local government broadcasts in the United States. Both provide lenses to examine the relationship between audiences and their perceptions of trust and legitimacy, and a path potentially to improved public engagement and credibility through direct audience engagement.

Since its inception in 2004, podcasting has evolved from "downloadable radio" into a cultural force, engaging listeners with long-form, conversational content. The Economist points out this evolution, noting the medium's impact on audiences with detailed narratives, as seen in the success of "Serial" in 2014. This series, investigating a murder trial, marked a significant moment in podcasting history and highlighted the medium's potential to connect with its audience through storytelling and transparency, while alluding to the importance of trust and legitimacy podcasting might play in a governmental context (here, the perception of the integrity of a criminal proceeding).

The push for live government broadcasts on platforms like YouTube reflects a demand for transparency and engagement in the public sector, particularly when coupled with the ability of audiences to participate remotely, largely a byproduct of the social-distancing requirements of COVID-19. These broadcasts provide direct access to decision-making processes, allowing the public to observe governance and indeed to participate as well. This aligns with efforts to enhance trust and legitimacy through at least the appearance of openness, demonstrating a desire for transparency in both media and government.

The integration of video in podcasting, as platforms and creators aim to expand reach and engagement, mirrors this trend toward authenticity and visibility. Platforms like Spotify and content creators moving into video podcasts adapt to a preference for visual content and tap into the audience's demand for direct access to content and narrative formation. This shift towards visual podcasting and live government broadcasts caters to the public's desire for a clear view into processes themselves.

The Economist article and observations of local government initiatives highlight a societal shift towards transparency and direct engagement in media consumption and civic participation, and the increasing necessity of the same to provide legitimacy. This approach shows a reinforcement between podcasting's evolution and governmental transparency efforts. As each grows, the hope is that the combined impact will be positive on public trust and the perceived legitimacy of the public discourse essential to the preservation of democratic institutions.