Week of 22 July 2019

Oh, you don't have one?

Hello, and welcome to The Deep Dive—a weekly close-up look at an idea, issue or trend that's shaping Asia's future. We’re happy to have you with us. Please send your comments, questions and favourite podcasts to

If they are your constant companion, distracting you while you brush your teeth, slog through the commute, run your daily 5k and whip up your dinner, then either you’re in a co-dependent relationship or you’re really, really into podcasts.
Telling stories is an urge as old as humanity itself, and we tend to jump at every opportunity to do so. In the 1980s, the joke was that everyone in New York’s glossy set was writing a novel. By the 1990s, it was a screenplay. In the 2000s, it was a blog. 

Now, information and technology have come for our few remaining moments of peace and quiet. Walking home from the subway, unloading the groceries, taking your dog out to pee, even showering—every mundane errand with a silence longer than a minute can be filled with the voice of your favourite podcast host.

In many ways, it's fabulous. Hard-hitting news, compelling storytelling, comedy, meditation—people are learning and connecting with each other in unprecedented ways. Anyone who has travelled alone, suffered from insomnia or gone through a bad break-up can also attest to how comforting they are, taking you right into a kitchen-table debate or a heart-stopping investigation. And there is so much to choose to from (750,000 different shows, to be exact).

In fact, almost too much. The highly democratic nature of podcasts means that anyone with a microphone and an ego thinks they can be the next This American Life. A natural selection of podcasting seems imminent. In fact, the slow burn of a failing podcast is called the “podfade.”

That being said, nothing is fading about the desire for captivating content. Podcasts are getting TV spin-offs, have had murder cases revisited, and are turning hosts into celebrities. Where did this phenomenon come from, and where is it all going? Lets take a Deep Dive.



"Podcasting was where people could use four-letter words and speak a kind of raw, angry opinion that a great mass of the population believes and wants to hear. To be yourself, to be political, to talk the way that we talked at home, in the kitchen, even in a bar: It was a huge gift from the internet. We knew we were at a turning point. I would get into my car and listen to public radio, and I thought: God, this is like dark ages. The world is never going back."
Christopher Lydon, broadcaster and creator of the first podcast, Open Source




Podcast listeners are largely affluent and very well educated. About half of listeners make $75,000 or more in annual income, and most have a university degree (one-third have a master’s degree).


According to a survey, 49 percent of podcast listening is done at home, while 22 percent is done in the car.


In 2018, online listeners in China grew 22.1 percent, surpassing 400 million, a rate far exceeding growth of the mobile video and e-reading populations.


In Asia, podcast downloading figures grew by 29 percent in 2017, up from an 18 percent increase in 2016. Japan and Hong Kong are the region's top podcast downloaders, with Singapore coming in fifth. Asia’s overall podcast downloads are on par with both Canada and England.


As of June 2019, the total number of podcasts available to download was 750,000. Together, these have over 30 million episodes.


5 Stories To Get You Up To Speed
  1. Have We Hit Peak Podcast?
    The New York Times
  2. How Podcasts Became A Seductive—And Sometimes Slippery—Mode Of Storytelling
    The New Yorker
  3. Women Turn To Podcasting To Have Their Voices Heard; From Comedy To Controversial Topics, Medium Offers A Platform Away From Traditional Male-Led Media
    The South China Morning Post
  4. Podcasting Is The New Talk-Radio
    The Atlantic
  5. China Silences Podcast and Musics Apps As Online Crackdown Widens





Social Media, 5G And Monetising Content: What's In Store For The Future Of Podcasts

Gen.T sat down with Renee Wang, CEO and founder of podcasting platform Castbox, to chat about the booming, hypersocial podcast scene in China, the future of 5G, and how audio will soon dominate everything.


The top nine Asian countries ranked by their share of podcast downloads
According to 2017 data from Blubrry, one of the largest podcast hosting companies.
Source: Blubrry


Podcasts and hosts at the centre of the industry

Better in Bed
Sara Tang
Along with her co-host,  Jye Smith, Tang has taken it upon herself to improve the sex lives of millions of women around Asia. Through her podcast, Better in Bed, she helps women from more conservative parts of the continent let go of their insecurities and work out exactly what they’re looking for between the sheets—and how to ask for it. Their advice includes physical tips, psychological evaluations and interviews with top sex educators.

Gushi FM
Kou Aizhe
The host of Gushi FM, one of China’s top podcasts, Kou Aizhe interviews a series of subjects on their harrowing personal stories, providing an important contrast to the tightly controlled state-run media. Episodes explore the lives of people who have escaped from war-torn Libya, struggled with LGBTQ issues in homophobic families and resorted to paid surrogacy (which is currently illegal in China) while exploring themes that include loneliness, political dissidence, heartbreak, disease, love and bravery.

Sarah Koenig
Serial, the 2014 American true-crime show about a murder in Baltimore, catapulted podcasts into the mainstream. And as a result, journalist Sarah Koenig’s voice became beloved by millions—in fact, you’re probably reading this now and remembering exactly where you were when you listened to her extraordinarily detailed explanation of what happened in the days before Adnan Syed was accused of murder. Koenig, who lives in Pennsylvania with her professor husband and two children, is currently working on the fourth season of Serial, which, as a series, remains the most popular podcast of all time.

Gen.T Spotlight

An honouree to follow

Maurice Li
Maurice wears many hats, including brand architect, business strategist, product and experience designer, and cultural curator and producer. He's also the host of podcast Culture Club with Maurice Li.


One of the biggest first podcasts came out in 2004 called Daily Source Code, hosted by former MTV video jockey Adam Curry. The show was such a hit that he earned the nickname “Podfather.” But it would not have been possible without software developer Dave Winer, who helped invent the podcasting model RSS (Really Simple Syndication). It's basically a feed that delivers content and “audio blog posts” (as they were first known) to devices, which we still use today. See ya, radio.




Looking for a new podcast?

Check out these recommendations from our honourees.



You can now apply to attend our leadership summit

The theme of the Gen.T Asia Summit is Breaking Barriers. The mission of the event, which takes place this November 20-21 in Hong Kong, is to break down the barriers that prevent us from achieving our full potential.

In the run-up to the summit, we're exploring these themes through our content. 


The Business of Vegetarianism

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