As podcasts continue to grow in popularity, politicians are increasingly using the medium to reach the public without having to go through traditional news media.
One standout example is Sen. Ted Cruz’s new podcast “Verdict With Ted Cruz.” In it, he and co-host Michael Knowles gave listeners play-by-play commentary on President Trump’s impeachment trial. And Cruz’s podcast will go on even though the impeachment trial is over. Houston-area Rep. Dan Crenshaw has another popular podcast, “Hold These Truths,” in which he talks politics with various guests.
Stephanie Martin is an assistant professor of political communication at Southern Methodist University, and studies public discourse among conservatives. She says podcasts are an important tool in which politicians can control public perception more easily than through news appearances.
“Ted Cruz or Crenshaw, they write the questions and the answers,” Martin says. “It is a chance to reinforce the brand they want to be seen as. It is the freedom that you don’t accidently get asked about something you didn’t want to talk about.”
Traditional news media organization have also started a number of their own podcasts. And Martin says they have more resources and skills to maintain a podcast than Cruz or Crenshaw. Martin says podcasting isn’t as easy as some might think, and it could be difficult for politicians who jump into the medium to maintain an audience or stay competitive with news outlets.
Podcasting is almost an extension of what politicians have been doing on social media for the last several years. Donald Trump, for example, has used Twitter to comment on current events, speak directly to his supporters and convey a persona of his choosing. Martin says podcasts serve a similar purpose. But it’s unclear the extent to which Cruz or Crenshaw’s constituents are swayed by what they hear in their podcasts. Martin says some research shows that podcasting feels like a more personal exchange between host and listener than any other medium, which could be an advantage for politicians.
“You are getting to know someone and getting invited into their private conversation. That is what constituents feel like they are getting,” Martin says.
Written by Laura Morales.