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With Podcasts, Politicians Can Be Intimate And On-Message

Sen. Ted Cruz's podcast, "Verdict With Ted Cruz," was at the top of the Apple Podcasts chart during President Trump's impeachment trial.
Matt Johnson/Flickr (CC BY-NC 2.0)
Sen. Ted Cruz's podcast, "Verdict With Ted Cruz," was at the top of the Apple Podcasts chart during President Trump's impeachment trial.

From Texas Standard:

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. The podcast will go on even though the impeachment trial is over. Houston-area Rep. Dan Crenshaw also has a  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 likely 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.

Podcasting is an extension of what politicians have been doing on social media for the last several years. President 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. 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, edited by Caroline Covington.

Copyright 2020 KUT 90.5. To see more, visit KUT 90.5.

Michael Marks