Riding the podcasting wave

PETALING JAYA: First it was former Umno comrades Khairy Jamaluddin and Shahril Hamdan, then came Ong Kian Ming and Rafizi Ramli.

Forget social media, podcasts seem to be medium of choice now for politicians, both those holding office or those who are no longer in positions of power.

Khairy-Shahril’s Keluar Sekejap, Ong’s Are We OK? and Rafizi’s Yang Bakar Menteri are just some examples of podcasts where politicians air their views, discuss current issues and stay in the public eye.

“Podcasts at least keep the politicians and their parties visible and hopefully still perceived to be relevant,” said Dr Oh Ei Sun, senior fellow at the Singapore Institute of International Affairs.

“Beyond that, it really depends on the charisma of the politician in question, and the substantive content of such shows, as to whether it would enhance their political appeal,” he added.

On whether this would bring them closer to the public, Oh said podcasts do humanise otherwise aloof politicians.

However, he said it may not necessarily bring them more political support, as the audience may also disagree with their views.

He said that while listeners would listen and evaluate what the politicians say, most will still vote either along ideological or socioeconomic lines.

Political pundit Dr Tunku Mohar Tunku Mohd Mokhtar of International Islamic University Malaysia (IIUM) said podcasts are a good mechanism to inform the public and influence them, especially on certain issues.

“Podcasts are gaining popularity now, but the content must be attractive to the public. In addition to the recorded voice, some podcasts have also broadcast their sessions via YouTube, Facebook Live or other media,” he said.

In addition, parts of the podcasts could be edited into smaller snippets.

“These snippets could be more impactful in shaping public opinions. Snippets can be easily shared and can also influence people in their political preference,” he added.

In other words, he said, podcasts could become a form of campaigning for politicians.

Tunku Mohar said podcasts help politicians to be more visible and boost their profile.

The downside, however, is that it exposes them to public scrutiny.

Universiti Sains Malaysia senior lecturer Dr Azmil Mohd Tayeb said podcasts could reach demographics that are not covered by mainstream media.

“People listen to them while driving, cooking or working out. Podcasts also have a more relaxed and informal format, which appeals to young listeners,” he said.

Even the bigger parties are preparing to jump on the bandwagon.

Umno information chief Datuk Seri Azalina Othman Said reportedly said recently that the party’s information wing and Barisan Nasional Comms (BN Comms) would launch a podcast called Hitam, Putih, Kelabu (Black, White and Grey) soon to discuss issues openly.

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