These exploding Catholic podcasts, and the reasons for such success

They are called Zeteo, Bethesda, Les deux pieds dans le font, Un beau jour, Un cœur qui enseignement or Maman pray and have in common this ambition to move, enlighten or edify their listeners through their voices. These are podcasts, these digital audio content in full expansion, all over the world and among Catholics.

“I listen to two to three podcasts a day, when I’m in the metro,” says Marion, 28, Parisian and human resources executive in a large company. “I choose a variety of content, ranging from personal testimonials to personal development advice, including parenting or spirituality podcasts, it all depends on my state of mind at the time! What I like is this possibility of choosing my own program according to my desires”. It must be said that Marion has the “typical profile” of the podcast consumer: young, Ile-de-France and CSP+.

Flexibility and freedom that appeal to more and more listeners. In the morning at breakfast, in the car or in the metro, while running, walking or doing the dishes, podcasts interfere in a rather spectacular way in the daily life of the French. According the Global Audio study carried out by Médiamétrie and published in May 2022, of all digital audio formats, podcasts are recording the most marked growth: 36.1% of Internet users say they listen to at least one podcast per month in 2022. which concerns 17.6 million French people. This represents a gain of 2.6 million listeners compared to 2021, growth in line with that observed between 2020 and 2021.

“Boosted by mobile technologies, podcasts are a new medium in full expansion”, confirms to Aleteia Guillaume Devoud, specialist in the edition and distribution of audio content and founder of several podcasts (Zeteo, Bethesda, Telio and Les Contes of the impatient God). According to him, “the podcast is the medium of attention, intended for seekers of meaning. A quest for meaning shared by many listeners, who find answers in certain podcasts. This is why Christian podcasts have their place in this market and perhaps even a role to play. This is what Guillaume Devoud willingly testifies: “I myself rediscovered the Christian faith in 2017, listening to a podcast by Father Nicolas Buttet on YouTube. I felt a very intense and very tender presence in my heart. It was the presence of Jesus, who has not left me since. I wanted others to experience what I had experienced. My challenge today is to evangelize through podcasts and thus reach different audiences and as many people as possible”.

What is a podcast?

A podcast is digital audio content that you can listen to anywhere, anytime, and as many times as you want. The word “podcast” is the contraction of “iPod”, Apple’s device, and ” broadcasting” , diffusion. It was coined in 2004 by a Guardian journalist, Ben Hammersley, in an article seeking to name this new audio concept. A term that actually brings together two different types of content: radio show replays and so-called “native” podcasts. These are specifically created for digital distribution.

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Among the Catholic podcasts, we therefore find the replays of certain programs broadcast by radio stations such as Radio Notre Dame (RND), Radio Espérance, French-speaking Christian Radio (RCF), and native podcasts. It is customary to differentiate, among the native podcasts, those which are created and hosted by a press or television media (these are the podcasts of Famille Chrétienne, La Croix, Le Pèlerin, Zélie or KTO) and the “pure players” (with a unique activity): Zeteo, Bethesda, Padreblog, Emmanuel Play, Les deux pieds dans le font, the Collège des Bernardins, etc.

A listening heart, Zeteo, Un beau jour, Bethesda…: testimonials that touch or inspire

While some angled podcasts on testimonies of faith have already been on the market for several years, like KTO’s “A listening heart” program, January 2020 marks a real explosion in terms of the offer of Christian podcasts. . This is the month in which Zeteo, a weekly podcast giving the floor to a witness of Christ, was launched, followed closely by “Un beau jour”, the Christian Family podcast broadcasting testimonies of people who have let themselves be shaken up in their lives. and in their faith.

Two months later, confinement gives them a second wind. Podcasts indeed offer an alternative to screens and break the feeling of loneliness, which is sometimes very strong during the Covid-19 epidemic: “Zeteo broke my loneliness in the first moments of confinement”, confides Sarah-Jane. “I’ve been listening to it since the first episode and it inspires me a lot”. And the testimonies of life seem to captivate the listeners. To listen, to be inspired, to let oneself be touched by the life of others and their way of following Christ, seduced. “I am touched by the testimonials, it elevates me, I don’t feel like I’m wasting my time,” says Marie-Noëlle, 39, masseur-physiotherapist. “It’s a real gift that people give us! Thanks to them, my faith is growing even more, and that makes me want to pray even more”.

The speech is not transformed or reformulated, it is delivered as it is, without filter.

A craze for personal testimonials probably due to the proximity that the podcast creates with the person who confides. “The podcast does not carry the same emotion as the written word”, emphasizes Guillaume Devoud. “I really like this type of media because it manages to create a real heart to heart with the listener. The speech is not transformed or reformulated, it is delivered as it is, without filter, with all the emotions, feelings and faith that animate the person who testifies”.

And as proof of this enthusiasm shared by many listeners, Zeteo has a monthly audience of 20,000 unique listeners, who listen to two episodes on average. Bethesda, the healing and conversion podcast, launched in 2021, has 5,000 unique listeners who listen to the words of ordinary people who bear witness to the extraordinary. “Un beau jour” has recorded 150,000 plays for 35 episodes since its launch on January 29, 2020.

In view of the success encountered by testimonial podcasts, however, there remains a point of vigilance: their overconsumption. Marie-Diane, loyal listener to several podcasts, warns: “Beware of overdose! This is the door open to comparison! If the multiplication of testimonies can invite us to give thanks for the action of God in the life of others or to join us, it can also distance us from our own path and throw us back in the face of the banality of our life”.

Maman prie, Padreblog, Imprenable, the Bernardins…: teachings that make you grow spiritually

Short or long, podcasts adapt to evangelize and spiritually grow their listeners. The formats can be very short, such as “Maman Pray” (a podcast from Famille Chrétienne which has recorded nearly 100,000 plays over the three seasons) which offers in 5 minutes a concrete tip to put prayer at the heart of your life as a mother, or longer ones, like Padreblog (15 min), which broadcasts spi and news content produced by priests.


Dean Drobot | Shutterstock

“I always listen to podcasts while ironing,” says Auriane, 37 and a school teacher. “The teachings given by the Collège des Bernardins, the replays of In Search of Meaning (RND) or Impregnable (FC). My hands are busy ironing but my mind is lifting a little! This is a rare opportunity in my life as a mother to nourish my soul and my intelligence! One of the great attractions of podcasts lies in fact in this possibility, particularly appreciated by women, of doing two things at the same time. While some listeners settle comfortably into their sofa, sometimes in the middle of the night, to quietly listen to an episode, others manage to learn while doing the dishes or cleaning. This is also the case with Bénédicte: “Short, well done, concrete, Maman Prie is practical to listen to when you have to do other things at the same time! »

Two feet in the stoup, Zélie, Sex’Oh!…: encounters that make you think

Christian podcasts also explore many other topics and invite reflection. The Center for Social Research and Action (Ceras, an institution of the Society of Jesus) launched in November 2020 Two feet in the holy water font, a podcast that takes a “Catholic” look at the struggles of our time. It is led by Catholics committed to ecological and social issues. A program to which Eglantine is attached: “The notion of social justice is very important to me, and the testimonies and stories of the speakers inspire me and help me to try to be more coherent with the Gospel in my life of all days,” she says. “And I like the diversity of subjects: non-violence, the Christian approach to politics, feminism, ecology, secularism…”.

The digital magazine Zélie offers monthly podcasts that give voice to inspiring and inspired women, and that address various topics such as parenthood, beauty, femininity… Finally, in the episodes of “Sex’Oh”, listened to by 56,000 people, the marriage counselor and sex therapist Hélène Dumont opens the doors of her office to women to address the most frequent questions: desire, pleasure, pain, maternity/femininity articulation, communication in the couple…

Telio, Tales of the Impatient God: children too!

Children are not left out in the world of podcasting. Since March 2022, they have a dedicated podcast: Telio, launched by Guillaume Devoud. Each episode, lasting about 15 minutes, recounts the life of a great saint. Children, and perhaps also their parents, can thus discover Anne de Guigné, François d’Assise, Thérèse of Lisieux… A new episode twice a month. Less spiny but just as captivating, the Les Contes du Dieu Impatient podcast leads children each week in a wonderful story, where it is about princesses, mermaids, poets, angels and kings, castles and the beauties of nature. Podcasts accessible from traditional platforms and soon in Lunii-type digital story boxes.

New podcasts in the works

Building on their success and their creativity, Christian podcasts are constantly renewing themselves. Tireless, Guillaume Devoud is preparing a new podcast, available in September 2022, angled on topics of society, economy and business, with a Christian perspective. As for Famille Chrétienne, it is Abbé Raphaël Cournault, author of the book Happy Hour spinnakerwhich will be aimed at fathers in the next podcast “Papa spi” from June 20th!

Father Raphael Cournault

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These exploding Catholic podcasts, and the reasons for such success

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