Probably the most famous story about the cultural impact of radio is the 1938 broadcast adaptation of War of the Worlds, a science fiction novel about alien invasion by H.G. Wells. Narrated by Orson Welles, the 60-minute broadcast was presented as a news bulletin and purportedly generated utter panic in a million listeners (this number is the subject of some dispute).
At that time, listening to the radio was often a shared experience. Along with newspapers and books, radio was a dominant form of media delivery and consumption. From Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s fireside chats in 1933 to Neville Chamberlain’s declaration of war with Germany in 1939, people gathered around radios, together, to hear news and stories.
The role of radio in our daily lives has changed substantially since then. On-demand audio has made many listening experiences solitary: just one person and their earbuds. But new forms of social listening are emerging even in an on-demand world, offering opportunities for human connection and discussion that call back to ways we used to listen to the radio — while also taking the experience in new directions.