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Passive vs Active Listening: The Role of Audio Walking Tours in Engaging Audiences

In today's audio-rich media landscape, listeners can engage with content in a variety of ways. Specifically, the terms "passive" and "active" listening are frequently used to describe how people consume audio content. But what exactly do these terms mean, and how do they influence the experience of the listener, especially when it comes to emerging formats like audio walking tours?

If you're interested in creating your own audio walking tour, check out our creator platform and this guide to getting started.

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Passive listening is akin to having the radio on in the background while you're involved in other tasks. It's about receiving audio content without actively engaging in the process or consciously focusing on the details of what is being said. For example, a podcast may be playing while you're cooking dinner or running errands. You hear the content, but you're not wholly concentrating on it or responding to it. Passive listening is less about understanding and more about exposure to the sound.

Active listening, in contrast, is an immersive, conscious, and interactive process. It involves not only hearing the content but also comprehending, interpreting, and acting upon it. In the context of media consumption, this could involve pausing to reflect on what you've heard, taking notes, or following prompts within the audio to engage further with the content or the creator. Active listening, therefore, promotes a more profound connection between the listener and the content.

Traditional podcasts often lean towards passive listening, as they are primarily designed to provide information or entertainment. Although some may include prompts or calls-to-action to engage listeners more actively, these are generally minimal, and the content can be entirely consumed without the need for further action. Listeners often play podcasts while commuting, working, or relaxing, making it a secondary activity rather than the primary focus.

In our experience, audio walking tours encourage a much higher level of active listening. These walking tours are location-based and are designed to guide listeners through physical spaces while providing contextual information, stories, or insights related to the surroundings. They transform the listening experience into an immersive adventure, prompting the listeners to engage actively with their environment.

More importantly, audio walking tours also provide an avenue to interact with local businesses. As listeners navigate through a city or neighborhood, guided by the audio tour, they can be prompted to visit local businesses, try local products, or participate in local events. This active engagement not only enriches the listener's experience but also promotes local businesses, creating a symbiotic relationship that goes beyond the traditional podcast listening experience. For example, a stop at Van Leeuwen is included in our Williamsburg, Brooklyn walking tour, and listeners get a chance to hear the story behind the business and can pause if they want to go inside and make a purchase.

By promoting active listening, audio walking tours provide a more immersive and engaging experience for listeners, potentially leading to a deeper understanding and appreciation of the locale. This also opens up opportunities for businesses to connect with potential customers in a unique and personal way.


Gesso is an audio storytelling platform for creators of all backgrounds. Create an account and publish your own audio walking tours in any city. It’s as easy as dropping pins on a map.


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