Just when you thought you’ve had enough of technology and your friends bombarding you to subscribe to their social channels, a new platform joins the party. It’s about time we talk about the unstoppable force that is podcasting.
The innovativeness and effectiveness of podcasts have been so undeniable that artists, personalities, professionals, and businesses across all industries are significantly utilizing this medium to connect to their audiences, express their creativity, widen their knowledge, and promote their products and services, which ultimately offers a high return of investment.
Getting to Cool Kid Status
Podcasts are a series of digital audio files that a listener downloads or streams on a device, such as a smartphone, that one can listen to on the go. Some podcasts focus on a wide variety of episodic topics and others are serialized narratives.
While podcasts have only gained its cool kid status in recent years, its conception could be traced back to the 1980s, which was originally known as audioblogging. Radio Computing Services (RCS) was the leading company to provide broadcasting software to radio stations in digital format. In the early days of the internet in the mid-90s, various websites offered a system that organizes music, audio, interviews, news, and also audio subscription services. Founder of the Internet Multicasting Services, Carl Malamud, launched the first computer-radio talk show that featured and interviewed computer experts on a weekly basis in 1993. The defining characteristics of podcasts today were popularized by his format wherein audiences could pause, restart, and skip content according to their preferences.
Carl Malamud launched the first computer-radio talk show that featured and interviewed computer experts on a weekly basis in 1993
However, it was in 2004 that this technology truly boomed and gained a following when MTV video jockey, Adam Curry, and software developer, Dave Winer, created a downloadable internet radio broadcast known as iPodder, which was designed for Apple’s iPods at that time. But according to reports, the term podcasting was coined by journalist, Ben Hammersley, when he was writing a piece about this new technology. In fact, podcasts have become so in demand that it was acknowledged as the Word of the Year by the New Oxford American Dictionary in 2005.
During Steve Jobs’ keynote in 2006, his team incorporated a feature on GarageBand that enabled an individual to start a podcast, which provided access and an outlet for people to express their creativity. This development proved that podcasts were becoming a force to be reckoned with. In 2007, Ricky Gervais’ podcast The Ricky Gervais Show set the Guinness World Record for the most downloaded podcast, garnering a quarter of a million downloads per episode. He was later on replaced by radio personality Adam Carolla in 2011 for managing to amass 59 million unique downloads within 2 years. A few years later, Apple revealed that they have acquired a whopping billion subscribers. In 2018, the serialized crime podcast entitled Serial made history as the most downloaded podcast of all time, garnering 420 million downloads. In 2020, there are almost a million active podcast accounts and 30 million episodes online.
Jack of All Trades, Master of None
These impressive numbers prove that podcasts have greatly evolved and earned its rightful place in the market for its powerful and beneficial features. But what are these characteristics that make this technology stand out from the crowd?
First of all, most podcasts are accessible and free of charge for both the audience and the podcast producer. Of course, there are subscription-based ones such as Apple and Spotify, but they are usually included in the package at no extra cost. For anyone who is starting out, one would only need to have headphones, a microphone, and a computer ― unlike other activities that would require elaborate and expensive equipment.
Second, this medium is powerful in telling stories, educating, and influencing an audience of all ages on a wide variety of essential topics. Since most of us spend our time in traffic or commute, exercising, or walking around, podcasts provide the necessary entertainment and company we need whether it’s listening to a ten-minute or an hour-long episode, which makes it convenient and favorable for anyone who wants a quick fix. Visionary thinkers in politics, entertainment, sports, music, and medicine are investing in their own podcasts because it effectively reaches their target audiences right at their fingertips without disrupting or taking a huge chunk of their time in their busy schedules.
Third, podcasts are intimate and authentic conversations that allow the listeners to feel that they are also participants. Especially for crime-related podcasts such as Serial (2014) and Crime Junkie (2017), they leave it to the audience to use their detective skills and imagination to make sense of a particular case. In fact, they even have an allotted website to access the evidence that their audience can take a look at while listening to the podcast.
Lastly, it builds a community of like-minded people who share the same interests. Aside from being great conversation starters or building new relationships, podcasts also attract the attention of professionals as exhibited in Serial’s “The Case Against Adnan Syed,” the abovementioned most downloaded episode in 2018. After being invested in the series, two lawyers reached out to the defense team and played a pivotal role in their appeal.
This medium is powerful in telling stories, educating, and influencing an audience of all ages on a wide variety of essential topics
Due to the popularity and rapidly increasing subscribers of podcasts, companies have found an opportunity to connect and gain exposure in the form of advertisements. Since creating content for podcasts is mostly free of charge, podcasters have also benefitted from incorporating these advertisements by getting sponsorships, paid content, or some kind of compensation per episode. According to Forbes, advertisers have almost spent “$700 million on podcasts in 2019” and this year, veteran podcasters such as Joe Rogan, Karen Kilgariff and Georgia Hardstark, Dave Ramsey, Dax Shepard, and Bill Simmons earned a “cumulative $70 million from their flagship titles.” For this reason, many podcasters have had the privilege of turning what started as a hobby into a full-fledged career.
While it seems like podcasts have already gone a long way, it still has so much potential and a lot of areas to explore. With the constant advancement of technology and the boundless creativity we encounter every day, there is no doubt that this medium is here to stay and will only keep getting better through the years.