Invasion of the podcast people

What it is and why its popularity is growing

America is in the midst of the second podcast boom, with the creative audio content infiltrating public consciousness more than ever before.

What is this “new” challenger to radio’s dominance of audio broadcasting?

Podcasts are similar to radio shows, but with immeasurably more freedom. Almost all podcasts are free and episodic, usually released into the world for downloading or streaming through computers or mobile devices according to a specific schedule (every Tuesday; every other Wednesday; every Monday, Wednesday and Friday). Listeners can listen when, how and where they want, without having to wait through ads or other shows for that specific time slot.

Podcasting and the perception of it have undergone a drastic transformation over the last decade. Podcasting was formerly a niche form of entertainment and information largely dismissed by the mainstream; years later, it has become a booming enterprise drawing everything and everyone from newspapers to bloggers to every comedian. Once a fallback option for a flailing career (see the mercurial Marc Maron’s neurotic therapy session of a podcast WTF), it has surpassed its iTunes-dependency to become a highly recommended form of self-promotion and a font of creativity and passion for creators. Though still a medium with a number of things to figure out (monetization), the future has never been brighter.

Despite this, much of America still seems somewhat willfully ignorant of podcasts. Being a medium with creative possibilities as plentiful as any other —but with far more freedom—how much longer can the general public resist this content that’s increasingly easier to find? 

“It’s like radio, but more intimate and interesting because it’s less corporate,” Madison Szczesniak, Ferris senior in music industry management, said.

Going further, podcasts have to abide by far fewer rules or limits and have fewer, if any, commercials.

They can be about anything, as well. Comedy-based podcasts, such as those offered by Earwolf and Nerdist, have found great success. Even in these there is variety, such as movie or video game reviews, sex education or political news. A podcast can be literally anything.

Also, anyone can have one—and that’s where there can be an issue.

“The problem with podcasts is you have to go through so many crap ones to find a good one,” Ferris music industry management senior T.J. Stein said.

Numerous aspiring podcasters are out there, many of whom don’t have decent equipment or good hosting skills. Fortunately, more “best podcasts” lists are released every day (such as the A.V. Club’s Podmass column) as trusted brands and sources emerge, as well as “if you like this, you’ll love that” engines.

Podcasts are only growing bigger and better with each passing day. Nothing opposes their growth except the limits of technology, and those limits are being pushed further back
every day.