So podcasts are a thing now. Everybody and their goat has one, and there’s even podcasts talking about podcasts, so it’s pretty safe to say that the whole thing has “peaked”, for lack of a better word. Although it’s been getting a lot of attention in the last 3-4 years, the word has been thrown around for the better part of 10 years, and actually has its roots in the early days of internet radio, i.e. the early days of the internet itself. Obviously there were technical obstacles back in the day, which most people today can barely even comprehend: try streaming anything on that 28.8k modem I grew up with. But the technology evolved, and yet people were still slow on the uptake.
There were two very important developments that encouraged the recent rise of podcasting: number one is the democratization of peer-to-peer traffic. On the one hand, it precipitated the deployment of home high-speed internet, which is one thing, but once the pioneering Napsters and Audiogalaxies were shuttered, people both on the developer side and on the customer side needed to find an alternative to get their music, and it was, obviously, streaming it. Simple as that: you can’t NOT listen to music. But who has the time to sit down in front of their computer and do nothing else? Conveniently, portable MP3 players had become pretty widespread in the interval, so making content downloadable was a no-brainer if you wanted people to hear your nonsense.
A couple of people understood this early: Audible.com who sponsor a lot of podcasts today, were an early pay-per-listen podcasts, including Ricky Gervais’ Show, a former radio show carried onto the internets between 2005 and 2007. Now they carry audio books, which is pretty much the same. But different. Because you kind of have to pay for copyrighted material. But what we’re talking about here is the development of podcasting not as an alternative to listening to the radio, but as an alternative to listening to music. To watching TV. To doing anything else that doesn’t just require a background noise, but actual content. Original material.
And that is most likely what makes the podcast world so daunting: there are a million sources, and a million people doing it, and it is difficult to keep up with who’s doing what, what’s happening where, and why. Luckily, there are some aggregators out there that make the task slightly easier: there is the cumbersome supermarket of iTunes where one can feel free to browse through all the entries (with some help from half-disembodied ratings) and give these pieces a chance. There are also businesses dedicated to the podcasting entreprise, especially for the world of comedy: there’s of course the powerhouses of Earwolf, Maximum Fun and Nerdist, plus Slate in addition to the smaller markets of Feral Audio, Amateur Scientist, SMod or the Carolla Podcasts.
Which brings me to the second thing that propelled podcasting to the forth: people finally understood how wonderful content syndication is. It’s still slow. Really slow. Too slow, considering: syndication weeds out everything that’s not for you (which is an ever-growing proportion) and lets you access the data you actually want to read directly. But I knew things were changing two years ago when my co-workers asked me how to add an RSS feed to Outlook: when middle-aged women are starting to adopt, you know you’ve reached critical mass. And of course! Syndication is wonderful! Modern social media are #BASED on the same principle. And it is absolutely crucial for podcasts that publish new episodes at least half regularly, which you can download without even looking at your internet device. Set it and forget it as it were. And still, some people insist on visiting websites daily, clicking a bunch of links and engaging into all sorts of headaches.
Anyway my point is: what makes podcasts so great (at this point in time anyway) is the complete creative freedom of their authors: you can curse, you can be not funny, you can invite your mom: it doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter if you have one or one million listeners to start with, as long as they’re dedicated to your cause and they’re willing to support you, and whatever you do. It can only grow from there. So you know there’s something out there for you. I cannot emphasize how comforting that must be for a podcaster, because then you KNOW there’s somebody out there for you. Even if you actually don’t know it yet. It’s all over again! Sure, a bunch of them will die out pretty fast, within a foreseeable future. That’s why we need to pay attention now.
SO! Podcast Magic is where I help you out a bit in choosing what podcasts to listen to. The way I did it: there’s some guy I like, and I look him up. He’s on a podcast! So I listen to that one, get acquainted with the host, the mood etc. If it fits me, I listen to others, if not I just move on to the next one. But I’ll save you some of that footwork, because I love you like that, Bloglin. I’ll talk about a host, sometimes a network, sometimes an episode. It doesn’t matter. Podcasting is late-blooming internet 2.0 that you simply cannot live without if you are at all interested in anything. Let’s do this.- Gnou