What Exactly Is a Podcast and Why All the Fuss?
I live and breathe podcasts. Just about every day, I’m creating, editing or producing a podcast.
But when I’m out and about, I still meet people who have no real idea what a podcast is…. No, I don’t judge you, I really don’t. I mean I’m still struggling to get my head around SnapChat. Things change so fast and it seems every time you turn around, there is some new social media, marketing or sales opportunity you need to be aware of.
So allow me to bring you into the podcast fold by sharing what a podcast is, and give you a quick rundown of podcasting history.
First things first. A podcast is a digital audio file. The name was coined by journalist Ben Hammersley and is a combination of “pod” – taken from Apple iPod (Portable on Demand) and “cast” meaning to broadcast. A podcast means you can listen to your favourite radio hosts or program on demand. Yep, bottom line with podcasts, you get to choose the content you want to listen to, at a time that suits you, in a place that suits you on a device that suits you.
Podcasting actually emerged in the 1980’s. Back then it was known as ‘audio blogging’ but the technology to make it widely available didn’t yet exist.
Then in June 2005, Apple loaded podcasts onto iTunes, allowing us to access the content we want, when we want it, wherever we want to listen.
Fast forward to 2013 and Apple announced that after years of quiet but steady growth, podcasts subscriptions had reached 1 billion. That’s one Billion. This was spread across 250,000 unique podcasts in more than 100 languages, and more than 8 million episodes have been published in the iTunes Store to date.
2014 was the watershed year for podcasting. The radioshow-turned-podcast “This American Life” launched a game-changing podcast for mass media. “Serial”, one story told week by week became a podcasts of firsts.
It was the first podcast to reach 1 million subscribers. The first podcast to reach 5 million downloads. It was the first podcast to win the prestigious Peabody award and its producer Sarah Kaynig was named one of Time Magazine’s 100 most influential people. Serial even had a Saturday Night Live skit created about it.
This podcast, which tells the story of the murder of high school student Hae Min Lee in 1999 and the subsequent conviction of her ex boyfriend Adnon Sayed, changed perceptions of podcasting forever and brought it into the mainstream.
As a side note, if you haven’t listened to podcasts and you’re wondering where to start, Serial is an excellent example of the power of podcasting combined with an exquisite story, so do yourself a favour and download Season One…. I dare you not to “binge listen”.
Then in 2015 President Obama travelled to LA to appear on “Marc Maron’s WTF” podcast… recorded in Marc’s garage. Yes, garage. When I heard that interview, I realised that anyone who still doubted the power of podcasting to reach or build a community now had to argue against the President of the United States of America..
With the high market penetration of smartphones and car manufacturers embracing internet connected vehicles, it’s no surprise that that over 2 million hours of podcasts are being listened to each day in the USA. At the start of 2016 In Australia, Made by Fairfax research says that 2.9 million Australians listened to a podcast. Penetration is expected to increase to 1 in 2 Australians.
Remember only a short few years ago people were saying that social media was never going to impact them or their business?
Well…. Today if we combine the various platforms, there are over 2 billion people active social media users. What is the business that isn’t able to leverage that enormous global audience in some way?
Make no mistake, podcasting will be the same. Those who are among the first to ride this wave will reap the benefits. Everyone else will just get caught in the wash.
“The opinions expressed by Smallville Contributors are their own, not those of www.smallville.com.au"
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