Lately, it seems like our favorite artists and content creators are starting the journey towards the podcast. YouTubers in particular are starting to switch from regular videos to a podcast format and the audience is simply digging it. But, what’s behind this new trend of the podcast? Why is it so popular?
The first step to understanding this phenomenon is knowing its origins, “The term was first used in 2004 and in 2005 was declared word of the year by the New Oxford American Dictionary. Podcast is a blend of iPod and broadcast” (Jham et al., 2008). So, the term has been around for more than 15 years, and its first experiments have been key to understanding what we know today as podcasts. The first episodes on iPods are the grandfathers of a worldwide euphoria that finds itself easy to reproduce thanks to the World Wide Web.
Podcasts are media files that can be distributed via the Internet and played on computers and handheld devices, such as iPods or other digital audio players. Podcast can mean either the content itself or the method by which it is syndicated; the latter is also termed podcasting. (Jham et al., 2008).
It’s important to keep in mind that the word podcast can also be a technical term. The term was adapted from the radio and transformed into its own format. Later on, it was introduced on the Internet where users could download its files and store them in their computers or other devices. Podcast owes its life to the radio and all those old generations who found themselves listening to the gentle sound of it in their cars or on big monitor screens.
However, the Internet and the new distribution platforms have made it extremely easy to produce and gather a good listening audience. Firstly, because it takes the paradigm of the radio, being able to listen to it whenever and however you want. Secondly, the production is simple and does not demand big expenses. And thirdly, the online distribution platforms make the podcast available all around the world as well as promote an easy way to listen to episodes that find it’s own place online.
Production on demand also allows podcasters to gain more experience and create better and more professional content.
Today’s podcasts are simply better. Most podcasts used to be pretty amateurish — two people talking about sports for an hour, or a businessman ad-libbing MBA lessons. And some still are. (...) But, today’s top podcasts are full-scale productions with real staff, budget, and industry expertise behind them. (Roose, 2014)
The professionalization of podcasting eventually leads to a profitable business better than the old entertainment fields such as TV production or even radio production. Now, companies and creators lean towards podcasts as a way to attract their audience. It’s the natural pace of the Internet and content on-demand. Podcasts hold the usual advantages of the radio that allow listeners to consume episodes as they walk around, cook, work, exercise, etc., as well as the content on-demand that allows listeners to select the type of show they want to listen to and subscribe to different channels.
Podcast has not only invented a new form of listening, but also saved a medium that was finding its last hours among the youngsters. As Blumberg, cited in Roose (2014), points out “Radio has been saved the disruption that has happened to other media. It’s been frozen in time for 50 years, (…) Now that everyone is walking around with a radio in their pocket at all times, and now that all cars are going to be connected, the form can flourish again.”
Podcasting is waking up the radio again, now with more possibilities thanks to the Internet. In fact, it has become an unstoppable source of knowledge and entertainment. Its space also allows more creators to spread knowledge about certain fields that was not possible before due to the big expenses of the audiovisual content. Many listeners are learning about all sorts of fields, from science to languages. More and more universities and academics are shifting to the podcast in order to attract students to their content, and it’s working!
Some podcasts even mix their sound with video, creating what’s known as a “vodcast” and this has certainly been the new route for many creators on Youtube. Channels like H3H3 have reached 3 million subscribers where their audience can interact live on the program with comments and polls. The mixture between the two most popular types of media, radio and video, creates experiences that are attracting more and more audiences and seems to be the new wave in our Internet environment.