Despite being a regular early adopter, I still can’t believe how far ahead I was of podcasts becoming a thing. I heard my first episode of This American Life while driving along I-81 in 2006. Every station along the rural mountainside was a fuzzy mess, but there was Ira Glass’s professorial voice soothing my fractured heart with each mile. In perhaps a very backwards way, podcasts are how I first discovered the reach of public radio too.
David and I have spent the past two weeks debating whether Serial’s success is based on the medium or the story–I say both. Podcasts are such a compelling format because, unlike TV, they enable you to continue other tasks without being beholden to the sofa. Much of our collective time in cars is spent listening to podcasts. David streams Dave Ramsey and The Vergecast while washing the dishes. I let the dulcet tones of Roman Mars and Jad Abumrad take me away while I fold the laundry. We have almost unnatural relationships with people we hardly know. We reference them like best friends: “You know, Dave mentioned that we really should get rid of our credit cards and use cash instead.”
No Women, Mo’ Problems
I recently realized that before Serial I didn’t have a single podcast in my queue hosted by a woman. I knew plenty of women helped produce my favorite podcasts—Sarah Koenig of This American Life, and Zoe Chace and Stacey Vanek-Smith of Planet Money being three of them–but I found myself unsubscribing from other lady-led podcasts because they often seemed to lack the narrative structure that I find to be the holy grail of audio storytelling.
That’s all changing. Not only is Sarah Koenig and her team proving to be rockstars, new podcasts like Criminal, hosted by Phoebe Judge, will be opening all kinds of doors for other voices to emerge. This year I joined my first Kickstarter campaign to bring at least two new podcasts led by women to Radiotopia.
So we’re here at this moment when podcasting is certainly part of a zeitgeist. I hope that it means many more organizations are giving their content folks an opportunity to test how they might contribute to this medium.
I’m happy to say I’m not the only one thinking about the future of podcasts; in fact, there are a great many others discussing why podcasting might just be the next great thing. I’ve pulled a selection below, but feel free to add others in the comments.
- Why Podcasts Make Sense – Columbia Journalism Review
- The Great Podcast Renaissance – New York Magazine
- Podcasts are Back—And Making Money – Washington Post
- A Critical Theory of Podcasting – Slate
And if you’ve never listened to a podcast before, let Ira and his friend tell you how easy it is to get started.