Podcasts: The Art of Modern Storytelling
By TC Topp
Today, podcasts are one of the most popular forms of mass media with more than 115,000 shows in English alone. The term was coined in 2004 my a BBC journalist Ben Hammersley as a combination of the brand name “iPod” and the noun “broadcast.” Though the term net casting has also been put forward to avoid any affiliation with Apple Inc., “Podcast” was solidified into modern parlance when the company released the Podcast App in 2005.
This was a turning point not only for the popularity of the medium, but also the role podcasts fulfilled. During their infancy, podcasts had been created and promoted as a way for people to share their ideas without radio regulations, airtimes, or sponsorship. Apple’s Podcast App somewhat removed this freedom, by only carrying certain “amateur” shows and rebroadcasts of radio shows.
Today, podcasts are part of the milieu of streaming platforms easily consumed due to their 24/7 accessibility and ability to binge multiple episodes at a time. Podcasts have the added advantage of being mobile, listened to while exercising or commuting, when other forms of media are inaccessible.
Podcasts can still be created by amateur broadcasters, but many are affiliated with news outlets or major networks. The vast array of shows allows them to have a fairly niche focus, more refined in topic than regular radio shows, which means they often have a smaller audience.
Some podcasts are incredibly popular, however; for example, perhaps the most well-known podcast today is Serial, a single story told over the course of several episodes, examining a murder trial from various angles and perspectives throughout. The podcast was perhaps the first to bring Podcasts into a similar realm as television, in that listeners were anxiously awaiting new episodes and discussing their theories and opinions with each other between release dates.
Podcasts are a good way to entertain yourself or get educated on a particular topic while doing something else. In an era of multitasking, it’s no surprise that podcasts have become so popular, but on a deeper level humans have always been obsessed with stories and podcasting is, in some ways, reconnecting us with the lost art of audio storytelling. Whether looking for an entertaining distraction, a way to learn, or a just someone else’s opinion, there’s a podcast for you.