Podcasts Are Back! Actually, They Never Left…

Washington Post LogoI guess it’s always good when podcasting gets some exposure from sources outside of the echo chambers that usually cover podcasting news. But it can be a mixed bag when those sources step in and cover our beloved medium. Sure, this coverage brings new eyes (and new ears!) to podcasting, and potentially to our shows. But the focus of the coverage can be shallow, usually sticking to firebrand topics like money and famous people.

An article was recently published by The Washington Post titled Podcasts are back – and making money. Nothing gets a mainstream publication more excited about podcasting than mentioning the fact that big-name celebrities are now podcasters and the Post article name drops its fair share (Adam Carolla, Snooki, Steve Austin, more). But the real lede the article wants to drive home is that, as the title suggests, podcasts are back! And they’re MAKING MONEY! I bet most people who read Podcaster News probably feel like podcasting never left. And most of us know that while it is possible to make money in podcasting, it’s really not that simple. The article cites statistics like the number of iTunes podcast subscriptions in 2013 (over 1 billion!) and that PodcastOne sells “millions of dollars” worth of ads thru its podcast network. I’m sure these big numbers will help to make a good impression on those who are just learning about podcasting for the first time. But they’re more the exception than the rule.

One part of the Post piece that could really use some help is the section on podcasting history:

Podcasts, the short-form audio files that entered the mainstream with the original Apple iPod, have been around for more than a decade. But while Apple this year discontinued the classic version of its iconic device, the podcast is resurgent, drawing hard-core fans who want to listen to other people talk about, well, pretty much everything.

While there is some debate on just when podcasting really began, it’s generally accepted that the medium is just about ten years old, with the unofficial birthdate usually placed as the month of October, 2004. The “original Apple iPod” was released in 2001, And while the word “podcast” itself is a portmanteau of “iPod” and “broadcast,” Apple didn’t add official support of podcasts until June of 2005, and while many early podcast listeners did indeed sync their podcast files with their iPods, they had to rely on third-party applications to manage their subscriptions, not to mention the fact that there were plenty of other media players out there besides the iPod.

The article does provide some insightful information. For example, it relates the story of the producer of the popular design podcast 99% Invisible, and how he was able to take something that started out as a short radio segment and turn it into a full-fledged enterprise, mostly thru the support of his fans. The article even quotes our Executive Editor (and RawVoice CEO), Todd Cochrane, regarding podcast consumption stats. If only the Post reporter had also asked Todd some podcasting history questions. I don’t think his answers would’ve lead her to think “podcasting is back,” so much as it’s been here all along. Growing and evolving, even without the help of reality-TV stars and big-media puff pieces.

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