Podcasting 101


Before the 1950s (in the USA), radio was king. Every household that could afford a radio had one and families would gather after dinner to hear serials (the precursors to today’s soap operas), news, comedy, dramas, live orchestral performances and other forms of entertainment that relied solely on listening.

After television arrived, radio fell out of favor. When I was young, radio was still popular, but mostly for music or sports. When I was a teenager, CBS revived its classic ‘Radio Mystery Theatre.’ I would huddle under my covers late into the night, long past my bedtime, thrilled and scared, to listen to new shows in the traditional radio theatre style. But with the arrival of MTV and cable television, radio listening because an endangered activity.

When the advent of the iPod, and the rise of digital devices, radio has returned. Now we call it ‘podcasting.’ Podcasting offers a far greater diversity in programs than radio ever did. And it’s getting even more popular than radio.

Almost half of Americans listen to a podcast every month. These broadcasts are especially popular with Millennials), a generation, ironically, that grew up with television and mobile devices, far away in time from the golden days of radio. The time spent listening to podcasts is on the rise, with people listening twice as long each week (13 hours) as they did 7 years ago.

According to a Buzzsprout article, the ‘existence of podcasts is set to reinvent radio.’

Podcasting ties in well with a busy lifestyle. You can download podcasts on any mobile device or a computer, listen while you’re working, driving, at the gym, cooking or other activities, where you couldn’t watch a screen. Podcasting combines both learning and entertainment.

You can subscribe and listen to podcasts for free. Just like on old-time radio, advertisers or networks pay the cost of bringing these shows to air. Top podcasts can bring in $20,000 USD per episode in advertising revenue.

Serial fiction and non-fiction podcasts (think of the extremely popular true-life Serial) abound. Many organisations, such as libraries or museums, companies and brands, have their own podcasts. The BBC, for example, has an amazing range of podcasts, with titles like Once Upon a Time in Zombieland (for 9-12 year olds) to How to Invent a Country (on how different nations formed) to In Our Time (the history of ideas) plus mystery serials, history, travel, food, culture, politics and sport – as well as that old radio favorite, The Archers, reborn in a new format. The Moth, the live storytelling event, has a podcast. TED talks are available as podcasts. And so on.

Because podcasts are so easy to make and put online, there is a wide range available, with small, niche audiences available even for the oddest or most unusual topic.

Creating a podcasting and getting it ‘on the airwaves’ is both easy and inexpensive.

Buzzsprout offers a comprehensive online article (www.buzzsprout.com/how-to-make-a-podcast) that covers everything you need to know about getting into podcasting. The article includes good information on creating a plan before you start, finding your niche topic, the best equipment to use, theme music and cover art, a good radio voice, how to find a hosting platform for your podcast, the best software to use, how long to make your podcasts and much more.

Lifehacker also has a good online article (lifehacker.com/how-to-start-your-own-podcast-1709798447) on how to start your own podcast. Or just search online for ‘Start Your Own Podcast.’

Some of my favorite podcasts include: Invisibilia (about the forces that shape human behavior and culture), The New York Public Library Podcast (a bit of everything), Philosophize This! (on the history of philosophy), Tim Ferris (the original life and work hacking guy), The James Altucher Show (on how to reinvent and be your best self), Hardcore History (strange obscure historical topics), The Future of Everything (WSJ), Problogger Broadcast (on how to become a professional blogger), The Side Hustle Show (on having a side job or how to make your side   job your main job) and So You Want to be a Writer (on writing, obviously).

And in the sprit of the CBS Radio Mystery Theatre, and for devotees of horror and mystery, there are podcasts like The Black Tapes, a fictional account of a journalist examining paranormal events. (Or is it fiction?) The same team just launched, The Last Movie, a serial about a secret underground film that supposedly drives watchers insane.

If you check your mobile device, you will find that it has a podcast app that comes standard with the device. If you open the device, go online and check out the incredible range of podcasts that are available for downloading and listening. (Or simply Google ‘Top 25 podcasts of 2017’ as a starting point.) And, if you can’t find exactly the podcast you’re seeking, say, Yogis Behaving Badly, you can always create and record it yourself.

 

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