I create radio shows and podcasts for a living. With a few brief exceptions, I’ve spent my career behind mixing consoles and microphones. I began my radio carrer in the beautiful Black Hills of South Dakota. I worked my way from the college radio station, KBHU, up to drive-time spots at various local rock radio stations.
When podcasting emerged in 2003 and 2004, I was the right person at the right place in the my life: young, broke, and ambitious. I co-created and hosted a show for many years, and watched the medium explode, then quickly fade. Initially podcasting seemed to define flash-in-the-pan tech. The medium was hip, then hyped, then forgotten in the span of about 18 months. Many – myself included, for a time – were disappointed, and moved on to other things.
Since mid-2004, podcasts have never been absent from my earbuds. I began listening to shows on my beloved iRiver H-140, an early iPod competitor. The device was great, and was used to record many early episodes. But podcast listening with the H-140 was as clunky as the name. I used the Juice app to pull down shows, then would manually copy the files to the device. This process worked, but the complicated nature syndicating podcasts in the early days nearly doomed the medium. It was years before I upgraded to the iPod family, but I listened as the medium evolved.
Today, podcasting can claim victory. But it’s early-period was rocky. Podcast curiosity-seekers should investigate Dave Winer and Christopher Lydon‘s early experiments. Though Apple adopted podcasting with the 4.9 update to iTunes in June of 2005, it was still difficult to produce high-quality shows. Indie shows seemed hopeful, but quickly faded after Adam Curry and Podshow‘s initial push and plunk. The initial podcamps were great, but momentum was difficult to maintain (a revival, however, is in the works!). The ‘user generated content’ debate was settled with YouTube’s arrival in 2005, and major media companies couldn’t (still can’t) grok the value proposition of podcasting.
However, niche media continued to evolve the medium. Considering it’s current success, podcasting’s mid-period is important. Revision3 and CNet’s Buzz Out Loud were always passionate champions. Andy Bowers at Slate was an early and under-appreciated innovator. Of course, This American Life, RadioLab, and NPR all deserve great credit for their pursuit of podcasting. TWiT remains the reigning champion of indie podcast success. These shows borrowed the community vibe of the early indie podcasters and evolved consumer expectations of quality.
Podcasting has survived and flourished. Nearly a decade in, podcasting is embraced and employed with great success by everyone from the tech media establishment, to the quirky spokes of the East Coast media, to Scott Johnson’s indie success of Frog Pants Studios, to stand-up comedians like Marc Maron and auteurs like Kevin Smith.
The virtues of audio and podcasting are easy to understand. Podcasting reduces the distance and friction between people, other people, and information. I believe in audio. Audio allows content creators to perform intimate acts of conversation with an audience, not simply perform a monologue at a demographic. And, of course, audio engages the imagination in ways that video and other mediums cannot.
I create podcasts, I think, because I listen to so many great shows. I’m simply an aspirational fan of good content. These are the podcasts and radio programs that stack up with the medium’s cannon, and are perpetually parked between my ears:
- Here’s The Thing
- Jay and Silent Bob Get Old
- KCRW’s Left, Right, and Center
- Managing the Gray
- Massively Portable
- NBC Meet the Press (audio)
- NPR: Intelligence Squared
- On the Media
- Pacific Coast Hellway
- Push My Follow
- Radio Open Source with Christopher Lydon
- Real Time with Bill Maher
- Slate Magazine Daily Podcast
- Stuff You Should Know
- Tech News Today
- This Week in Tech
- The Instance: World of Warcraft Podcast
- The TouchArcade Show
- This American Life
- When Elvis Died
- WNYC’s Radio Lab
- WTF with Marc Maron