Podcasting: A Brief History

Podcasting, a sensational media giant that emerged from the technological breakthrough and changed the consumer’s information consumption habits in the 21st century. Astonishingly, the word podcast that didn’t exist during the onset of the millennium has now become probably one of the fastest emerging mediums of entertainment.

Who could have predicted that the digital audio files, a forum with akin similarity to the old-time radios, would go on to become one of the most intimate sources of entertainment? But the bashing number of listeners tuning in to their favorite hosts has become the daylight reality. Though today’s soaring popularity of podcasts makes it challenging to remember a world without podcasts, we are going to give it a try in this article.

So, let’s discuss the history of podcasts.

The World’s Introduction With Podcasting

The history of podcasts cannot be described without mentioning Apple iPods.

Just a few years after the debut of iPods in 2001, Adam Curry, former MTV VJ, and Dave Winer, a software developer, developed a plan through which they can directly download online radio broadcasting via interest to Apple’s revolutionary iPods. Using the Really Simple Syndication (RSS) software and a program named iPodder, they successfully uploaded the audio file into their RSS feeds which were then transferred to iPod. This changed everything!

The availability of long-awaited and time-sensitive radio shows in everybody’s hand, anytime, revolutionized how audio files were consumed.

A famous article about the dawning tide of online radio published by Ben Hammersley in February of that year summarizes Curry and Winer’s role in the rise of online radio. Hammersley noted that “all the ingredients are there for a new boom in amateur radio,” pointing to the popularity of blogging and the rise of the iPod, and suggested a number of title suggestions for this new trend: “Audioblogging? Podcasts? Guerrilla marketing?” And we all know what stuck.

The Defining Moments

The most defining moment when podcasts caught the public eye was when apple officially introduced podcasting to iTunes in 2005. Steve Jobs defined it as “TiVo for radio.” The term podcasting emerged due to playing fast and loose with the words “iPod” and “broadcast.” 

Furthermore, with the rise of internet-connected smartphones, people could download the shows directly to their mobiles, skipping the hassle of uploading it onto their phone from their computer. This made listening to podcast even easier.

But, despite the convenience of listening to your shows from anywhere, anytime, in 2009, only 11% of the US population listened to podcasts. But, Serial, a narrative mystery crime show, debuted in 2014, changed the generic podcast content, and drew numerous creators and huge audiences towards podcasting.

Unlike the previous format, Serial dictated the same story over a few episodes. The suspense of the show heightened the listener’s curiosity. As a result, Serial became the first podcast to touch the 5 million downloads and streams benchmark on iTunes, breaking all the records. The new audience base was now craving more podcast shows, and the undeniable demand of 1 billion podcast users paved the way for new podcasters to enter the platform.

The Watershed Moments

Seeing the spiraling growth in the user base, new directed customer markets saw podcasting as a great investment opportunity. Following the trend soon, podcasting starting drawing a fortune from advertisements. This watershed moment made podcasting more than just a passion; now, hobbyists could make their hobby a career, thus attracting more niche-based podcasters into the business.

Now, as the podcasting business is tending towards saturation, podcast technology is becoming more sophisticated. In addition, with the exponential growth, podcasts are becoming more lucrative. The cheap stakes, and the opportunity to make big cash, are drawing more and more podcasts and businesses into the field.

Many podcasters are also introducing exclusive content for their paid listeners, transforming how podcasts have traditionally lived. The confluence of all these factors pushed the podcast business to new heights and made it the global phenomenon today. From being the generic radio show-like format, podcasts have come a long way to be like TV shows, with millions of users tuning to their favorite show every month; and this extraordinary media of entertainment will continue to evolve in times to come.

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