This last week, Kevin Roose published an article in New York Magazine about how podcasting is enjoying a renaissance. Here's what he said:
What's happening? And why now? The word podcast is roughly ten years old, after all, and the "pod" to which it refers has been discontinued. [...] There are a few possible reasons for the resurgence. The first is that today's podcasts are simply better. Most podcasts used to be pretty amateurish — two people talking about sports for an hour, say, or a businessman ad libbing MBA lessons. And some still are. But today's top podcasts [...] are full-scale productions with real staff, budget, and industry expertise behind them.
Kevin went on to talk about how the way cars are sold have helped podcasts along. Virtually every car over the last five years or so has been sold with Bluetooth built in, making it really easy to listen to podcasts during your morning or evening commute.
That certainly jibes with my experience. I use an app called BeyondPod, which sits on my Android phone and automatically downloads the latest feeds early each morning. Then, when I'm driving or I'm riding BART into the office, I can listen to the latest news and the shows I subscribe to without worrying about whether I have signal. It's a lot more convenient than trying to stream from the web, or listening to drivetime radio, when I'm interrupted by commercials every five minutes.
All of the podcasts I listen to are professional. I get the news from NPR and the BBC; I listen to This American Life and amazing podcasts like Radiolab, 99% Invisible and On The Media. I also religiously listen to This Week in Google and the Gillmor Gang. PRX, the Public Radio Exchange, is a founding partner of Matter, the accelerator that funded Known. I'm a contributor to their Radiotopia Kickstarter, and you should be too. It's not too late.
It is also true that the quality of podcasting content has massively improved in the past five years. Back in 2005 and 2006, our family used to do a podcast called Positively 10th Street. It was a fun experiment but we were pretty terrible at the podcasting thing and dropped it after a year or so. All of the episodes seem to have vanished from the Internet which is shocking to me but probably a happy fact for my kids.
That's perhaps true, but for me, one of the promises of the Internet is an incredible diversity of voices. I love reading peoples' blogs, even if the majority of them are not professional writers. I like listening to professional shows, but I also love raw opinion. In a podcast, just as on a blog, there's no need to adhere to a particular format, or a particular length. There's tremendous room for experimentation.
This summer, we added the ability to upload audio to Known. Any Known feed can be used as a podcast, and imported directly into applications like iTunes and my beloved BeyondPod.
SoundCloud is a massively successful social network built around audio. It's got over 250 million users and is valued at over $700 million. You can find a lot of music there, but you can also find spoken rants, sonic experients, mashups, sound effects, and more. This is the kind of diversity that could live on our own websites, but to a large extent, doesn't, really. At least, not yet.
So, here's what I'm going to do. Every Sunday, I'm going to post a piece of audio, and hashtag it #podcastsunday. I would love it if you would do the same - add to a global tapestry of ideas. There's no need for the opinions we post to be limited to blog posts. The web gives us so much more. Let's use it.
This has been Ben Werdmuller, on Sunday, November 2nd, 2014, publishing at werd.io. Have a great day.