Podcasts have become a familiar aspect of our cultural landscape. When they first emerged in the early 2000s, they were considered to be a niche concept and unlikely to compete with radio. However, a recent study found that 32% of Americans now listen to a podcast at least once a month. As a result, it has grown into a rich and varied audio form, with contributors ranging from amateurs with nothing more than a microphone and a laptop to major news and entertainment studios.
Perhaps the best part about this is those two extremes of the contributor scale generally have relatively equal access to the same audiences. Any podcast that can capture the imagination of listeners can become a legitimate pop-cultural phenomenon. Podcasting is an exciting expression of creativity, and it can be a powerful tool to inspire other people across the planet.
Let’s take a closer look at the podcast renaissance we’re currently experiencing. What have been the driving factors in its continued popularity? Why are they inspirational, and how can you make a start in creating your own piece of podcast culture?
What Drives their Popularity?
How and why did podcasts get to the point of being a major form of media? Well, it certainly wasn’t an overnight success. The first podcasts and hosting service were introduced in early 2004, and it wasn’t until mid-2005 that Apple supported them on iTunes. Though we’re used to podcasts getting millions of streams now, back in 2007, it was considered Guinness World Record-worthy for Ricky Gervais to have an average first-month episode download rate of 261,670 times. Following some dips in popularity in the late 2010s, the latter half of the past decade saw podcasting surge, with creators continuing to gather large audiences.
Some of the primary contributing factors in this include:
Podcasting doesn’t tend to lock out any listener. In its early years, many podcasts were limited to a single platform. With the advent of streaming services, through smartphones as well as computers, podcasts are available to listen to wherever audiences happen to be. There is also greater financial and practical accessibility of equipment for creators to make audio content that sounds professional. Audio interfaces that connect microphones to devices via a universal serial bus (USB) and eliminate poor quality signals are more affordable, with many now compatible with smartphone and tablet operating systems. This kind of development has been instrumental in ensuring diverse contributors can provide audiences with content.
One of the main factors in the growth of podcasts is the fact that they fit seamlessly into the contemporary way of life. The format is generally long-form that is suitable for either relaxing at home, accompanying the daily commute to work, or for rolling in the background during a workout. It is the ultimate in convenient media, not interrupted by lengthy and frequent ad-breaks like radio.
How They Inspire
One of the primary elements driving the podcast boom is that they inspire audiences and other creators in a range of enriching ways.
Some of the key contributing factors to this include:
As with so much new media, most creators don’t start making their podcasts due to the money involved. A Financial incentive is usually non-existent initially. Rather, shows are more driven by the passions of the people that make them. This dedication to the subject matter is often so evident in the content that it spurs the curiosity of its audience, inspiring them to explore the ideas presented further and go deeper down the rabbit hole. There is also a tendency for podcast producers to harbour a deep desire to make meaningful connections with audiences. As such, one of the most powerful and creative by-products of podcasting is contagious passion.
- Limitless Potential
Another inspiring aspect of podcasting is the sheer breadth of possibilities. There really are no rules to what qualifies as a podcast, and as such, there has been a plethora of exciting exploration of formats and subjects. Some are creatively instructional — if you want to create a photography business, or understand how to renovate a home, there’s a podcast for that. Others are narrative-led, radio drama-type shows that have immersive sound design. This has provided not just an embarrassment of riches for audiences but helps to provide potential creators with the confidence to try out new approaches, to dig deep into their creativity knowing that there are no wrong answers in this field.
How to Get Involved
Few creative people can listen to a couple of podcasts and not want to immediately start their own. Podcasting inspires audiences and creators through a do-it-yourself methodology. Indeed, part of the cycle of positivity here is that when podcasters inspire other people to make their own content, this can in turn inspire other creators. While it’s easy to get started, it can also be important that you approach it with a little planning.
Start with the format. This is another area in which podcasts can inspire creativity. One of the best ways to start your podcast is to examine what some of your favourite shows do, and what elements of structure you want to incorporate into your own project. Figuring out this basic framework can help you be freer to create in other areas and to express your unique voice in the medium. Then start to gather the equipment that you need to achieve this. Usually, a USB microphone and a good editing program are enough to get started here, you can always level up your gear further down the line.
One of the recurring pieces of advice that podcasters give to newbies is to record a few episodes in advance to get started rather than immediately uploading each as you make it. This gives you a chance to test out the format you’ve chosen, and make any changes before it goes public. It also means that you can keep to a regular schedule in a way that helps build your audience.
Podcasting has become one of the most important and influential media of our digital age. It continues to encourage audiences to explore new ideas, and expose them to fresh passions. Perhaps most importantly its accessible nature inspires creatives to engage with the craft, contributing their unique touches to a developing audio landscape.
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