The Glorious Renaissance of Podcasting

John, Paul & MicWho the heck STARTS a podcast in 2014? And aren’t these things a relic of the past anyway?

Answers: (1) Me. (2) No, not at all.

But let me start with the last question first.

Podcasting has moved beyond a novel fad into a full-fledged digital medium. It can serve all kinds of content, and is cross-platform and device agnostic.

The technology that runs a podcast is essentially the same as that which runs a blog (RSS). In fact, WordPress (the world’s most popular blogging platform) is a popular podcast hosting platform, and forms the core of many podcast hosting services. As such, you can listen to podcasts almost anywhere that audio can be played: your web browser, your podcast program, your iPad, your smart phone, your smart TV, and any of the thousands of other “smart” devices expected to come out over the next decades. Yes, one day you will listen to your favourite podcast on your toaster.

There’s no question that when they came out podcasts were pretty nerdy. You had to find them, and perhaps even download the MP3 file to your hard drive just to play them. On the important point of usability and user-friendliness, there has been a silent revolution over the past couple years.

The various programs you would now typically use to listen to podcasts are 100% idiot approved. Let me illustrate the point…

  • Our Podcast on the Web – In 2014, pretty much every web browser can play your podcast without any special software to install, or files to download. You can go directly to the podcast, or you can search a Podcast Directory.
  • Our Podcast on the iTunes Store and theĀ Podcasts App – In 2012, Apple removed podcasts from their iTunes app on iOS devices, replacing it with a new “Podcasts” app. This app was not automatically loaded; you had to download it. Many pundits saw this as a death knell for podcasts, as this seemingly made them that much harder to discover. The reality was that the new app put them front and center (instead of buried deep within the iTunes universe), making playing podcasts using Apple’s own tools a much better experience all around. This funeral in fact turned into a phoenix rising from the ashes moment for podcasts, particularly in the Apple universe (as the smart folks at Apple had predicted, and the pundits didn’t). So successful, presumably, has this been that new versions of iOS will now feature the Podcasts app “native” – installed automatically, and not something you can delete.
  • How popular is the Podcasts app on iOS? Perhaps a comparison of the “Top Charts” can shed some light … As of today, the Podcasts app is #111 top free iPad App in Canada (compared to #106 for Twitter, #126 for LinkedIn, or #149 for Google Drive). On the iPhone, the Podcasts app is #127 (exactly one spot above Tumblr at #128, or Groupon at #141).
  • Our Podcast on TuneIn Radio – Remember when you used to tune in a radio (and I still do, sometimes, in my car). Remember the static? Well, if you want that to go away, and to access virtually any radio station in the world, get TuneIn Radio. Of course, this is silly to say, because you are likely one of the 18 gajillion people that already have it, and use it almost every day. In fact, if you have a good data plan on your phone, you might even stream your favourite local radio station while you’re driving home – just to avoid the static. Well, guess what, in addition to traditional radio, and so-called Internet radio stations, podcasts are also available on TuneIn Radio, opening up a massive new global audience who very likely didn’t listen to Podcasts before.
  • Our Podcast on Stitcher – In addition to the native Podcasts app on iOS, there are dozens of others apps on hundreds of other devices that you can listen to your favourite podcasts on. Many, like Stitcher, are excellent and elegant.
  • Our Podcast on a Podcatcher – Apps like Podcasts, TuneIn Radio and Stitcher use their own database (podcasters like me have to submit their podcasts to be added to the database, so users of that app can search for them). Some sites and apps allow users to collate their own lists of podcasts, simply subscribing to the feed of the podcasts they like. It’s nerdy way to kick it old school, but with beautiful new Web 2.0 features.

By and large, the nerdy “fad phase” of podcasts is over.

The future of podcasts is already here: People listen to podcasts where they want, when they want, on the devices they want, using the programs they want.

On to the first question: Why are we doing it?

It’s been a secret desire of mine for the past several years to one day start a podcast. In a conversation with my some times mentor and long time friend, John Juricic, I discovered he had the same idea. So we decided we’d do it together. So far, so good – we recently produced our 10th episode, and already had a few accomplishments and recognitions.

We both care about our region, our province and our country – and wanted to dig a bit deeper into some of the local issues, talking to people, and each other about solutions and ideas. Since we’re not selling anything, we aren’t beholden to anyone, and need not confine ourselves to sensational or controversial topics.

Most of all, it’s a hell of a lot of fun, and working regularly with a community leader like John Juricic has been a tremendous privilege.

We think we can be interesting enough that people will want to listen, and we also get the opportunity to navigate this evolving and exciting segment of digital media in the process.

Strap in, and enjoy the bold new future of podcasts!