Podcasting is important

Christmas 2003, I recieved my first iPod. I was thrilled I wouldn’t have to carry CDs with me anymore. I proceeded to leave it on a shelf for a year. Christmas 2004, I recieved my second iPod. I almost returned it to the store. I was in a down cycle of music listening, so CDs weren’t a pressing issue. I was very into talk radio, and the iPod had nothing to offer me there. Still doesn’t for that matter. Perhaps mix in a tuner Steve?

Before wandering back to the store, I took a look at iTunes, just for grins. It was relatively what I expected. Kind of a cool music store, with a limited supply and none of the annoying packaging. But there was a tab called Podcasts. That tab was the end of any thought of returning the iPod.

After 5 minutes browsing the section, I couldn’t open the box fast enough! To my eye, this was a window to not just the world of talk radio. It was a direct line to the unfettered creativity and viewpoints of literally anyone anywhere with an interest in any given subject. Politicians and journalists were bitching about the power of talk radio to change opinions. Many were saying it needed to be regulated, censored or even eliminated. I was of the opinion that it was already held in check by the corporations owning the stations and the FCC handing out fines when hosts got out of line.

Podcasting truly was the wild west of broadcasting. Unless you CHOSE a clean tag, you could say or do anything. Did I want to hear ANYTHING? Not really. But, I damn sure wanted to decide which things I did hear. And I strongly support the idea that anything someone else wants to say or hear should be said and heard.

There were shows on sports. Shows on politics.  Shows on shows. Funny shows, serious shows, terrible shows, brilliant shows. Shows with precision productions and shows with no script or editing at all. There were huge variances in views and stances, interests and approaches. And GIANT voids in every topic and category.

I literally filled my iPod in one sitting. Honestly, the first batch were largely crap. But, the hosts knew they were learning. That became part of the show. It actually became the uniting force of the community that sprung up around podcasting, and podcasters.

A quality of most successful radio shows is the hosts ability to let his audience believe they are friends. That each listener has a connection with the show. The raw numbers of listeners required to generate revenues sufficient to operate a radio station mean that the reality is, no listener has a connection to the host or show. The reality is, no successful radio host could possibly have the time to answer and maintain relationships with each individual listener. Another reality is no individual listener could afford or maintain the equipment, licensing and staff required to run their own radio station.

Podcasting bypasses both of these obstacles. You can still start a podcast for damn near free. And you can broadcast as often as you like, as long as you like, about anything you like. There is no license. There are no fees. There is no one looking over your shoulder, at least no more than the usual looking over your shoulder. And, especially at first, hosts have plenty of time to respond to listeners. In fact, the communities that build around podcasting in general and individual podcasts are very tight knit and supportive.  Shows regularly spawn other shows, guest on other shows, and share contests and promotions. Things never considered by traditional radio.

As is the way of things, as podcasting matures there are groups that form, stars that rise, and empires that are built. ESPN, Fox News, and PBS are traditional media outlets who have made a substantial mark on podcasting. Leo Laporte, among others, have built networks of shows and content that are now throwing off substantial revenue.  They have all earned their place and deserve the audiences and the revenue they generate. But they all maintain a sense of community and willingness to help where they can.

I wish I had opened that first iPod and discovered the world of podcasting earlier. I have updated feeds and listened to podcasts daily since roughly December 26th 2004. Ive learned things I would never have learned. Met people, and made friends, I wouldn’t have. I’m proud of the community I have been a very small part of over the years, and I’m still excited every day at possibilities and opportunities still ahead for podcasting.

I’ll be listening. You should be too.


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