The advent of podcasting


Graphic by Fani Hsieh
Graphic by Fani Hsieh

They say history tends to repeat itself, but I disagree. Things don’t simply come back. Instead, they grow out of a historical soil enriched by lessons of years prior.

In the 1920s, when radio first became accessible to the general public, it had a significant cultural impact. People made time to huddle around their crystal radios in order to hear broadcasts of music, news and entertainment.

Today, these subjects have shifted to different media. Portable memory and streaming services moved music to the cell phone. The demand for visual immersion made computers and television the primary sources of news and entertainment.

Here comes the podcast, feeling no shame in being your background. While radio looks to cater to the masses with its music and advertisements, podcasts cater to the 21st century.

Equally important to providing a better answer to “what,” is catering to “when” and “where” something is heard. Users can subscribe to a podcast and automatically have it accessible on multiple devices.

Despite the accessibility, it’s the content itself that has raised popularity of the medium.

While one of the main attractions of the podcast comes from the diversity of content available, they all strive for the same thing — to be interesting.

Last summer, while helping my mom clear out our garden, I got addicted to Dan Carlin’s Hardcore History, a podcast in which the host thoroughly examines watershed moments in history. His magnum opus “Blueprint for Armageddon” is a 24-hour audio megalith, split into six episodes, that explores the First Word War.

I dove in with the intention of having something to shift my focus while I tugged on weeds and swept away dirt.

At the end of my day, I cleaned a section of my backyard, went shopping, finished a home workout and became an expert on the political, social and economic climate in Europe from 1914 to 1918.

Ironically, I’d taken a class on the very subject, but my teacher wasn’t very interesting. Podcasts thrive due to their personalities.

Joe Rogan hosts a range of intellectuals, mixed martial arts fighters and comedians in order to gain perspective on cultural events.

Bill Simmons surveys the sports world through interviews with friends, athletes and media members.

Existing in the background of whatever you’re doing, they sneak into real, thought-provoking conversation.

I have a theory. I feel we’ve collectively gotten tired of the manufactured presentation of personality. Placed in suits and dresses with makeup, flashing lights and TV cameras, personalities on the screen seem so far removed from the average humans we regularly encounter.

Podcasts refreshingly offer uninterrupted conversation, restoring humanity within media. Freed from the cage of time limits and marketing agendas, personalities are relaxed and thus more open.

The audio format also gives space to the listener to formulate their own thoughts, instead of having an audio-visual overload.

Importantly, it also counters fears of political correctness present in our culture. It’s an opportunity to fully explain oneself and caters to more controversial and complex opinions.

Therefore, in a media field occupied by manufactured presentations, we’ve gravitated back to one of the most natural human occurrences — conversation.

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