July 13, 2015 Allison Harden

The Brief History of Podcasting

Before Podcasting

Podcasting as we know it starting in 2003. Before that, in the 1980’s, RCS (Radio Computing Services) provided radio stations with audio in digital format. Then, with the advent of the internet, sites began popping up that offered music subscription services (the predecessors of Spotify).

The first online radio talk show was launched in 1993 by Carl Malamud, called Internet Talk Radio. Each week he interviewed a computer expert, and his fans downloaded an audio file. Then in 2001 Applian Technologies launched Replay Radio a recorder for Internet Radio Shows that let the user schedule audio and could scan a radio site for new audio files and copy them directly to your PC. Webtalk Radio, produced by Rob and Dana Greenlee was the first show to be published exclusively in that format.

The First Podcasts

The Brief History of Podcasting Timeline (2)The advent of the iPod was the beginning of Podcasts as we know them today. The first “real” podcast was
developed in July, 2003 by Christopher Lydon. His show, Radio Open Source, is still one of the most listened to shows on the internet.

“Well, good morning everybody, and welcome to the Daily Source Code. Thank you very much for taking the time to download this MP3 file. Some of you may have received it overnight as an enclosure in your aggregator. In that case, thanks for subscribing. So first what I’d like to do is to explain exactly what this is, and what the Daily Source Code is going to be.”
This is the intro of the very first episode of the second podcast to ever come into existence, run by former MTV star Adam Curry. Adam’s podcast was important because it was created utilizing software designed to pull audio enclosures of RSS and sync them to an iPod using iTunes.

The term “podcasting” was probably first used by Ben Hammersley in an interview with Chris Lydon published The Guardian on February 11, 2004. “It’s an approach to a different kind of radio. My feeling is that traditional media in America is stuck. Let’s think of a new kind of media,” Lydon said.

By October 2004, detailed how-to-podcast articles had begun appearing all over the web. By July 2005, a Google search for “how to podcast” pulled over 2,050,000 articles.

Podcasting Today

A 2014 study by Pew Research Center shows that the number of Americans who listen to Podcasts has doubled in the past 10 years, to fifteen percent of Americans, or approximately 14 million people.

Why have podcasts become so popular? Unlike radio, podcasts are not regulated by the government. You don’t have to buy broadband in order to start a podcast, and they aren’t regulated by the FCC. This is freedom of the medium is a strong pull for both audiences and podcasters alike. For example Keith and The Girl is a say anything podcast hosted by Chemda and her boyfriend, Keith. The podcast’s website slogan is “Not held back by the FCC or anything else”.

Podcasts also usually cater to a loyal niche audience. There’s podcasts like Escape Pod, a premier science fiction podcast that distributes short science fiction stories and Fight for Comics, a Salt Lake City based podcasts all about comic books.

Education podcasts have also grown tremendously – both podcasts for educators and for those interested in being educated. Podcasts are unique as an education tool because they allow for the multitasking like driving a car, preparing a meal, or working out. In today’s over scheduled world, it’s not unlikely that podcasts will become a very necessary part of education.

So Why Does it Matter?

The history of podcasting is important because it is the birth of a new medium, a medium that is important to millions of people today and that, I believe is going to continue to be important to more people in the future. The unique features of podcasting – it’s intimacy, combined with it’s versatility, and equanimity make it a uniquely apt medium to share ideas, obsessions, and information.

For any questions on podcasting or improving your podcast, please contact us at [email protected] We’d love to take the time to answer your questions, no matter how small. Thanks for reading!


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