Jack Nissen



Picture found on Technobuffalo.com

by Jack Nissen

To title the The New Republic’s article: “The End of the Dark Ages of Podcasting” is to claim this form journalism had dark ages.

I take issue with this statement. Podcasting is not rising from the ashes. It isn’t some fallen-from-grace brand of story telling that is suddenly experiencing a reemergence back into societal relevance. Audio downloads have been around for a long time, they have just required a longer critical period before figuring out where they fit in the journalism web.

WBEZ Chicago is the producer of some of the greatest podcasts my ears have been blessed with. The NPR formatted station has brought such great productions as the game show Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me, the short story narrative This American Life as well as Serial, which has become the beacon of light for podcasts.

It is true, that Serial has been the breakout podcast the medium was looking for:

“There’s no question that Serial was overwhelmingly positive for podcasting. The show racked up more than 100 million downloads, grabbed the attention of the mainstream press, and excited people about the medium about a long period of stagnation. The reporting itself was incredibly good, making it a strong ambassador for the podcasting brand.” – The New Republic

I’d argue that podcasting is just finding it’s place in the world. It takes time for a medium to find its foothold. So much skepticism has already surrounded “new media” technologies. A few examples just to drive home the point:


“Well-informed people know it is impossible to transmit the voice over wires and that were it possible to do so, the thing would be of no practical value” –Boston Post, 1865.


“TV will never be a serious competitor for radio because people must sit and keep their eyes glued on a screen; the average American family hasn’t time for it.” – The New York Times, 1939


“There’s no chance the iPhone is going to get any significant market share” – Steve Ballmer, USA TODAY, April 30 2007

Once again, these things take time! Even with social media spinning the world faster than it ever has, new mediums and apps don’t always rise and fall as fast as they may appear (although, sometimes they do). The concept of a 60 minute segment filled with content has been around for awhile. What’s going to push podcasts to front pages is how producers not only advertise their show, but how they bring it to the user.

It isn’t enough to rely on the independent discovery of podcasts. Showcasing the newest short story requires utilizing social media. Where else do we find society’s eyes glued too? Embracing this new fad and utilizing it’s potential versatility can offer an array of opportunities for growth.

But, and this is where the The New Republic gets it right. Keep working the successful business outlet that typical live broadcasts from radio stations have already done. The car. Regardless of wifi’s accessibility in an automotive, or the ease to sync one’s smartphone to the dashboard, audio is an essential part of entertainment in the automobile.

90 percent of Americans listen AM/FM radio weekly, with more than half of that comes from being in a car. Long road trips across Nebraska that take too long (Andrew and Angie Norman said it first), tuning in to a tale from Guy Raz on the The Ted Radio Hour or Ira Glass’s This American Life can be much more enthusing as well as educational in contrast to the same Spotify playlist you’ve listened to for the passed 3 months.

I’d argue Podcasts need to play “Adapt or Die” with the rest of the world, but that is happening. They’re just taking a slower route. One last quote from the article states:

“It’s like hand-to-hand combat. There’s no clear path for podcasters to find people to listen to their stuff.” – Parviz Parvizi, co-founder of Clammr.

But with no clear path presents an array of different possibilities, which remains the trending theme with a lot of journalistic mediums. What better way to see what happens than to wait and watch…or listen, in this respect.







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