What is a Podcast? All You Need to Know

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Podcast content first gained traction when former MTV video jockey Adam Curry and Dave Winer developed a program in 2004 called iPodder, which allowed users to download radio broadcasts directly to their Apple iPods. This is how the term “podcast” was born—a combination of “iPod” and “broadcasts.”

In the modern day, podcasts have become an incredibly popular form of audio entertainment for many people. They are no longer just downloadable radio shows. Now they come in all different forms such as news shows, educational content, and even dialogue and interviews with famous personalities.

There are millions of podcasts available online today that range in topics from sports to politics and from comedy to culture. People who create their own podcasts can gain fame and success within the streaming age, becoming well-known podcasters with large audiences eager to hear more from them on a regular basis.

What is a Podcast?

A podcast is a type of digital media featuring episodic audio content on a wide range of topics. Podcasts are typically available to download or stream in the form of an RSS feed over the internet onto your mobile device, computer or smart speaker. Listeners can subscribe to receive regular new episodes as they become available.

What is a Podcast_Inforgraphic

Podcasts are different from other audio sources like Talk Radio, as listeners have control over when and where they choose to listen to the podcast. There is no specific time-slot to tune into rather, subscribers can access the show any time and start listening right away once their download has completed.

This makes podcasts an ideal choice for busy people because there is no need to be at home at a certain time to hear an episode - listeners can conveniently enjoy them wherever and whenever it suits them best.

The History of Podcasts

The Beginning 2000-2003

i2Go, a manufacturer of MP3 players, once provided a service called MyAudio2Go.com in September 2000. This service allowed users to download news stories for listening on a PC or MP3 player. However, the service was only available for a year due to the company's closure in 2001.

The proposal to include sound and video files in RSS feeds was introduced by Tristan Louis in October 2000. Dave Winer, a software developer and author of the RSS format, eventually implemented the idea.

Podcasting has evolved from an unknown method of audio distribution to a widely accepted medium for both personal and corporate use. Podcasts resemble radio shows in structure, but are available as audio files that can be played on demand, at any time and location.

Processing Audio Podcasting

The development of iPodderX by August Trometer and Ray Slakinski allowed for the process of audio podcasting to become feasible. By 2007, podcasts were replacing radio broadcasts as the primary source for talk shows and news programs, due to advancements in internet capabilities and increased accessibility to affordable audio recording and editing technology.

Adam Curry launched the Daily Source Code in August 2004. The show covered his daily life, provided news updates, and discussed the growth of podcasting. Additionally, it promoted new and upcoming podcasts.

Curry published the Daily Source Code as a testing ground for podcasting software and to gain traction. The name was chosen to attract a technology-focused audience. The show began as a grassroots production and was aimed at podcast developers.

As interest in podcasting grew, developers were motivated to create their own projects and improve the code used in podcast creation. This led to the emergence of a community of podcast pioneers as more people learned about the ease of producing podcasts.

The First Podcasting Company

Libsyn launched the first podcast hosting company in November 2004.

Libsyn podcast hosting plafrom launched in 2004

In 2005, Apple released an updated version of iTunes, which included built-in support for podcasts. This feature eliminated the need for a separate program to download and transfer podcasts to a mobile device.

The increased availability of podcasts through Apple's platform resulted in a decrease in development of independent podcatchers. Furthermore, Apple enforced legal action against developers and service providers who used trademarked terms in their product names.

In the span of a year, various public radio networks such as the BBC, CBC Radio One, NPR, and Public Radio International, as well as major local radio stations like WNYC, WHYY-FM, and KCRW, began placing their radio shows on the iTunes platform.

At the same time, for-profit companies such as CNET, This Week in Tech, Bloomberg Radio, and the Financial Times also provided podcast content, utilizing podcasting as their sole distribution system.

Important Podcasting Statistics

As of early 2019, the podcasting industry had not yet generated significant revenue, despite a steady increase in listeners. According to Edison Research, 90 million people in the U.S. listened to podcasts in the last month of 2019, while 58% of South Koreans and 40% of Spaniards did so in 2020. In the UK, 12.5% of the population listened to a podcast in the last week, while 22% of Americans listen to at least one podcast weekly.

Podcast listeners worldwide

Insider Intelligence projects 467.7 million podcast listeners worldwide in 2023, accounting for 20.3% of internet users.

Podcasts are known for their low production costs, which only require a good microphone, computer or mobile device, and audio editing software. Additionally, creators often have a dedicated audience due to their strong listener relationships.

What are the Different Types of Podcasts ?

Podcasts have established themselves as a favorite form of media among audio listeners from all walks of life. With an ever-growing variety of shows to choose from, it can be difficult to know where to start looking. There are four main types of podcasts:

  • Conversational,
  • Narrative nonfiction,
  • Scripted fiction, and
  • Repurposed content.

Below I outline them in detail with the examples of each podcast.

1. Conversational Podcasts

The conversational podcast is one of the most popular formats among podcasters. These podcasts are often the easiest to produce and provide a sense of intimacy that many listeners enjoy.

A typical conversational podcast features one or more hosts engaging in an informal discussion, usually with a guest, about a particular topic. Interview podcasts are among the most popular types of conversational podcasts, offering listeners insights into personalities and topics that would be otherwise impossible to access.

Stuff you should know podcast

One of the best-known examples of the conversational podcast format is Stuff You Should Know (SYSK). Hosted by two friends, Chuck and Josh, each episode delves into various topics while educating both themselves and their audience as they go.

Their relaxed attitude towards recording ensures that each episode feels like an unvetted discussion between old friends – and it’s this informality which makes SYSK so endearing to its millions of listeners worldwide.

2. Narrative Nonfiction

Narrative nonfiction topics work well for podcasting because they allows the listener to really delve deeply into a subject, offering an engrossing journey through facts and vivid descriptions.

These podcasts offer interesting stories that people can emotionally invest in on their own terms. Unlike traditional news broadcasts, podcasts allow a more personal connection with the topic as you're encouraged to follow along with the story as it progresses.

One of the most popular narrative nonfiction podcasts available is This American Life. Hosted by Ira Glass, this show dives into contemporary issues, delving deep into what makes our lives unique and different from one another.

This is American life

Covering complex topics through stories told by people experiencing them first hand, as well as deep-dive investigations into why these situations exist, This American Life offers listeners a thoughtful look at the world we live in today.

This format lends itself well to individual storytellers who can present their anecdotes in an entertaining manner combined with expert commentary from professionals in the field. Whether exploring personal struggles or societal epidemics, each episode packs an emotional punch that leaves no questions unanswered.

3. Scripted Fiction

Scripted fiction podcasts have been gaining in popularity lately as listeners realize how well the episodic nature of podcasting works for storytelling. Whether one seeks out experimental sci-fi like Girl in Space or comedic historical fiction like Edith, there is something for every taste in the world of scripted fiction podcasts. People can enjoy being transported to a new and exciting world that they can come back to each week.

With its lack of visuals, listening to audio-based stories allows users’ imaginations to run wild as they envision the scenes and adventures for themselves. There is something particularly magical about a story unfolding as one listens and podcasting gives each storyteller an opportunity to explore various genres to tell their tales exactly as they would want them heard.

Girl in space podcast

Listening to scripted fiction podcasts can create unique, powerful moments that can never be quite replicated by watching films or TV shows. Thus, subscribers are assured of a fresh experience full of mystery and adventure no matter when they tune in weekday evenings.

4. Repurposed Content

Content repurposing is quickly becoming one of the most effective tools for boosting brand engagement, and podcasts are an excellent way to do this. Brands, bloggers, and TV shows alike are taking advantage of the popular podcasting platform to reach more listeners with their content.

Popular late-night show The Daily Show with Trevor Noah has created “Ears Edition” – a podcast that compiles highlights from previous episodes into bite-sized pieces.

Ted talks audiocollective podcasts

Similarly, TED Talks has launched a new podcast called TED Talks Daily which collects talks from all around the world on topics like education, technology, and business – perfect for inspiring listeners while commuting.

Podcasts can also easily provide bonus features or content not available on other platforms - such as video footage. They offer stories presented in audio format that may differ from how it's seen on certain media channels, for example extended interviews or commentary that adds extra insight into a topic.

Podcasts are often an interactive experience which uses creative approaches in order to keep listeners engaged further than the typical text medium allows. Content creators can help support their favorite brands by participating in these podcasts and becoming part of the discussion surrounding phenomena today.

How Podcasts Work and How to Listen to Podcasts

Creating and publishing a podcast is surprisingly straightforward. Podcasters simply need to record and edit a few episodes, then upload them to their podcast host. The host will create RSS feeds and list all the podcaster's episodes.

The following are some examples of podcast hosting platforms:

  • Buzzsprout
  • Podbean
  • Podcast Websites
  • Simplecast
  • Spreaker

With podcast hosting platforms, users can sign up quickly and start recording an episode right away. Once the episodes have been uploaded, podcasters submit their show’s RSS feed to popular podcasts directories like Spotify, Apple Podcasts, or Stitcher.

infographic how podcast works

Once your podcast is ready to go out into the world, it’s time for listeners to get involved. To find the show you want to listen to, hop on over to one of the aforementioned podcast directories and start searching. By subscribing, users can easily stay up-to-date with all their favorite series as soon as new episodes are published.

Putting aside discovering podcasts in these directories, listeners can also search through categories such as comedy or business so they can find podcasts tailored more accurately to their interests.

So whatever type of content you’re looking for, you should be able make use of established podcast directories with ease and enjoy some great audio entertainment.

Frequently Asked Questions: Podcasts

Are podcasts free?

Mostly, yes. Most podcast apps are free, and while there are some exclusive or private podcasts that are not free, most podcasters distribute their shows free of charge.

How do you get paid for podcasts?

Podcasters can get paid in several ways. The most common is to land podcast sponsorships, in which brands pay them to read advertisements during their show. Other methods include affiliate marketing, premium content, and asking listeners to pay them directly.

What is a podcast and how does it work?

A podcast is an audio (and sometimes video) medium for creative content. Podcast creators upload podcast episodes, which are downloaded by listeners and listened to on their mobile devices or computers.

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Nonofo Joel
Passionate blogger with expertise in Branding, Website Design, Content Marketing and SEO. Engaging content, unique perspective, and over a decade of experience. Join me on Global Tech Stack for captivating insights, reviews and inspiration.