Podcasting: Finally Ready for the Mainstream

For the longest time–a decade at least–podcasting was something that was created by hobbyists and consumed by nerds. Not anymore.  The whole arena is now on the verge of becoming a viable (read: profitable) form of broadcasting.  Mashable takes a look.

Video may have killed the radio star sometime in the 1980s, but the podcast Serial seems to have resurrected him.

A milestone in podcasting came in October 2014, almost 10 years after the birth of the first podcast, on the Tonight Show. This American Life host Ira Glass sat on Jimmy Fallon’s couch in October 2014 and, with the help of his elderly neighbor, explained how to download a podcast.

Glass’ visit and kitschy video were prompted by the unprecedented success of Serial, the slickly-produced podcast that, over the course of 12 episodes, reported on and continued the investigation into the murder of a high school student in 1999 and her popular ex-boyfriend, who is in jail for the crime.

Serial was both a cultural touchstone and, many I spoke to for this story agreed, a pivotal moment for podcasts.

“I think it was probably Serial that put podcasting on the map for a new order of magnitude for audience reach than any other podcast had before,” said Chris Paul VP Media and Acquisition for Squarespace, which sponsors virtually every podcast (they say it’s around 150-to-200 properties, depending on the month, right now).

According to Edison Research, podcast listenership has grown steadily every year except 2013 (right before Serial). And Apple told me that there have been over 1.6 billion subscriptions and 20 billion downloads since Apple added podcasts to iTunes.

Continue reading here. Meanwhile, trust me when I say that the podcasting industry–and it is an industry now–will see exponential growth over the next two years. For example, not only do we have a growing number of podcast networks–companies that aggregate and sell podcasts just like traditional TV networks–but they’re now holding “upfront” events where networks take turns presenting their offerings to advertisers before a new season begins. One such event happens new New York next week.

The Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) will hold its first-ever “IAB Podcast Upfront Showcase,” a special one-day marketplace on September 10 for advertisers and media buyers to preview the latest in innovative podcast programming from some of the biggest names in the digital audio arena.

The event aims to educate and raise awareness around the power of podcasts as a valuable platform to reach consumers. Leading content publishers will share upcoming content releases and opportunities for advertisers.

See what I mean? We’re about to enter a golden time for podcasts.

Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 30+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

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