Nowadays, there is a podcast for everything. Whether you’re looking to learn a new language, keep up with your favourite sports team, or listen to a bizarre comedy about a family-run funeral parlour (yes, that is a thing), you’ll almost certainly find a podcast for it.
In fact, the medium may not have officially existed 15 years ago, but today there are well over 18.5 million podcast episodes available on iTunes alone, with the average person listening to them for over 5 hours a week. To put that into some perspective, it took until 17 years after the first ever UK television transmission for nearly 50% of the British public to sit down in front of the box for the first time, to watch the Queen’s coronation.
In comparison, then, the podcast has had a meteoric rise. But are we really surprised?
The smartphone is a podcast’s best friend
With the vast majority of fans listening to their favourite shows on the go, having a handy internet-connected device in your pocket is imperative, and thus the smartphone and the podcast go together like bread and butter, rock and roll, and Posh and Becks.
In 2007, the iPhone, the world’s first truly accessible smartphone, went on the market. And only a year later, having become a part of the common vernacular, the word ‘podcast’ was officially added to the Oxford English Dictionary. Since then, as other phone manufacturers have entered the market and advances in technology have allowed for direct-to-device downloads, podcasts and smartphones have walked the path of success hand-in-hand. This year, as smartphone users hit 3 billion worldwide, it’s estimated that nearly 70% of American podcast fans will access their favourite shows via their mobile.
From the dark days of Dial-Up to a future of Fibre
The term ‘podcast’ was first coined back in 2004, being a portmanteau of the words iPod and broadcast, and it’s fair to say a lot has changed in the 14 years since. This was the year of Amy Winehouse’s Rehab, the invention of Facebook, and that terrifying video of Elmo being set on fire, but in the UK many of us were still living with the dreaded ping of a dial-up internet connection.
Remember when it used to take you an hour to download a single three-minute song? These were those days, and, oh, how dark they were! Thankfully for the podcast industry, internet speeds are now around 36x what they were back then, and it now takes seconds to download a 60-minute podcast which once upon a time would’ve taken days! Needless to say, without high-speed internet it’s hard to see how podcasts would have achieved such success.
Curiosity killed the cat, but satisfaction brought it back
As I write this, the most popular podcasts on iTunes include a podcast about football, one about mental health, two about comedy, and two about true crime. Two are fictional, one is about personal development and one is about entrepreneurship. There’s one entirely devoted to events from history and even one all about growing up! There are also hundreds of thousands more, on every topic under the sun, and at the end of the day that’s the real reason why podcasts have become so successful; they can be created by anyone, anywhere, at any time, and tell stories that most of us would never hear otherwise.
It’s been a long road from sitting around campfires singing songs to standing on a bus on a wet Monday morning with headphones in our ears, but even thousands of years later there is still that element of curiosity inside each and everyone of us, and the humble podcast is simply the next logical step towards satisfying that.
5 podcasts to satisfy your curiosity!
The Walk, Panoply and Naomi Alderman
A first-person thriller that begins with a case of mistaken identity and a mysterious package that must make it to Edinburgh! As well as being a choose-your-adventure story, this podcast was also created to covertly encourage its listeners to exercise by walking along with it.
No Such Thing As A Fish, the ‘QI Elves’
A general knowledge podcast that covers bizarre, pointless and hilarious knowledge you never knew you needed to know!
The Black Tapes, Pacific Northwest Stories
A chilling docudrama about a journalist investigating a series of tapes that were collected by a paranormal investigator determined to debunk the existence of the supernatural.
Case Notes, Classic FM
The podcast that proves even a classical music radio station can find a way to cash in on the true crime phenomenon, this series delves into some of the darkest mysteries from the history of music.
Sleep With Me, Dearest Scooter
If you’re tired of counting sheep, and tired of simply feeling tired, let this podcast tell you a bedtime story to help cancel out the worrying and intrusive thoughts when all you want to do is sleep.