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Innovation Updated: 08 Sep 2018

Podcasting and some reasons for its success

Ben Hammersley – currently the editor of – is credited with coining this term: a combination of iPod and broadcast. A podcast is a set of digital audio files making up a series of episodes that can be downloaded onto a variety of devices.

Podcasting, with its origins in the digital revolution of the twenty-first century, has an essential nature that is most closely related to the radio – of all the traditional media formats – but its potential goes much further. Even though the “raw material” of a podcast is sound, some can also be seen. Podcasters digitally produce their recordings and release them with a certain frequency. The most basic production requires only a personal computer and a microphone. This is clearly something that could have been done with a tape recorder in the second half of the last century. But at that time neither the information highway, the cloud, nor the variety of devices to manage all this existed.

Podcasts have significantly diversified the spread of information, using an audio format and reinventing media communications in a world where the audience is on the move..

There are different kinds of podcasts, many of which have crushed traditional radio formats like talk shows, news, and music programs

In the United States, the popularity of podcasting is considerable and continues to grow. The Statistics Portal reports that in 2016 there were 58 million podcast listeners, and it predicts 112 million by 2021. Last year, the magazine, 'The Atlantic', published a list of the fifty most popular podcasts in the US.

According to the General Media Study published by Spain's Association for Media Communications Research, listening to podcast versions of radio programs is close to 20% of total Internet listening in Spain. In Latin America wonderfully creative podcasts are being recorded, following a tradition that transformed the world of radio in the middle of the twentieth century. Colombian podcaster, Félix Riaño, includes a sampling of them in this article.

There are different kinds of podcasts, many of which have crushed traditional radio formats like talk shows, news, and music programs. But, podcasting also broadens the possibilities of “radio.” For example, old formats have been reinvented.

Radio novellas that were successful in the last century are related to current phenomena such as the series Homecoming , which demonstrates the vitality of fiction podcasting in the United States. This genre is related to the audiobook. Some months ago, in Spain's daily newspaper La Vanguardia, Pere Solà wrote about “the series that are listened to” and announced a podcast successor to the TV series Stranger Things: 'The Inexplicable Disappearance of Mars Patel' which has already had two seasons.

Some reasons for the success of different podcasting genres can also be a way to introduce ourselves to this world.

1. Sometimes we like to just listen. With the onslaught of information from the Internet, some people prefer to focus on specific channels of communication. Listening to quality content is worthwhile. This harkens back to Marshall MacLuhan’s theory of communication that touches on cold and hot communication media. The latter give a kind of sensory focus to information. Maybe the podcast follows this vein.

2. We need to trust in people who have interesting opinions. And listen to them closely. Although we appreciate quick formats such as TED, other times we prefer something longer and with more depth. In any event, a good podcaster can be an ally against the chicanery of fake news.

3. We live in a world constantly in transit. And even when we are on the go we can listen to a podcast. Whether walking, driving or using public transportation. And without an Internet connection.

4. Debates and talk shows interest us. It's a way to learn, to be informed, to learn about fantastic people who might not have the appropriate venue or time to express themselves in traditional media.

5. We like to listen to fictional stories (and imagine them). New digital recording systems have an increasingly sophisticated level of quality. A universe of sound effects can be found in fictional series. We love nuances and explore new ways of learning through sound.

The growth of podcasting just might be spurred on by the public that is still ignoring it. The Canadian producer, Steve Pratt, points this out in an article with relevant tips for podcasters. Many Android users — who are not the normal North American listener profile — haven't tried this mode of media entertainment. Because in the galaxy of the Internet, the podcast is a world still to be explored.