Because Podcasts Are Awesome

Glenn Fleishman tweeted this picture on Sunday after Marco Arment announced he was building a podcast app called Overcast. While we don't have any details (features, pricing, release date, etc), I am am greatly anticipating it. The picture has a simple, but meaningful phrase. Marco said he's building Overcast "because podcasts are awesome'.

If you aren't a podcast fan, you are probably wondering: why are podcasts awesome? Kevin Spacey said it best (when referring to Netflix and TV):

And through this new form of distribution, we have demonstrated that we have learned the lesson that the music industry didn’t learn: Give people what they want, when they want it, in the form they want it in, at a reasonable price, and they’ll more likely pay for it rather than steal it. Well, some will still steal it, but I think we can take a bite out of piracy.

A podcast (at its core) is a talk radio show that distributed via the internet rather than FM/AM. It involves downloading a show from an RSS feed to a device that can play it. Apple really helped kickstart the industry when it added native support for podcasts (a directory, syncing to iPods, etc) to iTunes 4.9 in June of 2005. We've come along way since then and it has gotten drastically easier to find and download shows. Thanks to the growing number of podcast apps on multiple platforms, we can do it all on the go.

Adam Curry is known as the father of podcasting to a lot of people. For me, it was Leo Laporte. The first podcast I listened to was called Revenge of the Screen Savers, but you probably know it as its more common name: This Week In Tech. It was Leo and friends sitting around discussing the latest technology news. Another early success was Diggnation. It was Kevin Rose and Alex Albrecht discussing the top stories from I listened to these shows for a couple of years (among many others). In 2010, 5by5 was born. Thanks to some early hit shows (The Talk Show, Build and Analyze, Back to Work, and Hypercritical), 5by5 became a powerhouse in the industry. As the years have gone on, some of the early shows on 5by5 have ended, but it has created new ones (Quit!, The Prompt, The Critical Path, Systematic) and has been joined by others (Mac Power Users, CMD+Space, The Pen Addict, The Incomparable). Some of the other popular shows are: The 'new' Talk Show, ATP, The Menu Bar, Generational, and Home Work. We also saw an acquisition when 5by5 purchased 70Decibels. Myke Hurley (founder of 70Decibels) stayed on board and is now working for 5by5. I also enjoy a number of podcasts from ESPN. They are basically 'highlights' from its radio broadcasts. As you can see, there is a lot of content available (and not just technology and sports).

The majority of podcasts I listen to are niche content and the economics of them just don’t work on conventional radio. Not enough interested people would be able to tune in at the right time to make it financially feasable. How does podcasting make niche content work? It allows the folks who interested in a topic to find, download, and consume on their own schedule. This is also proving to be a worthwile advertising medium (the genre of each show is usually pretty focused). Anyone with something to say can buy a microphone, start a show, and begin to sell advertising (if enough people listen).

While this industry might have been around since the early 2000s, it feels like this is just the beginning. From national brands that are syndicating radio shows and new players that are making a name for themselves behind a microphone, this is an exciting place to be. Consumers can find the content they want (and listen where and when they want), advertisers have a targeted audience, and "radio" personalities have a place to create and distribute their work.

So why do I love podcasts? As Marco said, "because podcasts are awesome".