And why we keep subscribing to them
By Julia Pergolini
In March 2005, two Chinese college students received international fame when they created a series of videos of themselves lip synching and dancing to some of the Backstreet Boys’ best singles. These two average teens became so well-known because they were able to podcast their videos globally. With minimal work and money, they could stream their videos, upload them and let technology do the rest.
Podcasting enables people to be their own radio or television show hosts, connecting with people and sharing advice all over the world. Podcasts enable people to create a brand or an image and market themselves as such. These hosts become their own PR agents, distributing their product on a global scale, right to people’s personal computers.
Additionally, podcasting has become a major resource in news media organizations’ social networking initiatives. Newspapers, radio shows,and TV shows have all come up with one–if not multiple–podcasts to distribute in conjunction with their primary projects.
“We’re gaining a new audience–and a growing one,” says Dan Savage, who is primarily known for his syndicated sex advice column, Savage Love with the Seattle alternative weekly newspaper, The Stranger.
“Also, I’ve gained the ability to work in radio again. I enjoyed doing a sex-advice call-in show in the early ’90s, but it was too dirty for broadcast standards and I had to stop. This allows me to gab away without the fear of incurring fines.”
There are very few podcasts that come with a price tag, although some will charge a small fee for archived shows. It’s a side project. You don’t make money, but you don’t have to invest financially in it either. With a simple microphone and an editing program like Garage Band, you’re all set.
More established companies or organizations will sell advertising space, but it’s not enough to create actual revenue. The motive then, is to generate ideas, network and share common interests.
Topics range from health advice, to political commentary to comedy–there’s even podnography.
“The iPod has been a real driving force in making podcasts more accessible and easy to download,” says Omar Gallaga, a tech writer for The Austin American-Statesman and weekly contributor to NPR’s All Things Considered.
The speed cycle that humans run on these days doesn’t always leave room for people to sit down and relax to programs they enjoy, and once it’s gone, the Internet, maybe, is the only way to catch it again. Now people can get their news on-the-go.
“The iPod has made podcasting pretty easy,” says Ithaca College senior journalism major Meghan Loftus.
“I can take NPR or the Economist with me while I’m on the Metro or walking around town. But I also like that I can choose when and where I watch or listen to my favorite radio shows. I like that I don’t have to wake up on Sunday morning or make sure I’m home for the re-air of Meet the Press–I can watch it on my own time,” Loftus says.
She also points out that publications, which ordinarily cost money, can give you a brief synopsis for free of what’s included in their new edition, all via the podcast.
“It’s just another way to create brand loyalty to a product,” she says.
A certain loyalty or affinity is bridged between host and listener.
“I only listen to podcasts where I have a strong connection with the source material or host,” says Gallaga.
“I think podcasts that have a very unique focus and good personalities behind the mic will succeed.”
For someone like Dan Savage, who is maintaining both a column and a podcast, he can approach people with two different mediums–something that is giving him a larger audience base.
“I seem to have a lot of regular listeners and the podcast does seem to create a degree of intimacy that the column does not,” Savage says.
“It is more intimate and immediate, and hearing someone speak makes you feel closer to that person than reading that person’s writing typically does.”
In 2004, when podcasts first caught on, Google could generate 2,750 results when “podcast” was entered in the search engine. Today, it produces 138,000,000 hits. It’s impossible to predict where they will fall into place as greater technology emerges, but for now, they are allowing common, everyday people to connect in a global society in ways they never could before, and that is drastically changing the ways we communicate and represent ourselves.
Julia Pergolini is a senior English major. E-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org.