The Complete History of Podcasting
Krisha Patel | Podcasting
Podcasting has become one of the most popular and fastest growing media on the planet, surpassing in popularity many social platforms such as Twitter and LinkedIn. (Don’t believe us? Download the Fact Pack!)
For those who are new to the medium, or simply for the intellectually curious, we thought it would be fun to take a peek at the history of podcasts, and how society went from there to here. So, read on to learn more about the history of podcasting!
Most Americans spend approximately four hours per day consuming just audio, which includes owned music, streaming audio, AM/FM radio, and of course, podcasts. While this figure may seem staggering, the idea that audio would someday dominate our lives is not a new one.
If you walk up to someone on the street and ask them who invented the radio, chances are, they may not be able to come up with Guglielmo Marconi’s name.
However, he is widely credited as “the father of the radio and grandfather of the mobile phone,” winning both a Nobel Prize and having a law -- Marconi’s Law -- named after him in the process.
When Marconi invented radio back in 1895, he predicted, “In the new era, thought itself will be transmitted by radio.” Audio has been a staple of our media environment ever since.
No article on the history of podcasting would be complete without mentioning the advent of internet radio a hundred years later.
Internet radio changed the game in how listeners could access content. It allowed anyone with internet access to stream radio programs online. Internet radio also is not limited to just audio, and can be accompanied by visuals or text, making it accessible to almost anyone.
Lastly, internet radio allowed listeners to access content from virtually anywhere, making it possible for audiences to access audio content outside of their local broadcast radio markets.
About 10 years after internet radio was first used, podcasting was birthed into being.
Originally referred to as “audio blog posts” as opposed to “podcasts”, the purpose of this new media platform was to give content creators a new and engaging way to share their ideas digitally by allowing them to record, upload and distribute their voices to the internet as an innovative method of creating conversations.
Audio blog posts were developed by David Winer and Christopher Lydon during the early 2000s. Winer, a software developer and blogging enthusiast, and Lydon, a journalist and radio presenter, are credited with having formulated podcasting as we know it today.
The Harvard Gazette said that Winer and Lydon “...streamlined a method of both uploading audio files to the Internet and downloading them to a computer or mobile device.” You can hear their very first podcast - a true revolution at the time - during this recording on July 9, 2023.
Podcasting differed from both broadcast radio and internet radio in a number of ways.
Did you ever notice how established media tend to give the same name to both the content and the device? “Radio” is both a box and a type of programming, as is “TV.”
In 2004 - fairly recently in the podcasting history timeline - the “podcast” joined them, officially becoming the de facto phrase to refer to the platform that included the device as well as the content.
The term was first coined by Ben Hammersley, a writer for The Guardian, in 2004 by combining the words “iPod” and “broadcasting.”
In 2005, Steve Jobs, founder of Apple, introduced the idea of subscribing to a podcast by building the concept into the iTunes interface. Users could easily subscribe to over 3,000 podcasts and download the episodes onto their laptops and iPods to be listened to offline.
The introduction of podcasts into the iTunes market made it mainstream and resulted in over one million podcast subscriptions within two days. It quickly became a revolutionary idea with potential that had yet to be discovered.
Fast-forward to 2016 where, according to a Radio Ink study, listeners are downloading over one billion podcasts per month, making it one of the fastest growing media on the planet.
Over the years, podcasting has evolved from being a simple audio file to having special effects and using storytelling techniques to spread information in an entertaining and engaging method. Early influencers of podcasting took advantage of its low production costs and helped pave the way for other content creators to use this medium.
At this point, the history of podcasting takes an interesting turn.
According to Statista, the number of monthly podcast listeners is expected to increase by over 100 million per month by 2021. As the number of content creators and listeners for podcasts grows, so does the number of corporations taking advantage of this incredible communication tool.
American Airlines, for example, created their own podcast series called “Tell Me Why”, which is their own channel meant to explain executive rationale to new policies created. This communications tool allowed American Airlines to improve internal communications by reaching over 100,000 employees via enterprise podcasts.
Jen Grogono, CEO and co-founder of uStudio, underlines in an interview that podcasts are growing in popularity due to new security developments that allows enterprises, for the first time, to have private, enterprise podcasting as easy as public ones.
New security advances have made private podcasting possible in business settings, which allows for large enterprises to communicate strategies and trade secrets to select audience members without fear of leakage.
Analytics tools for podcast measurement have also caught up to enterprise needs, allowing companies to view more than basic stats across their population, but to also truly see at a named user-level who is listening to their content and for how long.
Podcasts can be especially valuable to corporations who are looking for ways to make employees more productive, especially field and mobile workers who are always in the car or on the go. Podcasting opens up a new channel of communication that wasn’t before available.
As Guglielmo Marconi predicted in our new era, thought itself is being transmitted by radio, at least at a societal level. It will be interesting to see how businesses learn to leverage it over the coming years.
uStudio offers private podcast solutions to help enterprises reach their select audience members securely. To learn more, request a demo to see our products in action. Or download the fact pack below for more information on podcasting.