Renaissance of Podcasts


Teenage Girls of 1944 (1)
Podcasts are making a comeback. In an article for New York magazine#, Kevin Roose attributes their renewed popularity to technology now parvasive in cars and the favorable production costs to advertising rates ratios.

When Mary Meeker updated @KPCB internet trends report in December 2012, she included a couple of slides on consumer white space to be re-imagined. Ear and body — owing to better devices (wireless Bluetooth) / services (Siri / Spotify / Soundcloud…) / products (Jambox / UP…) — and cars — 52 minutes per day by 144MM Americans (76% alone)* spent in cars – largely untapped — took the top two spots.

A more nuanced hypothesis

Early in the life of this blog, I asked is radio obsolete? My prompt was a byline by Italian singer Mina for La Stampa on what listening to the radio used to be like. She said (my translation):

In a world that has alas celebrated the extinction of the verb "to listen" what is left is visual enslavement.

In such a world, radio is a last oasis, a natural environment where among bushes and stones one can still find everything — literature and gossip, from Cole Porter to Puccini, from politics to some extinct musical form.

On the radio, it is still possible to find words offered to the listener with that tact that TV abhors.

Indulge me on an additional Italian reference.

Carlo Emilio Gadda was an engineer from Milan who worked in Italy, Belgium and Argentina. He became a full time writer around 1940 in Florence and then in the 1950s in Rome, where he worked for RAI (Italian National TV).

In 1953, when RAI asked him to write up a compendium of "Policies for Radio Programming", Gadda wrote: 

"Radio listeners are not a 'public', so to speak.

In truth, they are 'single people'… every listener is alone… sitting in their own armchair, after having captured the essence… the noble act of listening, he/she is bound to the secret susceptibility of being able to get irritated by the inopportune tone of a catechizing radio apparatus.

It is therefore better that the voice, and the text entrusted to it, avoid all those mannerisms that provoke the idea of a condescending tone, an imparted lesson, a sermon, a message coming from on high.

It is equal to equal, free citizen to free citizen, thinking brain to thinking brain."

Equal to equal, citizen to citizen, thinking brain to thinking brain. Television and radio have been replaced by video and audio files consumed over the internet through a variety of devices; most commonly tablets and smartphones.

People turn on the TV or a radio to have some form of background in the house. A friend told me that he likes to turn the radio on when he gets home. He does that both for company and because he prefers to listen to information rather than watching it.

The only times I listen to the radio is when I'm looking for a local traffic report before getting on the expressway and on Sunday morning after my run.

It is really not a preference, just a matter of convenience. I am more often online and that's where I get the news from European and US wires. When I was growing up the radio was on only during the broadcasting of symphonic music programs. In the car I mainly listen to music, unless I have a long drive. Audio books are great for that.

Radio has always been a good medium to establish that conversation from person to person in an intimate setting. This is the very same reason why podcasts are getting more attention.

Some favorites besides the already super popular This American Life# hosted by Ira Glass, are Fresh Air# hosted by Terry Gross, WTF# hosted by Marc Maron, The Critical Path# hosted by Asymco Horace Dediu, TWIT# (this week in tech) hosted by Leo Laporte, The BeanCast# hosted by Bob Knorpp, and Six Pixels of Separation# hosted by Mitch Joel.

More podcasts here#.

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Valeria is an experienced listener. She designs service and product experiences to help businesses rediscover the value of promises and its effect on relationships and culture. She is also frequent speaker at conferences and companies on a variety of topics. Book her to speak here.

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