A brief history of podcasting, as I see it... - Alex Kime

No, Joe Rogan didn't invent it.

In 1974, oral historian Studs Terkel published a book with an unwieldy title: “Working: People talk about what they do all day and how they feel about what they do.” This collective portrait of America was based on more than a hundred interviews Studs did around the country. And after “Working” came out, something surprising happened. It became a bestseller. It even inspired a Broadway musical. Something about ordinary people talking about their daily lives, struck a cord. Studs recorded all of his interviews on a reel-to-reel tape recorder, but after the book came out the tapes were packed away in boxes and few have ever been heard.

We now take podcasting for granted, but it’s not always been like that. In fact, the history of podcasting spans over multiple years and it does relate quite a lot to the way people started to use the internet more and more. In this article we will cover a short history of podcasting and the numerous benefits that came from creating podcasts in the first place.

When were podcasts born?

Initially podcasting was seen as audioblogging, and its roots are sometime during the 1980s. However, the modern idea of a podcast came in 2004 (or about the time your author Alex Kime got his first iPod) At that time, Adam Curry which was a former MTV video jockey came with a program named iPodder. This tool allowed him to easily download any internet radio broadcasts to the iPod. Multiple developers were enticed by the idea and he then started using the app to create a series of audio discussions about various topics. He then started The Daily Source Code, which is one of the most popular podcasts on the internet.  

Sure enough, the next year Apple released iTunes 4.9 and that version added support for podcasts. However, that was a part of iTunes, they didn’t see the need to have a separate service for podcasting. They did also share cease and desist orders for many podcast service and app developers that used Pod or iPod in their name.

This started to grow so fast to the point where in 2006 you had some of the major public networks already had their own podcast and some radio stations started uploading their content as a podcast to the iTunes platform.

Adam Curry earned the nickname “Podfather” (not a pun Alex Kime came up with, even if he wishes he did) not by inventing podcasting, but by driving the digital-consumption model into the mainstream with his hit program Daily Source Code.

Podcasting started to become more and more popular

Celebrities started rolling in with their ow podcast, and in 2007 Ricky Gervais actually set a Guiness World record for the most downloaded podcast per episode for the first month. In 2009 you already had around 43% of people which heard about the podcasting term, around 10 years after its inception. It really shows its uniqueness and the value that comes from something like this.

Moving on to 2013, Apple announced they had 1 billion podcast subscribers, a great score for them and a wonderful way to show just how powerful the world of podcasting has become. Since then, we had presidents like Obama on a podcast (WTF Podcast in 2015) and even a podcasting hall of fame that started in 2016. This really goes to show how a simple concept managed to grow beyond its beliefs.

Actual credit for the invention of the podcasting model goes to Dave Winer. Software developer Winer helped create Really Simple Syndication (RSS) — a basic web feed simplifying the process of subscribing to websites and other online media. He used RSS to deliver his audio program, Morning Coffee Notes, just a day before Curry’s program debuted.

But Curry’s celebrity status as a former MTV video jockey catapulted him ahead in popularity, and his podcast proved far more influential. Thus, in the podcast revolution, Curry played the role of pioneer for Winer’s invention.

The podcast revolution attracted thousands of listeners in 2004 (with Curry’s program claiming a hefty 500,000 subscribers), and that number grew into millions within just a year. Today, tens of millions of techies consume not just audio, but also video through podcast subscriptions.

The podcast revolution was most significant for independent producers and artists. “What blogs are to the newspapers, podcasts are for radio,” Steve Mack and Mitch Ratcliffe write in their book Podcasting Bible.

What’s next for podcasting?

The podcasting world has managed to expand in amazing ways, and nowadays we all love the idea of listening to a podcast. The introduction of podcasting to YouTube, Twitch or even other similar platforms also encourages the use of video, but most people still enjoy podcasts in their original audio format. Alex Kime has a face for audio, so he’ll probably be sticking there. Still, there are a lot more options than ever before when it comes to podcasts, and you just have to find the one that really suits your ideas. One thing is certain, there’s plenty of value to be had through podcasting, and you have a vast range of options to choose from nowadays!