Saturday, 6 December 2014

The Growing Popularity of Podcasts

If you haven't heard of what they are already, podcasts are basically radio broadcasts but on the internet. They're not a modern invention, infact they have been around for the past decade and the word 'podcast' was derived from an early 2004 article from The Guardian newspaper. Recently, services such as the Apple Podcasts app and soundcloud dot com have offered a platform for individuals and businesses alike to upload their audio to. However podcasts haven't been hugely sucessful. That might be about to change.

I've been aware of podcasts for many years now however never really listened to any until only earlier this week. It's not that I'm not interested in any of the genres of podcasts - because there are podcasts on a diverse range of topics - I just thought that there was better ways to digest information or hear stories. For example, TV documentarys and online news video features are media rich ways of consuming knowledge. And if I wanted to learn in a traditional way, I could pick up a magasine, newspaper, or book. Radio occupies some middle ground between traditional and modern media and podcasts also seem to be neither hear or there.

Nevertheless, after watching a recent episode of 'Top Shelf' from The Verge (below) and reading numberous online reviews of a mainstream, mystery podcast called 'Serial' I decided to download the Soundcloud app and try that podcast.

It would be a lie to say that I had never heard a podcast before because the BBC offer a wide range of podcasts (including radio shows on iPlayer) and I'm sure that during school, teachers have pushed me to listen to educational podcasts as part of my revision but Serial is definitely the first podcast I've decided to sit down and listen to by choice.

If you haven't been engulfed in the wave of buzz and excitement that Serial has created, it is a gripping, weekly spinoff podcast from 'This Ameircan Life' which is eloquently narrated by journalist Sarah Koenig. It is the telling of Sarah's investigation into the murder of Hae Min Lee in Baltimore in 1999... And it is fascinating! (Preview below)

Despite the positive reviews, I was skeptical about Serial incase it didn't live up to the hype around it however I've been pleasantly surprised. After the first episode I became addicted and I watched the first five episodes in 24 hours. I'll probalby watch the rest of the episodes before the month is out. Although it is just audio, I didn't feel like any visual aid was necessary.

However after Serial, will I continue to listen to podcasts, and if so, which ones?

I probably won't listen to podcasts religiously like I'm sure some people do however whenever I have a car journey or I'm sat around during the day having a break or waiting for someone, I'm now more lightly to put my earphones in and listen to a podcast rather than music. As for what podcasts, I've subscribed to weekly podcasts on topics that interest me from The Verge, The Guardian, BBC Radio 4 and some other less known names. Despite this, I still can't bring myself to listen to fiction podcasts.

If I want to hear a compelling ficitonal story I'm still 10 times more likely to read a critically aclaimed book or watch a five-star movie rather than just hear the audio. This is ignorant, I know, however video and audio seems a lot more appealing than audio alone when telling a when telling a fictional story.

Overall, podcasts are great. They vary in length and quality however if you find a series of them that you enjoy, you will become addicted and look forward to them as much as you look forward to your favourite TV show.