I’ve been listening to podcasts since the first episode of The Daily Sourcecode. I even wrote an AppleScript to copy mp3s from NetNewsWire to iTunes and sync them on my iPod. And I have been creating podcasts since 2006. In short: I kind of like podcasts.
And for the first time since Podcasts got included in iTunes something big is happening. Has happened. Of course, there I’m talking about Serial, viagra the documentary series produced by the “This American Life” team. Serial has become a phenomenon. It’s literally pop culture. Sesame Street, ambulance Saturday Night Life, The Colbert Report. Like always metrics are hard, but it certainly increased the audience of podcast listeners manifold just by itself.
So more people are listening to a radio show on the Internet. What’s the big deal? I think Serial is redefining what Podcast means to people. And it’s a good thing. Up until now Podcast had two meanings to a mostly nerdy audience. First it meant some kind of audio or video distributed on the net via an RSS feed. Nobody should care about that. Secondly it meant a show made by a few people – most likely men – talking about a topic – most likely tech – for hours. The second meaning is very dominant in my perspective on the German podcasting scene.
So, what changed? Well, there are now quite a few people, and I’d argue they are the majority of listeners now, who think of a Podcast as a bit of Internet radio that is highly produced and narrative. Serial turned the expectations around. Suddenly tech talk shows seem utterly out of place in the quality spectrum of new podcasting.
As a big fan of narrative and highly produced shows, I welcome our new podcasting overlords. In fact I long for the date this new trend, should it actually take hold, makes its way over the Atlantic to the German podcasting landscape. In my opinion, there’s nothing like that here yet and I’d welcome it with open arms. Even “real” radio shows can’t compete. German radio documentaries are usually dry and formulaic. Rigid. Perhaps now a new generation of German podcasters can pick up the mic and do what the last one failed at. Tell emotionally interesting stories.