How the second golden age of audio came to be.
Today, there are more podcasts than ever before — over two million shows and 48 million episodes and the number of podcasts is growing exponentially according to Apple Podcast.
But, little did you know that podcasts actually predate the internet — initially coining the phrase ‘audio blogging’ as early as the 1980s, paving the way for enthusiasts to share their thoughts and experiences with other people via audio recording. Unfortunately, it was short-lived as the lack of means to distribute these recordings stunted the growth of the medium stalling it for another 20 years.
In October 2001, Apple launched its first portable music player — The iPod.
Its humble beginnings revolutionized the music industry, whilst fabricating the concept of transferring ‘audio blogs’ to an audio player as an MP3 file enabling it to go mainstream.
In 2004, Adam Curry, former MTV video jockey, and software developer Dave Winer coded a program known as iPodder, enabling people to download audio blogs to their iPod. This sparked journalist Ben Hammersley to publish the now-iconic article about the dawning torrent of online radio, eventually coining the term ‘podcasting,’ joining the words — iPod and broadcast. From there, podcasting slowly but surely started to catch on.
And by late 2004, the first podcast service provider, Libsyn.com (Liberated Syndication) emerged. Before the end of the year, the number of Google hits for the term ‘podcasts’ eclipsed 100,000. Hammersley’s coinage was here to stay.
As 2005 rolled around, Apple officially added podcasting to its iTunes Music Library. During an onstage interview at D3, Steve Jobs demonstrated how anybody could create a podcast using their Mac and share it with the world.
Podcasts were beginning to gain traction. Soon enough, it was the year in which “Podcast” was declared “Word of the Year” by the New Oxford American Dictionary, cementing the status of podcasts as the emergent media trend that was already, or soon about to be, on everyone’s tongues and the tip of their fingers.
Though the number of listeners regularly tuning into podcasts seemed dull in comparison to today’s number, 2005 was the year when podcasts certifiably began flirting with the mainstream.
Notable Highlights in Podcast History
- 2005 — George Bush becomes first President to deliver his weekly address in the form of a podcast
- 2005 — Podcast is declared “word of the year” by the New Oxford American Dictionary
- 2006 — Steve Jobs demonstrates how to record a podcast using Garageband during a keynote speech
- 2006 — Lance Anderson became the first podcaster to go on a live podcasting tour he called The Lance Anderson Podcast Experiment.
- 2007 — Ricky Gervais sets world record for the most downloaded podcast with an average of 250,000 downloads per episode in the first month
- 2009–2011 — Andrew Carolla’s podcast receives 59,574,843 unique downloads
- 2013 — Personal Audio sues high profile podcasters, claiming they have a patent on podcasting
- 2013 — Apple announces 1 billion podcast subscribers
- 2017 — Court rules against Personal Audio, declaring they did not invent the medium of podcasting and could therefore not claim royalties
- 2019–Spotify acquired Gimlet Media for $200 million, establishing itself as a major player in podcasting.
- 2020 — Joe Rogan, signs an exclusive podcast deal with Spotify worth $100m+
So where do podcasts go from here?
By 2021, podcast ad revenue is projected to surpass the $1 billion mark, that being unfathomable for a do-it-yourself medium, it’s worth remembering that podcasting is less than two decades old — still riding out its teenage years — and that there are inevitably many new eras speckling the horizon as this medium, like so many before it, changes alongside the times and grows into its own.
Now, that you are aware of the history of podcasts and the story about the growth of this enthralling medium — leave your vocal imprint on its future.