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Podcasting isn’t Dead


In his post titled The Resurrection of Podcasting, Mitch Joel asks the question “Does anyone listen to podcasts anymore? Does anyone even care?”

Yes Joel, I’m listening, I care. So do nearly twice the number of people who have Twitter accounts. According to Edison Research, 17% of the U.S. population has listened/viewed a podcast in the last month and 29% have listened to a podcast at some point in the past. For comparison, only 10% of the U.S. population have Twitter accounts. Is Twitter dead?  The “Resurrection of Podcasting” title makes it sound as if podcasting was dead. Podcasting was never dead! Awkward teenage phase, maybe. But never dead.

Since 2005 the podcast audience has had a steady growth from 11% in 2006 up to 29% in 2012. The number and quality of podcasts has also grown. In 2005 I had a hard time finding enough podcasts to fill up my iRiver MP3 player. Now my iTunes account has 14 days worth of podcasts waiting for my ears.

It’s true that for a while in podcasting’s earlier days some “gurus” put podcasting in a pretty dress and tiara and sent her out on stage calling her “The Next Big Thing.” I blame the gurus for that one. Quite frankly those folks soured many in the podcasting community against conferences such as NMX. A lot of podcasters felt that if making money and replacing established radio was going to be the primary focus of a conference then that conference wasn’t for them. I am on a mission to change this.

Many podcasters were and are quite happy just talking into their mic and having an audience that appreciates their work. There is no plan to take over the broadcasting world (say it like Pinky and the Brain) among most podcasters. That was just the “gurus” talking.

Today podcasting is stronger than ever and getting stronger each day. There is room for the entire range of podcasters. From the full time pros and networks like TWIT and Nerdist to the hobbyist that just wants to talk about blue widgets. Not green ones, not purple ones and not about selling them. Just wants to enjoy the awesomeness that is blue widgets and share his blue widget love with his audience of other blue widget aficionados. There is room for everyone along this spectrum.

Tom Merrit (of TWIT network fame) stated on a recent panel that he knew podcasting was hitting the mainstream when he saw it used as an insult on HBO’s Newsroom. It was being used much in the same way that the term “blog” had been used in the years before blogging became so popular. Imagine boss to the fired journalist…”good luck with your ‘blog’.” We are on the road to mainstream. It’s the same road blogging took, podcasting just got a later start.


  • Mitch Joel


    It would have been nice if you had read beyond the title of my article. The point of my article was this: when podcasting was first introduced, the promise was that the platform would do to traditional TV and radio what blogging had done to traditional print. To this day, that hasn’t happened. Increased listeners? Yep. Video podcasting growth? Sure. But, the medium became about the niche topics. For me the “resurrection” – as I defined it – is that it seems like lately, the numbers and feeling about podcasting is changing back to the original premise (that it just might be able to chunk away at TV, radio, etc…). The introduction of high quality shows (in terms of both production and content) continues to increase (see my blog post for examples) and more of the public is paying attention. The “resurrection” as I defined it was back to that initial hope that audio and video podcasting could create the disruption that blogging caused.

    For the record, I have been audio podcasting weekly (without fail) since 2006 and will be publishing my 344th episode tomorrow am. Do you think anyone who thinks something is dead would be putting that much energy into it?

  • Megan Enloe

    Mitch, I agree with what you have said above and yes, I did read the whole article. I also agree there has been incredible growth in podcasting over the past year or so. The comedians alone are proof that podcasting can be used to take control of ones own career and public persona.

    That is why I was so surprised that you used the term “resurrection” rather than something like “resurgence” As one of the podcasters that continued delighting my ears with new shows I found it frustrating that you of all people referred to podcasting as if it had ever died or was near death.

    Podcasting has grown every year. Perhaps not to the same levels people had hoped for in 05-06 but still growth. Characterizing the slower growth as a death makes it sound like podcasting somehow failed. It was the unreasonable predictions being made early on that are the failure.

    I do not have my current position with NMX as Podcasting Community Manager because I am a successful podcaster. I am not. I am a pod-fader with high hopes of changing that to pod-pauser. I have my job because I listen to hundreds of podcasts, including yours. I am a huge fan of podcasters and all the hard work you all put into your shows for my benefit. That is why I get very grumpy whenever someone suggests there was a near death of podcasting. Because people like you never let it die.

    • Mitch Joel

      I guess this got lost in translation. For me the death/resurrection of podcasting was in defining it not against its performance, but the general sentiment that podcasting will do for audio/video what blogging did to change traditional print media. In that sense, it didn’t live up to the high expectations and now, I’m hopeful, that it just might 😉

  • Jake

    Mitch, who exactly made this definitive “promise” you seem to be so convinced of? You act as if some corporate entity invented the podcast as a new product and promised it would be some giant legitimized form of media. By using the term “resurrection” in this context you are assuming 1) this “promise” was made in the first place, and 2) that podcasting really was a legitimized form of media and somehow lost that status. Neither of these are even remotely valid statements.

    To me it seems that your post was made as an attention grab. Either that or you are seriously misguided in your perception of the origins and nature of podcasting. Or maybe you had these high expectations of podcasting and projected them into some sort of officially sanctioned “promise”. Certainly there were the podcasting cheerleaders that assured everyone that would listen that podcasts would destroy radio and television. But for every one of them there were at least two others who played off podcasting as a fad or barely a ripple in the pond. So much disagreement on what the future might hold certainly doesn’t sound like a clear cut promise one way or the other.

    For something to be resurrected it has to be dead first. That doesn’t sound like the argument you are making here, that this medium simply hasn’t fulfilled some promise. Maybe this is just a case of poor word choice, but either way its an argument that I couldn’t disagree with more. Short sided, subjective declarations about the state of podcasting are as old as the medium itself but it seems every time one is made it attracts a lot of attention but has little evidence to back it up.

    • Mitch Joel

      Hi “Jake,”

      In 2005, “Podcasting” was named the word of the year by the New Oxford American Dictionary. Prior to this (and following it), there were a ton of articles, blogs and more detailing how explosive the growth of podcasting was set to become.

      Some of them are:

      – cNet – Researcher sees huge growth in podcast audience (http://news.cnet.com/Researcher-sees-huge-growth-in-podcast-audience/2100-1025_3-5777201.html)
      – WebProNews – Podcasting: ‘Significant growth by 2010? (http://www.webpronews.com/podcasting-significant-growth-by-2005-04)

      There are plenty more, you can just Google it.

      After the hype of saying podcasting is the next big thing, came the reality. The genre took hold and saw increases but not at the clip that analysts, pundits and more expressed (again, you can do a simple search around 2005 – 2007 to find countless articles, blogs posts, research reports and more about it).

      In fact, in 2007, CBC ran a news item titled, Podcasting growth slower than expected: study (http://www.cbc.ca/news/story/2007/03/23/tech-podcast.html) that also includes research done by Edison Research and my friend, Tom Webster, who is the source of Megan’s blog post (and, for the record, I take no issue with Edison’s work – in fact, I wholeheartedly and happily agree with it). From the article:

      “Edison researcher Tom Webster admitted on the company’s website that the figures were lower than people in the industry expected. ‘Certainly, given the impressive growth in awareness of the term ‘podcast,’ one might have expected more than a two percentage point increase in the behaviour,’ he wrote.”

      It’s not me guessing or a feeling. The mass population did not latch on to podcasting like they did to blogging. The thought that podcasting was the next TV or radio did die. Podcasting was not a legitimized medium back then. It was nascent, new and an unknown. It has proven itself and continues to grow. In fact, I’m making no argument in my original blog posting about the viability or vitality of podcasting. The only point of contention is that the original hype surrounding it was not met or surpassed. I’m not sure why this is such a contentious issue or why it was turned into me saying that podcasting is dead? The platform grows… and continues to grow. The resurrection – as I defined it – has to do with the fact that it now feels like podcasting may actually meet and surpass those initial reports of its media dominance.

      Lastly, I am guilty as charged in terms of my post being an “attention grab.” Everything, everybody posts is an attention grab. This is why we publish our thoughts: to grab attention. The issue I had is that the attention grab that was being done off of my piece did not reflect the content: which was that podcasting has been a great medium… and it’s about to get a whole lot better based on the content that is being published as of late.

  • Dave Raven

    I was one of those who went around giving presentations to radio groups in 2005 prophesying the death knell of radio as we knew it and how by the end of the decade the majority of under 25’s would only listen to live radio in the early morning for their news, traffic and weather and for the rest of the day they would make their own schedule of podcasts.
    I was wrong.
    My own listenership had a superb curve until 2009 and then became the standard bell shape. I think I may be close to the top, but don’t expect the other half of the bell to occur.
    Too many people still don’t understand how the subscriptions work, I have around 18,000 downloads a week but only just over half of those are subscribers. The rest still come to the website and click on the download button.
    It could be that podcasting is the Betamax of radio, better than VHS, but doomed in the long term.

  • Sword and Scale

    Better quality podcasts are the key. Unfortunately many amateur podcasters quit and podfade long before they perfect their craft. It takes time, money and an awful lot of stamina to make a top quality show that stays alive.

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