“Broadcasting is really too important to be left to the broadcasters” – Tony Benn
Today I’d like to talk about one of my new favourite media formats: Podcasts.
The reason podcasts captured my imagination today, is a podcast I listened to (very meta) by Recode’s Peter Kafka, and Nick Quah, journalist and curator of HotPod.
We are unable to find iTunes on your computer. To download and subscribe to Recode Media with Peter Kafka by Recode…itunes.apple.com
The show starts with the history of Podcasts and ends with where they may be headed. Interestingly, Podcasts are starting to become a big business too. According to the Interactive Advertising Bureau, podcast industry ad revenue will reach $220 million in 2017, up 85 percent from 2016’s $119 million (source).
My own fascination with podcasts began with a warm recommendation from Pablo (founder of Antidote). I was on an Android phone then, and quickly realised the first barrier to adoption for podcasts?—?you need an app that streams podcasts (Apple has one by default). The second level?—?they’re anonymous. As podcasts are a (relatively) new media format?—?their brands are less developed, so most people would struggle to name a show. Third, podcasts are not very easy to find. Discovery is poor, largely limited to the ‘top charts’ on the various apps, making it hard to discover ‘rising stars’ before they hit the mainstream.
So, let’s start with some definitions. What is a Podcast?
The source of the word comes from the combination of iPod (who has one of those these days?) and broadcast. It was first known as “audioblogging”, but the term “podcasting” was created by Guardian journalist Ben Hammersley.
It was popularised by a few unsung heroes: Dawn and Drew of The Dawn and Drew Show, Kris and Betsy Smith of Croncast, MadPod and Dan Klass of The Bitterest Pill contributed to the early emergence and popularity of podcasts, as well as former MTV VJ Adam Curry, in collaboration with Dave Winer, a developer of RSS feeds.
Wikipedia describes a Podcast as follows:
A podcast is an episodic series of digital audio files which a user can download and listen to. It is often available for subscription, so that new episodes are automatically downloaded via web syndication to the user’s own local computer, mobile application, or portable media player.
The third wave of podcasting
Podcasts have been around for some time. In September 2000, the first system that enabled the selection, automatic downloading and storage of serial episodic audio content on PCs and portable devices was launched  from early MP3 player manufacturer, i2Go.
It was only around 2003 that the first podcasts appeared, but actually what made Podcasts mainstream, was the show Serial, an investigative journalism podcast hosted by Sarah Koenig, which started as a side project of the National Public Radio’s (NPR) show “This American Life”. Serial exploded in popularity and spread virally. It also established a formula for podcast success: (1) Strong narrative focused on unsolved crime, (2)great storytelling and (3) high quality production, (ideally by radio professionals from NPR).
Serial – the catalyst
Download past episodes or subscribe to future episodes of Serial by WBEZ for free.itunes.apple.com
The success of Serial, inspired a new wave of entrepreneurs. One of them is Alex Blumberg, founder of Gimlet Media. Alex was an award-winning radio journalist at NPR, where he produced This American Life, and co-founded Planet Money.
Planet money and This American Life —two classics of the medium
Download past episodes or subscribe to future episodes of Planet Money by NPR for free.itunes.apple.com
Download past episodes or subscribe to future episodes of This American Life by WBEZ for free.itunes.apple.com
Gimlet is self-described as “narrative podcasting company that aims to help listeners better understand the world and each other”. Founded in 2014 and based in Brooklyn, it has already produced some of my favourite podcasts:
StartUp — Gimlet’s first podcast, documents the process Alex Bloomberg went through to found Gimlet Media with his partner, Matthew Lieber. It’s excellent, doesn’t really get more meta.
Download past episodes or subscribe to future episodes of StartUp Podcast by Gimlet Media for free.itunes.apple.com
Crimetown follows the Rode Island organised crime evolution. It includes interviews with inmates, old recorded speeches… amazing job.
Download past episodes or subscribe to future episodes of Crimetown by Gimlet Media for free.itunes.apple.com
Reply All is a show about the Internet’s quirky corners. For example, a service that enables your message to be delivered in real life by a person, in the desired ton of voice.
Download past episodes or subscribe to future episodes of Reply All by Gimlet Media for free.itunes.apple.com
Podcasts are much easier to consume than books. You can listen to a Podcast in your commute, wether you are driving or standing in a crowded train. You can listen while you exercise (who would have thought you could lose calories and learn something at the same time?). But a bit like books, there’s genres. Here are a few additional podcasts, that while each is a different genre, they’re equally addictive:
TED Radio Hour— probably my favourite in the non-fiction category. Superbly curated, and Guy Raz is just a pleasure to listen to.
Download past episodes or subscribe to future episodes of TED Radio Hour by NPR for free.itunes.apple.com
The James Altucher Show— James makes a long conversation feel short. He invites his friends (authors, hedge fund managers, marketers, etc) for a chat in the studio, and the lively conversation rarely disappoints.
Download past episodes or subscribe to future episodes of The James Altucher Show by Stansberry Radio Network for free.itunes.apple.com
Masters of Scale—Reid Hoffman delivers Silicon Valley gospel with an impressive roster of guests, but doesn’t take himself too seriously while sharing important information for founders.
Download past episodes or subscribe to future episodes of Masters of Scale with Reid Hoffman by WaitWhat for free.itunes.apple.com
This Much I know— Carlos Eduardo Espinal, a friend, and partner at Seedcamp. Carlos fosters a very honest, natural-flowing conversation (he also kindly had me on the show and gave me an embarrassing nickname).
A few additional honorary mentions would include the Tim Ferris Show, Harry Stebbing’s 20Min VC, about the ins and outs of venture capital, Bloomberg’s Masters in Business and many fascinating lectures and public speakers offered by University podcasts. A few worth mentioning are HBR Ideacast, Building a Business by Oxford University and London School of Economics’ Public lectures and external speakers. So many podcasts, so little time.
Which podcasts do YOU recommend? Please leave a comment and let me know!
Update: Some of you sent some great recommendations, and it would be wrong not to include them as they quickly climbed to the top of my list.
How I built this (NPR)
Guy Raz again (from TED Radio Hour) interviews entrepreneurs for a candid chat on how they started and built their business. Stories like Blake Mycoskie (Toms shoes), Miguel McKelvey (WeWork), Jim Koch (Sam Adams), Troy Carter (Lady Gaga and Atom Factory). And the list goes on. Simply Superb.
Download past episodes or subscribe to future episodes of How I Built This by NPR for free.itunes.apple.com
Mogul (Gimlet Media)
Mogul, the life and death of Chris Lighty, starts at the funeral of this hip hop producer and founder of the label Violator. Chris was a huge deal in the music industry, managing artists like Foxy Brown, Fat Joe, Missy Elliott, Busta Rhymes, LL Cool J, 50 Cent. The podcast is really well done, and the story of Chris is tightly connected to the story of Hip Hop.
Download past episodes or subscribe to future episodes of Mogul: The Life and Death of Chris Lighty by Gimlet Media for…itunes.apple.com
Other recommendations include Revisionist History by Malcolm Gladwell
Download past episodes or subscribe to future episodes of Revisionist History by Malcolm Gladwell / Panoply for free.itunes.apple.com
And the Side Hustle Show by Nick Loper:
Description The Side Hustle Show is the podcast for part-time entrepreneurs who are looking for business ideas…itunes.apple.com