When MTV first played “Video Killed the Radio Star” in the early ‘80s, no one knew how watching music videos would change the way we listen to music.
Fast forward to 2004 when former MTV VJ Adam Curry figured out a way to download online audio broadcasts to his music player for his listening pleasure. No one knew his personal project would change the way we listen to the radio.
In a wired age, “radio” shows can now be downloaded from the Internet. These shows are called podcasts. These little portable nuggets of audio are a blend of two words – the Apple iPod music player and the term “broadcasting.” A podcast’s length may be longer than your average MP3 track but shorter than your downloadable audiobook.
You can find a podcast for almost any subject matter, any length, in any language. They can be repeats from a live television or radio broadcast, a documentary, a verbal show, even a music program. Unlike in broadcast, the episodes can be sporadic, and can vary on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis.
Podcasts have been an essential ingredient in enriching our online experience of consuming and creating original content—from watching videos, to reading blogs and interacting with other people through social media. According to Paul Aflalo, there is a lot of great local material just waiting to be discovered.
Aflalo is one of the co-founders of No More Radio (NMR), a Montreal-based podcast network. The network began its operations in 2011 after finding out that its former show on CJLO, called “Edge of the City,” was gaining more online followers than its radio audience.
As a substantial growth in audience listenership developed, more original shows were added, ranging on various subject matters: arts, city life, local music and storytelling.
In a phone interview with Aflalo, he explained that the transition from being in radio to being online was not too difficult.
“The difference is that we miss CJLO, it was nice to have a studio set-up for us…but we also wanted to grow beyond that,” he said.
Since podcasts are not broadcasted live—they are recorded, edited and distributed on various platforms—he explains that there is more opportunity to fix any rough patches in the production process.
Another advantage to producing them is the creative freedom to air unique programs.
“We don’t have commercial breaks, nor advertisers where we have to appeal to them every single time. We work based on the content and creativity that drives us,” he said.
It’s a win-win situation for a listener who can be really picky about what they want to listen to.
He explains that, “It’s just not about how technology is changing, but it’s about how you can create better things.”
As the popularity of podcasts continues to grow, the question remains on whether it’s here to stay.
“So [where will we be] in ten years from now? I have no idea. In five years from now, I have no idea,” he said.
Five podcasts you should check out
Podcasts may be mistakenly known as shows that you can simply download and sync to your iPod or iPhone. However, getting them on your mobile device or computer has now become as easy as ever.
Since online streaming has become the norm, you can find them easily on the web on sites such as TuneIn Radio or Podomatic. If you’re more of a road warrior, you can download a free smartphone app such as Podkicker (Android), the stock Podcasts app (iPhone) or specialty apps such as Mixcloud and Soundcloud to check out a catalog of shows to listen to. The best part is that it is absolutely free!
And while you’re searching, here’s some interesting picks that you should check out.
1) Welcome to Night Vale. Commonplace Books (Comedy/Music)
With new episodes twice a month in 30-minute segments, WTNV talks about oddities and strange sightings of the fictional dark desert town of Night Vale, through the voice of community radio host Cecil Baldwin. It’s part-storytelling, part-commentary, part-music. The series has acquired a huge fan following over this past summer because of its creepily unique charm. Don’t dare listen to it while you’re out late at night. Just saying.
2) Snap Judgment. NPR (Spoken Word/Music)
With new hour-long shows released on a weekly basis plus hundreds of episodes under its belt, Snap Judgment reinvents storytelling in a very creative way by blending together music, creativity and authenticity, while having fun at it. Host Glynn Washington weaves together and navigates you around several real-life stories focusing on a central theme.
3) 99% Invisible. Public Radio Exchange (Storytelling/Design)
This podcast talks about design in all of its aspects and how it affects our lives in ways we don’t even realize. On an almost weekly basis, host Roman Mars presents each story with his soothing voice and welcoming approach to design that encourages you to engage, learn and interact with it. The best part is that each episode is not overwhelming to listen to—with shows that range from five to 20 minutes each.
4) Daybreak Montreal Podcast. CBC Radio (News/Information)
Released on a daily basis all-year round, this podcast is an extension of CBC Montreal’s morning radio program Daybreak, hosted by Mike Finnerty. Just imagine yourself lounging at the coffee shop with the hosts talking about what happened in the day’s news, or how each columnists’ segment went on air; while listening to stories and interviews that aired on the live show. It’s a great listen if you’re travelling far away and need your local fix.
5) Wait, wait…Don’t Tell Me! NPR (News/Game/Comedy)
This show is a successful cross-section of news, comedy and gaming done well. It’s also perhaps one of the few successful news quiz programs on radio today. “Wait Wait!” is hosted by Peter Sagal, and legendary Public radio newscaster Carl Kasell. Together they test three comedians on their familiarity with the week’s news. It’s a great panacea whether you need to catch up on news you’ve missed, or when you need a good laugh after hearing of all the bad news.