Prior to the ubiquity of the internet, most people were limited in the number of ways they could express their ideas, and the type of audience they could reach. The average person might have exchanged letters, postcards and telephone calls with other individuals. They may have written letters to newspapers and sounded off to their coworkers, or friends at the bar. Many families will be familiar with the tyrannical figure who shouted their opinions at the TV – seemingly oblivious that they were trying to engage with a plastic box. Lucky and opinionated residents of London were free (and still are) to make their way to Speakers’ Corner in Hyde Park, where they could rant and rage about anything from Feminist Anarchist Veganism to the exploitation of bees for their wax and honey.
These days it’s possible for everyone to say what’s on their mind and to also have an audience which is keen to listen and engage with them. It started off with blogging – people would write down their thoughts and post them on a website periodically for others to read and reply to. Of course, expecting people to read in developed Western countries is quite unrealistic in the modern age, and often considered tantamount to abuse. As a result, video blogging on sites like YouTube began to become incredibly popular. Vloggers provided content that was easily accessible and required a minimum amount of effort to be absorbed. Regular bloggers winced with anguish as they saw their audience disappear overnight to watch videos of people talking about other videos and schoolgirls trying on makeup and costumes in their bedrooms.
The problem, however, with video blogs is that they still require a tiny amount of effort on the part of the audience. They are forced to sit in front of a screen for minutes at a time, unable to get away to grab a soda from the fridge, ‘like’ and ‘lol’ their friends’ Facebook pages and check whether their lemon chicken and egg rolls or four-cheese meat lovers’ pizza has arrived yet.
That’s where the success of the podcast lies – the listener is free to pay as little attention as they want, safe in the knowledge that their entertainment – or, more commonly, infotainment – will carry on regardless of whatever else they are doing. Thus you see people boarding trains while listening to podcasts, driving to work, actually pretending to work, in the gym, at school, flying a plane and pretty much anywhere you can think of, listening to podcasts.
What that means for you and me, is that we no longer have to find ourselves being ignored, or suffering the humiliation of having our arguments comprehensively dismantled as soon as we have made them. We can now sit in our bedrooms and set the world to rights, safe in the knowledge that the only people who will hear us already have a sympathetic ear to what we want to say.
Starting up your own podcast isn’t difficult. At the most basic level, you can talk into your phone or Skype and just record what you are saying. Of course, that might work for people who consciously want to be seen to make as little effort as possible, but for audiences who care about what they listen to, you’d better do your research on microphones from somewhere like this site, and choose which one best matches your needs. If you are going to be doing studio-style presenting and interviewing, a shotgun mic is probably the way to go. To record into your computer, you’ll need an audio interface and some audio editing software. Once you are happy with your audio content, clip it, switch it around, add effects, music and so on until you are happy with your first podcast.
Your podcast isn’t actually a podcast until it’s available to be streamed or downloaded (or broadcast live) on the internet. Broadcasting live without an established audience is kind of like shouting out to anyone who might be listening, while you’re stranded alone on a tiny boat in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, 1670 miles from Ducie Island. Launching your podcast like a traditional blog, and supporting it with social media marketing and forum participation is the way to find new listeners.