By Matt Bertram

By Matt Bertram

Matt Bertram, is the lead digital strategist at EWR Digital. He is the co-host of the Best SEO Podcast: Unknown Secrets of Internet Marketing. Currently writes for Search Engine Journal, Forbes and Entrepreneur.

Podcasting has an interesting origin story, one that isn’t straightforward. No single person really invented podcasting but sprung up from a combination of different technological innovations and shifts over a few decades. 

The advent of podcasting was a huge shift in the way that people consume media. The history of podcasts is unusual among other forms of media.  Its rise is a great example of how media and business work together to make something great.

Podcast Origins

Podcasting is a similar medium to AM/FM radio, but its roots come much later in time. Podcasts can trace their origins to the 1980s. Before the rise of the Internet, there was a service that delivered music and audio programs to radio and television stations that is sort of a precursor to the modern podcast.

AOL offered audio-only downloadable shows as early as the 1990s. The beginnings of Internet radio, where you could broadcast stations online, also started rolling out around the same time.

However, podcasting didn’t really take off until the 2000s, when more people had better access to faster Internet. The rise of RSS feeds also helped propel the rise of podcasts. RSS feeds allow you to receive updates from specific websites.

Software developer Dave Winer and MTV host Adam Curry figured out how to attach video and audio files to pages in an RSS feed. This allowed people to receive podcasts in a standardized manner. This way, people could automatically download their podcasts without having to check when a new episode was ready.

The Evolution Of Podcasting

Around 2003 – 2006, podcasting started really taking off.  Liberated Syndication became the first dedicated podcast service provider when it started in 2004. Once Apple added podcasting functions to iTunes and other Apple products, podcasts became even more popular.

In a 2006 speech, Apple Founder Steve Jobs demonstrated how to create a podcast using Apple’s Garage Band software.

In addition, the U.K. comedian Ricky Gervais became one of the first already famous people to start a podcast. The very successful podcast, The Ricky Gervais Show, was adapted for television by HBO and Channel 4.

Going Mainstream

Major news companies like the BBC, CBC, and NPR began releasing podcast recordings soon afterward. Smaller media corporations got on board soon afterward. Eventually, non-media companies started getting on the bandwagon. 

Today, thousands of podcasts are released each week, on every topic under the sun. People start new podcasts on new subjects every day while some podcasts are even released on both audio and video! It seems like there’s nothing stopping podcasts from being successful for a very, very long time. 

Why Are They Called Podcasts?

Ben Hammersley, a journalist for The Guardian, is credited with being the first person to use the term podcast, way back in 2004. It’s easy to guess that podcasts get their name from a portmanteau. The ‘Pod’ part originates from iPods, the device that most people listen to their podcasts on. The ‘Cast’ part comes from broadcast, which is a general term for how communications were aired in the radio age.

Many people and companies have tried to patent the term ‘Podcast’ in the United States, but all have failed. One company did briefly manage to patent the term, but after they went after major podcasts for using the term their patent was eventually thrown out. 

Of course, now you don’t have to listen to your podcasts solely on an iPod. Podcasts are available on tons of different podcatcher applications, and many are available in both audio and visual formats.

The Rise Of Podcasts

Podcasts have risen a lot in popularity over the last decade. In the United States, 22 percent of people were aware of the term ‘podcasting’ in 2006, while 70 percent had heard of it by 2019. 

Many people spend more time listening to podcasts than they do watching tv. In fact, more than half of the people who listen to podcasts spend more time doing so than they do watching television. 

The Podcasting Appeal

Many people find listening to podcasts much more interesting than, say, listening to the broadcast news. Podcasts are a more conversational format than a stilted or scripted show. Listening to a podcast is more like overhearing to a conversation your friends are having or getting a lecture from a teacher in a classroom.

You also don’t have to sit through the boring parts or the advertisements if you don’t feel like it.

The beauty of podcasts is that you can always fast forward and you can even listen to podcasts at a faster speed if you are running short on time. Hey, you can even listen on double speed if you feel like listening to people that sound like chipmunks!

The History Of Podcasts

Throughout its history, there have been podcasts about a wide variety of different topics in a ton of different formats. There are news podcasts and podcasts that are completely fictional. There are comedy podcasts, dramatic podcasts, podcasts about music … the list goes on and on and on.  

There’s even a whole sub-section of podcasts that just focus on reviewing and analyzing reality television.

The Rob Has A Podcast family of podcasts, for example, has been going strong for over ten years now. They focus on talking about the television show ‘Survivor’ and other reality television shows. Rob Has A Podcast actually releases episodes almost every day.

Not to mention, there are dozens of different daily news update podcasts. These podcasts can help you get your daily dose of news in under a half an hour without having to read everything on Twitter.

On the other hand, if you’re more of a news junkie, there are still oodles of podcasts for you. You can listen to in-depth analysis of every single current event under the sun, for every country.

Knowledge Is Power

There are also many different podcasts that give advice and discuss different business strategies and opportunities. The Best SEO podcast is one obvious example of a podcast that can give you advice about your search engine optimization and other strategies to help take your business to the next level.

There are so many other business podcasts to check out to help you with your business needs. You can hear about leadership, digital marketing, social media, small business strategies, content management, and so much more. You just need to keep an eye out for the content you need!

The Business Of Podcasting

Many different companies and people now make money off podcasting, turning it into a valuable business of its own. In recent years, Spotify and iHeartMedia have spent billions of dollars buying podcast networks so that they can jump on the podcast bandwagon. Even Barack and Michelle Obama are planning on getting in on the podcasting game.

Podcasting is a lower-cost medium than other forms, like broadcast television, and it makes it easy to get your content out there, and without a delay.

You can create a podcast with little or no equipment. Plus, it’s relatively simple to produce and release your podcast without a ton of production knowledge.

Really, you just need a plan in mind to execute, brand, and release your podcast, and you’ll be on track to join the podcasting industry in no time at all. 

Money, Money, Money

It’s pretty easy to monetize your podcast, as long as you put your mind to it. There are major podcasting networks that allow advertisers to buy slots on many different related podcasts at once.

Sponsors can also buy spots on one individual podcast if they feel that’s more their speed. Podcasters who have ads on their shows can do individual personalized ad reads or read from a script.

Podcasts can also get money from their listeners, either in a lump sum donation or as part of patronage. Most podcasts offer incentives for joining a podcast’s Patreon.

These can include a secret Facebook group or extra podcasts for members of the Patreon. Some podcasts are offered entirely behind a paywall and require a subscription to access.

Podcasts can also offer Amazon affiliate links so that they can get money for every person who used their link to buy products from Amazon.

These are only a few basic ways that individuals and companies can monetize their podcasts. Plus, they can do it while talking about a topic that interests them. There are tons and tons of more creative ways to make money doing what you love — talking about yourself!

The Future Of Podcasting

The rise of podcasting shows no sign of slowing down in today’s world. People need different things to distract themselves on their busy commutes. Sometimes music doesn’t suit your mood on a particular day.

Plus, there’s such a wide variety of different podcasts, there will always be something to fit with your mood. You can even binge-watch your favorite long-running podcast. 

What’s your favorite podcast? What do you know about the history of podcasts? Contact us and let us know!

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