I like to drive, even if I end up sitting in traffic. I enjoy doing laundry and I take my time folding shirts. I offer to wash the dishes. After all, each of these activities is an excuse to listen to more podcasts.
I have been listening to podcasts for over a decade; I don't remember exactly when I started, but it was around the time Apple took podcasting mainstream - it's from the title of the press release announcing iTunes support for podcasts in 2005.
Since most podcasts were played on iPods (hence the name) already synced with iTunes, Apple's move drastically simplified podcast distribution: just click a button in the music management app you already used, connect the iPod like you already did, and ready! New podcasts ready to be listened to in the car (via your cassette tape adapter), while doing laundry, washing dishes, etc. It was great!
Nor was it in the least mainstream: According to Edison Research, in 2006 only 22% of Americans were familiar with the term "podcasting," and only 11% had heard one.
Both numbers have grown slowly but steadily over the years (55% have heard of podcasting as of this year, and 36% have heard one, and there is actually no apparent rise in 'Serial'), largely helped by the smartphone - by eliminating the need to sync with iTunes, it was much easier to have new podcasts ready.
Still, the challenge remained of creating engaging content, discovering content worth listening to, retaining listeners, and of course paying for everything. You can achieve this goal by creating high-quality content. You need to buy the best microphone to record clear audios.
Podcasting Vs blogging
Late last year, Joshua Benton wrote that podcasting in 2015 looks a lot like a blog circa 2004:
Podcasting is giving me a case of déjà vu… The variety and quality of the work that is being done is exciting; external attention is growing; new formats are evolving. We are seeing the same unlocking of creative potential that we saw with blogging, and much more good work is being produced than anyone has time to take in. The question now is whether the future of podcasting will unfold like the last decade of blogging has.
It's a good observation, but there are important differences if you look at the various factors I alluded to earlier:
Creation: Blogger was launched in 1999 and WordPress in 2003; both required some level of insight, but significantly less than what is needed today to record and mix a podcast. It is also very difficult to get a program to appear in iTunes. This means, by extension, that for all the great podcasts out there today, there were many more blogs.
Distribution: blogs can be read via URLs written in a browser that everyone already uses. Podcasts are much more complicated: you have to search the directory of a third-party podcast player (iTunes or standalone) to add a show, or copy and paste a feed address. Alternatively, you can just listen on a website, but that's a suboptimal experience to say the least.
Discovery: In 2004, most blogs were found from links to popular blogs; nowadays new blogs are often discovered on social networks. Meanwhile, podcasts really do struggle here - yes, iTunes has a front page and black box rating system, but the requirement to download a file and spend time listening makes it difficult for viral spread. Instead, many podcasts are built from established brands like NPR or the personal brands of podcast hosts.
Retention: In 2004, the majority of blog readers returned via bookmarking; more advanced users took advantage of RSS readers who probed sites for new content and downloaded it to a feed. Today, most readers trust social media posts that may or may not be seen. Interestingly, this is where podcasts have an advantage: because they are RSS-based, anyone who “subscribes” through a podcast player automatically downloads podcasts and even receives notifications, making for a very sticky audience. and loyal.
Monetization - Blogs had a short honeymoon period where money could be made from Google AdSense, but revenue soon plummeted as inventory increased dramatically; More devastating, not just for bloggers but for all publishers, was Facebook's absorption of not just what used to be blog content, but publishing dollars as well. Increasingly, the best option for publishers is to simply post directly to Facebook and let them sell ads.