Podcasts Reaching Audiences Radio Once Owned

Blogs bubbled out of the tar pits of the Internet in the peeping dawn of the new millennium, a democratic upsurge that would enable every caliber and denomination of writer to live the dream of being his or her own pamphleteer, creating a global village of town criers, a cacophonous shout. Today the shouting is mostly a distant growl. Energies that formerly drove current-events blogging have been largely rerouted into Facebook posts, Twitter buckshot, or, on the pro level, “hot takes” that make an immediate splat and drive traffic. And for those who find writing an outmoded activity, like taking up the banjo, there’s Instagram, Snapchat, Pinterest, and similar galleries for eye-grazers. But the screen devices that enslaved our gaze and bathed it in artificial moonlight also gave birth to an audio renaissance—the rise of the podcast.

Podcasts are essentially radio on the installment plan, a return to the intimacy, wombed shadows, and pregnant implications of words, sounds, and silences in the theater of the mind. As commercial radio trashed itself with too many commercials, demographic narrowing (in many markets, pitching to the Aging Angry White Male), and the incessant pandering of the religious/right-wing tom-tom drums, podcasts redeemed the medium by restoring its lost creative promise. Instead of peddling itself to demographic markets, it appealed to interests, enthusiasms, and the oral tradition of storytelling, and for every interest there’s a flock of podcasts vying for attention....

- James Wolcott, Vanity Fair



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