So if you don’t already know, I’m in a radio class where every Tuesday at 1 p.m. we put on a full newscast. It’s called The Rundown, and every week we have a different role. The first week, I was live on location reporting about RAW: almond’s grand opening. The second week, I did a feature story on high sodium levels in restaurant food items. The third week, I reported on all the top headlines of the day, and then last week, Bronwyn Fenn and I made a podcast!
I must admit, I had a blast. For our show, PR&J, we dissected the top headlines of the week — Last Week Tonight with John Oliver style — from a PR and journalist’s point of view. Clever name, eh?
We both agreed we would continue to do the weekly podcast if only we had the time.
Interesting timing too, because I’ve noticed more than ever people are getting into the world of podcasting. My boyfriend and my friend have their own podcast, The Intelli-Gents, my favourite San Diegan blogger recently started podcasting, and everyone and their friend seems to be talking about the Serial podcast (which I inevitably started listening to as well).
And here I was wanting one of my own. I’ve tried on various occasions to get into podcasts, but I failed each and every time (I admit, If I had a phone adapter thingy for my car, I would probably be super into them). I can’t seem to tune in for an hour-long show without zoning out, and at that point I may as well just stop listening. Serial is the closest I’ve come to actually getting into a podcast, and even that remains a struggle.
I wanted to know how some people do it, and what it was about this unique platform that has so many people talking. So, I sat down with a local podcaster, Matt Moskal, to chat about his show, The Supporting Act, and why he so frequently tunes in.
The podcast revolution
How more people than ever are tuning in
Whether you’re into in-depth conversations with your favourite celebrity, learning random facts or dissecting each and every episode of the X-Files, podcasts pretty much cover it all.
Matt Moskal listens on a daily basis and creates his own weekly podcast. The Supporting Act Podcast was voted Favourite Local Podcast in The Uniter 30 this year.
“It’s my reason for talking to people some days, it’s a social experience,” said Moskal. “Also it’s fun to take two hours out of your day and put on the head phones and open up. It’s like therapy.”
Moskal, who has a degree in journalism, started listening to podcasts in 2010 as a way to enjoy his favourite CBC radio shows without having to listen to everything in between.
“They’re all I listen to,” said Moskal. “I don’t think I’ve bought an album in a while, I’ve just been listening to podcasts.”
Many people have done the same. Each year, the number of people who tune in to podcasts has grown. It jumped from 11 per cent in 2006 to 30 per cent in 2014, according to a report compiled by Edison Research and Triton Digital.
“Once the NPR [National Public Radio] vault got opened, that’s when things got intense,” said Moskal. “That’s when I realized that you can have something journalistically sound but light-hearted, and you can also have something just completely goofy but somehow manages to hit all the notes that a journalist should in a conversation.”
But it wasn’t until 2012 when Moskal really got into the world of podcasts, subscribing to WTF with Marc Maron (a comedian who talks with other comedians), Nerdist with Chris Hardwick (a TV host who interviews celebrities), and Comedy Bang! Bang! with Scott Aukerman (an improv sketch show that got so popular it now has a TV show). In fact, that’s when a lot of people really starting downloading and subscribing, too. Podcast subscriptions through iTunes reached one billion in 2013, according to a Sept. 2014 article by the Washington Post.
Instead of creating broad content that appeals to a wide variety of people — like the business model of old media — podcasts are very niche. There are podcasts for book lovers, movie fanatics, video game nerds, historians and jocks alike. You name it, there’s probably a podcast for it.
Along with how directed podcasts can be, Moskal said he enjoys how the host can delve deeper into a subject and have longer, intimate conversations with guests.
“Marc Maron once famously said, ‘You can’t hide from somebody for a whole hour,’ when he was talking about his show. And you can’t,” said Moskal. “By the end of that hour, some degree of truth will come out of that person, and that’s something I wasn’t able to get in journalism school or doing campus radio.”
Moskal also said a big reason podcasts are popular is because of the hour-long format. If listeners don’t have a full hour to dedicate to a show, it allows them to pick up where they left off. He also said it’s not trying to get from point A to point B too quickly — like most shows streaming live over the airwaves.
“It takes a long deep breath in a medium that traditionally takes very short bursts of breaths,” said Moskal.
Dan Vadeboncoeur, a Red River College radio instructor and the creator of the Manitoba Podcast Network, agreed. He said his favourite aspect of podcasts is the convenience to listen whenever he wants.
“We PVR TV shows to watch them when we want to. We stream movies and TV from Netflix when it’s convenient for us. We stream music playlists on Rdio and Spotify when we find it convenient instead of listening to the radio. As a whole, we are not beholden to broadcast schedules anymore, and podcasts fit right in with that,” said Vadeboncoeur.
Not only are podcasts becoming more mainstream — Saturday Night Live recently did a Serial Podcast parody, and HBO’s Girls character Hannah listens to This American Life — but competition is growing. Stitcher, a podcast streaming app, grew from 5,000 available podcasts in 2011 to 18,000 in 2013. So not only are more people listening, more people are creating.
“Our local [podcast] community is growing,” said Vadeboncoeur. “More and more people want to start their own podcasts. At Comic Con last fall we had tons of people wanting to know how to do it and looking for instruction on the subject. I would guess that there are close to 30 locally-produced podcasts that I know of.”
As for Moskal, he said creating content is therapeutic and pressing ‘submit’ and seeing his artwork on his iTunes playlist or his podcast app is a phenomenal feeling.
“You feel present even if you have a limited audience. You’re a podcaster. You’re part of the game.”