Jun 24, 2022 17:00 PM

The History of Podcasting

Podcasting is an industry with a long and detailed history… so when we try to start mapping out a timeline of the medium, we first need to ask one question:  What exactly is a podcast? and What exactly makes it one?

 If we’re talking about a strict definition, then the most straightforward classification of what a podcast is would be a piece of audio enclosed in an RSS feed’.

The birth of podcasting truly was a collaborative process that includes many different names coming together to develop, create and innovate. Therefore, the medium has a long and rather complicated history.

To the best of our capability, in this article, we’ve outlined a timeline of the key dates and people, which you can explore further below:

Early Innovators to Note:

Adam Curry & Dave Winer

The two people credited with officially inventing the medium of podcasting!

Together, they coded a program called iPodder, capable of downloading internet radio broadcasts direct to their iPods which began to gain ground very quickly.

Ben Hammersley

A writer for The Guardian who wrote an article in early 2004 about the potential he saw for a boom in amateur radio, arguing that the ingredients were all there – mp3 players, web blogging and audio production software etc.

He suggested the name podcasting for the nascent technology and the rest, as they say, is history.

2000:

The concept of enclosing sound files within RSS feeds is first proposed. The idea is developed & implemented by Dave Winer and Adam Curry.

2001:

Dave Winer demonstrates the new RSS enclosure feature by enclosing a Grateful Dead song in his web blog. For its first two years, the enclosure element has relatively few users, with many developers actively avoiding using it.

2003:

  • Christopher Lydon (pictured below), a blogger for Harvard University and New York Times reporter publishes the first original piece of audio to be enclosed in an RSS feed; an interview.
  • The first BloggerCon is organised and held by Winer and Curry. Here, they showcase and publicise iPodder, an RSS-to-iPod script program that moves MP3 files from blogs directly onto iTunes. He encourages other developers to expand and build upon the idea.

2004:

  • Ben Hammersley, a journalist for The Guardian suggests the term ‘Podcasting’ as the name for the emerging technology.
  • Dannie Gregoire, via the mailing list for iPodder, first uses the term ‘Podcasting’ and uses it within the audio-blogging community. He registers several ‘Podcast’-related domains. From here on out, it is adopted by Adam Curry & Dave Winer.
  • The terms ‘Podcasting’, ‘Podcaster’ and ‘Podcast’ blow up in popularity and spread like wildfire throughout blogger community.
  • Doc Searls, a blogger and columnist begins to track how many hits Google finds for the word ‘podcasts’. The first query returns 24 results, increasing to 2,750 in two weeks.
  • Dave Slusher in his audio blog The Evil Genius Chronicles, is the first to use the term ‘Podcast’ within a podcast.

2005:

  • Apple adds Podcasting to its iTunes software update and builds a directory of podcasts in its music store capable of subscribing, downloading, and organising multiple podcasts.
  • Exactly a year after first tracking hits for the word ‘Podcast’ on its search engine, Google finds more than 100 million hits on the word.
  • ‘Podcast’ is named the Word of the Year by the New Oxford Dictionary and is added to Wikipedia.
  • George W. Bush becomes the first President to podcast, when his weekly radio address becomes available to download.

2006:

  • Steve Jobs, during a keynote speech, demonstrates how to make a podcast using the easily accessible software GarageBand, signalling to all competitors that the medium is to be taken seriously.
  • Buckingham Palace releases the first Royal podcast, with the Queen’s yearly Christmas speech being available to download in podcast format.

2007-08:

  • Comedians Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant gain a world record for having the “most downloaded podcast” – averaging over 260,000 downloads a week and 2 million downloads within its first month.
  • The rise of modern smartphones, mobile data and portable internet allow audiences to download audio files on the go, making the medium more accessible and popular.

2009:

  • After five years into their existence, podcasts reach a substantial milestone with Edison Research reporting that near half (43%) of people in the UK and USA had heard of, and listened to, at least one podcast.
  • UFC commentator, Joe Rogan launches the first version of his podcast.

2013-2014:

  • Apple announces that they have reached one billion podcast subscribers.
  • This American Life publishes a new show called Serial, an investigative journalism podcast, which would go on to break multiple awards, including being the fastest podcast ever to reach 5 million downloads on iTunes, popularising the true crime genre and also becoming the first podcast to win a Peabody award.

2015-2016:

  • Spotify joins the podcasting game, adding playback support for podcasts within its platform.
  • According to a Radio Ink study, listeners worldwide are downloading over 1 billion podcasts per month, solidifying it as one of the fastest-growing mediums on the planet.

2017-2019:

  • Spotify opens up podcast creation to the general public, allowing independent users to upload their podcasts direct to their platform. By the end of the year, Spotify listening and creating figures grow by 175%.
  • Spotify acquires a handful of podcasting companies, including Gimlet and Anchor. This brings Anchor’s easy-to-use suite of podcast creation distribution and monetisation tools to Spotify users.
  • GoogleAudible (an Amazon subsidiary) and the BBC both launch their own independent podcast platforms, Google Podcasts and BBC Sounds, respectively.

2020:

  • The Covid-19 pandemic forces people inside. Finding themselves with a lot more time on their hands, people globally start listening to content more so than usual. During this time, podcasting increases in popularity significantly, not just passive listenership but also active creation
  • Being both quicker and cheaper than that of TV and Film production, which requires physical filming space, podcasts become a stronger medium giving audiences the only constant flow of fresh, relevant content during the pandemic.
  • Spotify overtakes Apple as the most-listened-to podcast platform, knocking Apple Podcasts off the top spot for the first time in the medium’s history.
  • Spotify announces that The Joe Rogan Experience will become exclusive to its platform in a licensing deal estimated at around $100 million, making Rogan the highest-paid podcaster of all time. The day after this announcement, Spotify shares increase by 11%.

2021-2022:

  • Spotify trial launches video podcasts to compete with YouTube.
  • Spotify acquire Podsights and Chartable, two companies that allow for marketers, advertisers and creators to measure and track the success of their shows.
  • Spotify announces plans to work on content advisory labels after musicians, Neil Young and Joni Mitchell remove their music from the platform following the spread of COVID-19 vaccine misinformation on the Joe Rogan Experience. This leads to a widespread cultural debate on the regulation of podcasting and responsibility of hosts, regarding information.

We hope you enjoyed reading about the fascinating roots of our industry!

The next big question is… what’s next for podcasting?

The team sit down and predict what the years up to 2030 have in store for podcasting in our next article: The Future of Podcasting!

Posted in: Articles

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