The Resurrection Of Podcasting

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Does anyone listen to podcasts anymore? Does anyone even care?

This past week, I published episode #321 of my weekly audio podcast (Six Pixels of Separation – The Twist Image Podcast). Each week I have a conversation with someone interesting in the media, marketing, advertising, business book or personal development space. I’ve been at it since 2006, and I have no idea if anyone listens or cares about it. iTunes will tell me that it’s popular (it ranks high on their Management and Marketing chart), but I don’t look at my analytics. I consider the podcast my guilty pleasure. It’s a chance to corner someone I like, respect and/or am interested in and ask them anything and everything that I am curious about. Beyond that, it’s a bit of a lab for me as well – a place to experiment with audio content and create the kind of audio you can’t typically hear on the radio. The social media by-product is that I freely publish the conversation (unedited) for all to hear, share, comment and connect with.

Podcasting was supposed to be "the next big thing."

Podcasting (both audio and video) came hot on the heels of blogging. It seemed like podcasting could do to radio what blogging was doing to print (namely, creating an entirely new genre with an even more impressive roster of new thinkers). It hasn’t happened. Some will blame the fact that it’s called "podcasting," while others will claim that it’s still not intuitive or easy to find and download the content. Everyone will agree that it hasn’t exploded in popularity like blogging has, and that it’s even harder to figure out where the money is when it comes to podcasting.

That could all change.

I have no data to back up this thought. There are no statistics to quantify my thinking, but it feels like podcasting is about to turn a corner. There are a handful of podcasts that are acting as a key leading indicator that consumers have an appetite for longer, in-depth and content rich audio programming. In short, everything that you thought the Internet wasn’t about in a world of 140 character tweets, Facebook status updates and YouTube viral video sensations. These deep and rich treasure troves of content are also gaining mainstream attention, and it all seems to be drawing more and more energy towards podcasting: a medium that many have already written off.

Five podcasts that could resurrect the medium (in alphabetical order): 

  • Foundation with Kevin Rose. He co-founded Digg, Pownce, Revision3 and sold his latest start-up, Milk, to Google where he is currently working on their venture fund. This video podcast features Rose in conversation with other start-up founders and soon-to-be icons of Silicon Valley. The conversations are all personal and profoundly powerful as the show provides a live commentary on how business – as we have known it – is changing. This podcast is documenting the fast rate of change.
  • Here’s The Thing with Alec Baldwin. Did you know that award-winning actor, Alec Baldwin, had a podcast? I didn’t. Music pundit, Bob Lefsetz, turned me on to this audio podcast. A new episode comes out every two weeks, and if his episodes with Billy Joel and David Letterman are any indicator of success, this podcast is going to become massively popular. Turns out that Mr. Baldwin doesn’t have to just stick to his day job. He’s a great podcast host.
  • Nerdist Podcast with Chris Hardwick. With over 1.6 million followers on Twitter, Chris Hardwick is riding the wave of Geek Culture. Along with being an actor and stand-up comic, Hardwick’s eclectic podcast brings interviews and conversations with everyone from Ozzy Osbourne to Tina Fey. It’s a great show that also features some of his friends, improv madness and more. It’s a beacon for creative ways to use audio. And yes, this is the kind of stuff you will never hear on radio.
  • Pursuit of Spark with Julie Burstein. I became a major fan of Julie Burstein after reading her book, Spark – How Creativity Works (which she co-wrote with Kurt Anderson and was based on her award-winning radio show, Studio 360 with Kurt Andersen for Public Radio International). You can imagine how amazing it is for someone with that kind of depth in radio to make the move over to podcasting, and Burstein does not disappoint. With this podcast, the discussion is with people from all walks of life who are pursuing their ideas with creativity, and are willing to discuss the challenges and passion of living a life fulfilled.
  • WTF with Marc Maron. Where did Marc Maron come from? How is it that almost every name in comedy is ready to line-up and be a part of his podcast? If you dig a little bit, you’ll uncover a rich career of stand-up comedy and acting, but these deep dives into the lives of comedians (and now entertainers and musicians) is one of the best regular pieces of audio content you will find anywhere (podcasts ad beyond). Maron makes each show deeply personal and you feel like you are, literally, sitting there on the couch right next to him as some of the world’s funniest entertainers talk serious about their craft.

It’s getting better every day.

Are more people listening? Maybe not. But, with content this strong (and more and more people entering the fray with niche content), perhaps we’re about to see the first time – in the history of the Internet – where "build it and they will come" becomes a truism rather than a cautionary tale.

Do you listen to podcasts? Which podcasts have captivated your attention? 

The above posting is my twice-monthly column for The Huffington Post called, Media Hacker. I cross-post it here with all the links and tags for your reading pleasure, but you can check out the original version online here:


  1. Podcasters might enjoy the process of creating this content, but if audience reach is your goal, you are better off creating other forms of media.
    I believe that people just dont have the time to listen.
    I represent clients who have been approached by “online radio networks” to do podcasts series and supposedly gain wide audience reach. There is a hefty price tag for my client to “take advantage of this platform” The salesfolks are dazzling with the technology and luring with the notion that the client will be speaking to people who in fact aren’t there. They dont have the verified numbers to back up their promise of audience delivery.

  2. It’s strange because when the large media orgs started to repurpose into podcasting i saw drop off….but I am on Show 399 of The Engaging Brand and the audience is flourishing….and even the guests….for instance a few shows ago I interviewed Sir Terry Leahy who was responsible for the growth of Tesco in the UK into the no 1 spot and global expansion.
    Now I don’t do the podcast for reach, I do it to give back and it is a brilliant way to learn – like you Mitch! But I am seeing really good growth…I wondered whether it is because of the saturation of iPhones or just as the media outlets advertise the term podcasting, us independents are picking up the curious and the people who want to hear someone not asking the scripted questions?

  3. Hey Mitch,
    I am a huge fan of podcasts and yours is a must listen to every week. What I like about podcast is that they allow you to learn while you are on the go. Some weeks I don’t have a lot of extra time to read all of the blogs I would like to but podcasts don’t take up extra time as I can listen to them while driving to work or while walking my dog.

  4. I used to think I didn’t have the attention span to listen to podcasts or watch long videos — yes, how sad. I had enough attention for blog posts, but wanted to save any “long-form” attention for books. But then Jeff Cobb mentioned his “learning walks” in this post about your interview with Ben Casnocha –
    Learning walks?! That’s so me, I thought. I listened to that particular podcast of yours the next morning while out on a long walk. Since then I’ve listened to many podcasts, yours included, plus recordings of NPR and PRI shows, not only while walking but also while cooking and driving. I think podcasts are here to stay as long as we figure out how to fit learning and listening into our lives. Thanks for recommending a few more!

  5. Confession time. I knew nothing about podcasts. My kid, he’s fifteen or sixteen at the time, is wearing me out about listening to these things. He’s raving about them as I’m brushing him off. Well, one day he’s back on his soapbox podcast speech and I’m trying to tell him I’m busy and don’t have time. He calls me an “old Fart”. Now that hurt cuz I’m thinking I’m pretty hip for 50 plus, but it struck me as funny and it did get my attention. He’s not your normal kid for sure. He starts telling about all the cool things he’s learning and interesting ideas he’s getting from these podcasts. Now I’m interested cuz even an old Fart can learn some cool stuff from the kids. So he fires up his iPod and I’m listening and he’s right. This is neat stuff. It was Twist Image podcast # 123 and best I can remember (I’m an old Fart) it was about Wikipedia. I was hooked. So my kid introduced me to podcasts and Twist Image at the same time. I told you he’s not a normal kid and he’s still teaching me today. He’s my “what’s new this week” go to guy. Only lately he’s telling me he doesn’t have time – he’s too busy (touché). Then with a quip…he’s say’s “Dad, just catch up at ‘The Image'”.

  6. I listen to loads of podcasts and think 6PS is great. There is some research out there on the rise of podcasts.
    Just find it strange you don’t check how many people listen. Is this normal

  7. There are essentially two kind of poscasts I listen to: the first category is yours, a category in itself. It’s always entertaining and instructive and thought provoking and I never miss one. Thank you so much for making them.
    The other kind of podcasts I listen to are radio shows, those I’ve missed from my local stations, or, thanks to the technology of podcasting, radio shows from another part of the world. For instance, I listen to this very good French radio show : La Place de la toile, from France’s public radio, France Culture. It’s about the impacts of the digital revolution on society. I recommend it to anyone who understands French:

  8. I’m glad to see podcasts getting their due. I got into podcasts through the awesome (and very nerdy) 5by5 network ( From there I’ve found many more genres I enjoy, from marketing to entertainment, but tend towards those with high production values and great storytelling, like Radio Lab ( or great personalities (like 70decibels and Mule).
    I work in marketing now, and with a small budget we have focused a lot of our advertising with podcasts. We tried it based on our personal experience, knowing firsthand how memorable the other sponsors are. It’s proven to be one of the best performing mediums for us.
    The audience might be smaller, but the engagement is through the roof.

  9. My must-listen podcasts are (of course) Six Pixels, Mr. Penn’s Marketing Over Coffee, and SocialPros. I don’t know why, but since Apple added the “Podcasts” icon to my iPhone it’s made them a bit more top of mind for me. I know it makes no sense, since I already could easily access them in my iTunes…must be psychological.

  10. Hi Mitch. Thanks, as usual, for sparking an interesting conversation. I’m currently writing a follow up post on this very subject, which I’ll post tomorrow on our blog. I LOVE podcasts, but only for consuming content in more detail and while I’m on the go. I don’t usually sit down at my desk and listen to a podcast in depth on a new subject. Rather, I’ll listen to a podcast to learn an expert’s perspective on an interest area that I’ve previously researched. I find it cumbersome to learn something entirely new from a podcast, and I’ll usually turn to blogs or research reports for those details. Like the radio, I prefer listening to podcasts while travelling, or cleaning the house πŸ™‚ I look forward to interviewing you this Friday for IABC’s The Voice…I sure hope we’ll get some listeners!

  11. I personally love podcasts, and I discovered podcasts once I received my first iPod and learned that I could not only use it to listen to music, but download audiobooks in place of reading them for school assignments (thus allowing for the ability to multi-task), as well as to download podcats for free as a supplement to learning. I have since made it a habit of listening to podcasts by subscribing to certain channels I’m interested in … which I usually listen to while doing other things like exercising, driving to and from work, doing housework, etc. I think that podcasts are an underutilized medium but only becuase it takes some time to search out, test, and find podcasts or channels that are of particular interest. This may be more work than most people are willing to do in order to locate something they like … I’ve found a lot of channels and podcasts that have been a complete waste of time so I tend to stick to listening to just a few that I trust will put out good content. The thing about podcasting is that anyone can create one, and in my experience the only way I’ve found podcasts has been by searching on iTunes. Podcasts aren’t really something I’ve heard much discussed either on social channels or in friendship circles. I think they have yet to break into the mainstream even though many people may already be listening to them on a regular basis. I’d love to see statistics on who listens to podcasts, how podcasts are located, and the reasons why other people choose to listen to them.

  12. This is hard to admit. I have a podcast with 180+ episodes (Riscario Insider on iTunes). I spoke at Podcamp Toronto this year. Yet I don’t listen to podcasts regularly.
    There’s no easy way to share snippets of a podcast. If there were transcripts, we could. It’s too time consuming to create a synopsis. It’s not practical to tell others to start listening at 3:42 for 78 seconds.
    My podcast is just me reading my blog post. The audience then has a choice of text or audio formats. I started podcasting to make sure the words flow, improve my voice and learn audio editing. Reaching another audience is a nice side benefit.
    PS I like the Six Pixels podcast but have only listened to several episodes.

  13. I listen to TWiT and Frogpants. Occasionally listen to other stuff if it’s mentioned on those two networks.

  14. I feel like I’ve been aware of Podcasts forever, or what seems like a really long time, but I was never a listener until the past year or so. I’ve certainly made up for lost time, however, as I’ve become a veracious consumer – with several iPods bursting at the seams, filled with gooey audio goodness.
    Beyond the titanic ton of top quality marketing related content, which I adore, the Comedy genre offerings are stunning! Greg Fitzsimmons – Howard Stern contributor with his own bi-monthly show on Howard’s SiriusXM channel Howard 101 – hosts an absolutely fantastic weekly podcast with a myriad A-list comedy talent!
    And Twist Image, Professor Joel, is right up at the top of my list. Thanks for all your great work – please keep it up!

  15. I’ve been listening to podcasts almost since the beginning and examined ways to incorporate them into education. This is one way for me to stay current in my field (and I’ve career changed a few times). Current favorites are most of the TWiT podcasts, Nerdist is an absolute must along with Thrilling Adventure Hour. I also occasionally listen to Marc Maron, Penn’s Sunday School and will have to check out your podcast and Alec Baldwin’s. I’ve found my college age son and his friends listen to podcasts regularly as well. These are great for work and travel time.

  16. I have always felt podcasts represent the opportunity to be the fly on the wall of conversations I would have previously never have been able to be listen to. I think the opportunity to listen to a discussion between thought leaders is greatly unappreciated.
    Whether it is 6PS, Social Pros, LSE or Entrepreneurial Thought Leaders the amount of free education coupled with the easy consumption of podscasts has made them a main staple in my week. Thanks.

  17. I posted this comment twice to the Huffington Post article, but it never got published. So I am repeating it here.
    I began my podcasting production practice right around the 2005-2006 timeframe when Mitch and others were first evangelizing for this robust communications technique. I realized that corporations would use this technology if the content was professionally produced and sounded like NPR. Since that time, we’ve produced audio and video content from clients that has garnered half a dozen awards from the communications professional organizations we belong to. We’ve had more than 600,000 downloads of our audio podcasts, and tens of thousands of views of our video content.
    The point of podcasting for businesses, however, is not to be viral or trendy. It is to allow the business to showcase its subject matter expertise, or its thought leadership in its industry sector, so they can demonstrate their ability to solve the business problems of their target audience. It doesn’t matter if we don’t get millions of downloads for a podcast, if we get the right 2,000 downloads from people who need our client’s information.
    It’s also important to realize that a podcasting strategy that includes regularly publishing high quality audio and video, properly metatagged and keyworded, and delivered through a robust CMS-based website (we love WordPress for this), will raise your visibility quite effectively in search results, without resorting to SEO/SEM games that risk getting you spanked by Google. Organic production of audio and video content is one of the best things you can do to raise your visibility. That’s why podcasting should be part of every company’s social media strategy.
    Steve “@PodcastSteve” Lubetkin
    Managing Partner, Lubetkin Global Communications/Professional Podcasts LLC
    [email protected]

  18. We are a small company (INO Broadcasting) that started making hyper-local New Orleans podcasts to fill the gap in decidedly non-local radio. We have become popular in New Orleans and with new Orleanians in exile, and now one of our podcasts – a show about local business called Out to Lunch – has joined the lineup of the local NPR affiliate.

  19. Dear Mitch,
    4 months ago I fell in love with podcasts because of your weekly Six Pixels of Separation. I never listened to podcasts but when I heard yours I was hooked. Now every Monday morning I can’t wait for you to say, ‘So who are you and what do you do?’ I listen to you as I drive to work and you have become my teacher and mentor. Your interviews are amazing, your discussions thought provoking and I am a loyal fan. I’m currently reading your book and I promote your podcast to everyone I know…heck that song at the end of every episode has even started to grow on me. If you wonder if anyone is listening, please know that we are and keep doing what you are doing.
    Your virtual student and mentee,
    Jonathan Chiriboga

  20. I started a podcast for a Nashville business incubator called Jumpstart Foundry. Each episode features a 15 minute interview with a successful entrepreneur. It’s been fun podcasting again after all these years. You should be a guest Mitch!
    I recently created this list to share my favorite podcasts, and to encourage others to add their favs too:

  21. I remember the day well, in August 2009, that I discovered podcasts. As a business communicator, I began exploring how social media could be used as a business tool. My research led me to podcasts — not only as a method, but as an incredible resource. I’m still listening to the first podcast I cam across, For Immediate Release (FIR; by Hobson and Holtz). It may have been through that podcast that I was introduced to Six Pixels.
    Recently, I discovered the Radio Lingua podcast (again, through FIR) and am thrilled that the eight years I spent learning French are not all lost, as Radio Lingua’s audio lessons on “Coffee Break French” are exactly what I need to round out my language skills. “One Thing In a French Day” — another language learning podcast — has since been added to my subscriptions.
    I also download podcast posts from my favorite radio station.
    I regularly take long drives to go skiing or when I visit my family a thousand miles away. In fact, I just got back from the Midwest and was able to catch up on Six Pixels while in the car. That’s why I’m on the site right now, because I’m checking out all the great links you talked about in your interviews.
    I should mention, too, that I love David Usher’s music. After hearing his song on your podcast, about a year ago I checked out his site and found that all of his music is great.
    Thanks for a wonderful show, Mitch. Podcasts are my favorite method for learning, and yours is right there at the top of my list.

  22. Thanks, Danielle! I’m using podcasts to augment my French studies. I’ve added La Place de La Toile to my feed and am listening to it right now. (I don’t understand it very well, but it’s great practice!)

  23. I think that our expectations of how podcasting is embraced is based on the false promise that “podcasting is to radio what blogging is to print.” It is not.
    Podcasting is to radio what a DVR (or TiVO) is to live TV. It’s the ability to consume audio content at your convenience. Just like a DVR demands that the user is familiar with its interface, podcasting demands familiarity with interfaces. And that, in my opinion, has been the main obstacle.
    The more we make the interface seamless, the easier it is for podcasts to be popular. Approaches like Stitcher are moves in the right direction.
    Good discussion!
    Cesar Abeid
    Construction Industry Podcast

  24. I look at it differently. It’s been alive and well this whole time, but has been deepening it’s roots below the surface, popping up once in a while since the seed was planted. Some of us have been watching it closely, others not so much.
    I do however seem to see more attention being given to it in the past 6 months or so.
    I do think part of the reason it never “took off” in some peoples minds was that they their expectations were unrealistic. It wasn’t what they thought it was. It was something else entirely. As people have slowly “gotten it” it has been something very worthwhile to those doing it. BlogWorld NYC had many stories about bloggers who found a whole new audience after adding podcasting to their mix.
    Remember this, Blogs were around many years before they became mainstream too.

  25. Mitch, when I was working in radio as a journalist and a radio host, we didn´t really care about the listeners. We had no desire to hear from them, we really didn´t like to talk to them, even, when they called os to talk to us about our content.
    THAT is so completely different in podcasting. It is not a one-way-medium. And if a podcaster wonders if “there is anybody out there”, he/she should start asking more.
    Like Cliff Ravenscraft says: if you wanna grow an audience: Find personal information about 50 of your listeners, or just 10. Facts like, names, where do they live, what are their jobs, their family situation, etc..
    This you should do for two main reasons. To make the image of your listeners less blurred to yourself, and to show them you care.
    I don´t understand why so many people have this desire to state that podcasting is dead. I don´t get it.
    I now it is not. At least the people who produce podcasts and listen to them are very much alive. And believe me, I check in quite often.
    There is a pulse. There is life.

  26. We have posted hundreds of podcasts too. I left radio to pursue building my own brand using new media and I absolutely love the creative freedom it offers! I agree with Suzanne Little that it is important to provide content in multiple formats (we provide a text version for those who prefer to read and will be incorporating more video). But how cool to see some of the podcasters I’ve looked up to from the beginning: Chris (Amateur Traveler) and Karin Hoegh commenting here too! Thanks for the encouraging post Mitch.

  27. For me, the problem’s the quality.
    I don’t mean the quality of the content – when compared to ‘traditional’ blogging (that is, stuff that’s typed) the quality suffers in two ways. Firstly, because people tend to just talk in a podcast there’s no editing and therefore (often) precious little thought or editing-as-you-type. Because editing an audio file is harder than editing a typed document there’s often less editing-after-the-event, too. πŸ™
    The other big way a podcost suffers compares to typed stuff is the quality of the recording. The mics, the recording equipment, the background noise….. the problems down the phone for interview… it all seems a bit, well, amateur. Of course, plenty of traditional bloggers are amateur too, but the entry-level tech works better than it does for podcasts.
    …. and dont’ even get me started on vidcast quality! πŸ™‚

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