Podcasting sure did get cool

posted by Jeff | Monday, February 1, 2021, 1:00 PM | comments: 0

It's amusing that celebrities all seem to have podcasts now. Diana has been listening to Smartless by Bateman/Arnett/Hayes (she found it particularly hilarious when they did an ad for Manscaped). I've been listening on and off to Dax Shepard's Armchair Expert, and sometimes Alec Baldwin's Here's The Thing. My old standby, of course is Leo Laporte's This Week In Tech, one of the oldest podcasts.

I first saw Leo on the old TechTV cable network, which back in its day was a wonderful niche network for nerds. It was unapologetically geeky, about computers and gadgets and video games and stuff. Comcast bought it in 2004, mostly for the distribution, to merge it with G4. They messed with Leo's contract, and he walked away, relying on his syndicated radio show and appearances on Regis. It was around that time that podcasting was "invented," which is to say someone augmented the RSS schema to include an "enclosure" payload. It had nothing to do with iPods, it was just a name (Apple didn't adopt the feed format for at least a year or two). Leo basically reinvented TechTV as a series of audio shows, and he eventually added video, creating an entire network of his own.

It was simple enough: If you could wire up a microphone to your computer and figure out Skype, you could record a show with your friends no matter where they were. There was free software to edit the audio, and you just needed a place to host the files. That's what made Leo's story so awesome, that he could leverage an existing audience without taking on investors or a working with a "media company."

Being an ex-radio guy, of course I thought that would be fun to do. In 2005, CoasterBuzz was only five-years-old, I was heading toward divorce and looking for things to do. I bought a little Mackie mixer (which is on my desk again, for the radio show I did last year), a phone patch, and was able to do a proper mix-minus to connect people via Skype or phone, so we could have guests. I could have faked some of this with limitation in software, but for a couple hundred bucks, it gave me a lot of flexibility. The CoasterBuzz Podcast debuted September 25, 2005.

Parenthood, changing priorities, and honestly just feeling like there wasn't much to say about the amusement industry news that hadn't been said, we were only doing about one show a month by 2011. After 211 shows, we kind of stopped late that year. We did one more a year later, then a reunion of sorts last year, because Covid. We had a fairly consistent audience, seeing around 10k downloads a week, which I guess was pretty solid at the time. We received a lot of feedback about not doing it anymore, but again, I think we all just felt like it had run its course.

And now, almost a decade later, everyone has a podcast. This Week In Tech has had over 800 shows. Big media companies are trying to work them into their mix of properties. Our car can literally suck a podcast out of the air from anywhere and play it just by searching for it. There was a bizarre article on The Verge about how jobs for podcast production required Pro Tools experience (which is wholly absurd that anyone would use for such a simple thing). It's all surprising because podcasting was another one of those democratizing things that anyone can do, and now it's literally a big production. I feel like I've earned some hipster cred or something that we did a podcast, and stopped doing it, before it was cool.


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