Saturday, November 22, 2014

Oh, The Audacity.

Radio, TV, newspapers, and magazines are all sources that deliver information. Once digital devices became a modern portable accessory, those were a new way to access the same stories.

Then it went one step further where news wouldn't even have to be read - our ears could do all the work.

Instead of just listening to music at work or while doing other activities, why can't there be another form of audio to consume? With that thought came the birth of the podcast.
When I was in college studying Journalism in 2008, it was the early stages of the podcast revolution. No one really knew what they were exactly - was it just another form of radio? Even though our professors still struggled to understand it completely, we were tasked to create podcasts for numerous assignments.

With the in between nature of the profession, it was a weird time to study journalism. Some of my professors were in denial that new forms of media were going to completely take over. Even spending time during class helping out at established businesses like The Seattle Times, I picked up that even big time editors were naiive to the change in times.

Now six years later, we all know how wrong they were. Podcasts have become the forefront of media. Anyone who is anyone has a podcast. Chris Hardwick had a funny antidote about that, and yes I heard it on his podcast. Hosting a podcast is so common among actors/comedians that  Hardwick told a story about attending a party at Sarah Silverman's house where she had actually posted a sign on her door that read, "Please no podcast soliciting." As in, all the party guests couldn't spend all night bothering each other to be on their various podcasts.

Famous people have ruled over the medium, but really, anyone can make a podcast. Audio recording/editing programs like Audacity are free. It's the same one I used it college and many established podcasts companies use it as well. I have recently been brushing up my skills in Audacity, editing the early stages of a podcast my brother and his friends are creating. Instead of just listening to a podcast, it's been fun helping to create one.

Most of the time I'll still be sticking to just listening. This whole podcast thing has yet to catch on with everyone, but that's soon to change, especially since one show in particular is sweeping the nation right now.  Those that haven't gotten addicted to any podcasts yet, there are some suggestions below.

This American Life 

Roughly one hour spent on a few different stories that all fall under the same theme - that is the essence of This American Life, a radio program that has been airing for nearly 20 years.

The show still airs every Sunday, but it is also released in podcast form. That way you can listen to it at your own convenience.

What makes the show well done is how host Ira Glass and the other contributors focus on humdrum topics that most other entertainment producers would ignore. This American Life acknowledges that within those everyday experiences are fascinating stories.

Recently the show devoted an entire episode to the workers at a car dealership. Trust me if I didn't think Mr. Glass had lost his mind. Again, they proved me wrong. The show instantly made me want to run out to the nearest car dealer just to support a potential salesperson stressing about meeting their sales quota. Yes, this show made me care about sales quota's.

The Frame

There are many podcasts out there for news junkies looking to keep up on current events (BBC Global News is just one). For those more focused on finding out the latest in the world of movies, The Frame is where it's at.  

Unlike most other pop culture oriented podcasts, this one is released daily, perfect for covering the latest news whenever it happens.


The podcast currently sweeping the nation is focused on one real life murder mystery. Each episode of Serial reveals a little bit more information about the case, which continually messes with the perception of who seems innocent and who may be the killer.

As of right now, the amount of projected episodes seems to be unknown. In that case, no one can be really sure how the story will end. Other fans might know more than me, since I'm perpetually avoiding Google searching the podcast, afraid that something will be ruined.  

Serial is using a different format than TV, but still feeding America's obsession with crime shows. It may not be Law and Order, or CSI, or one of those other shows, but who needs a script when life throws unpredictable twists that are more shocking than anyone could even write.


When it comes to the quintessential celebrity interview podcast, the Nerdist started it all. Radio shows like NPR's Fresh Air have been doing interviews with famous people for years, but Nerdist creator Chris Hardwick has become the master of the conversational interview. Many tight lipped celebs lighten up under this breezy format more than on any other traditional chat show.

Almost more enjoyable than hearing in depth stories from your favorite actor/musician/comedian, is the occasion when Hardwick's sidekicks, Matt Mira and Jonah Ray, join him for episodes (called "Hostfulls") where they just goof off. Most frequently they mock Mira's obsession with Frasier, but these three talk about whatever comes to mind in a relaxed banter that makes you feel like you're listening to some really hilarious friends having a great time.

Pop Culture Happy Hour

The Frame might be the best place to hear the scoop on entertainment news, but Pop Culture Happy Hour provides the greatest recommendations for the best new book, movie, song, tv show, comic book or anything else that fall under the umbrella of pop culture.

Each hour episode is lead by a round table of the same NPR writers and they talk about several different topics. They might have all gone to see the same movie or watched an awards show and they all give their critiques. Every episode ends with the panelists revealing, "what is making them happy this week."

Aside from the longer episodes, they have also been releasing "Small Batch" reports throughout the week. One of these this week was about all the hubub over Serial. One point of the conversation brought up the fact that Slate has a podcast about Serial.  In the sense, Pop Culture Happy Hour might have become the first podcast to talk about the podcast focused on another podcast. The world is collapsing within itself.

How many times can you say podcast? Podcast!

I explained only five of my favorites above, but that didn't account for the other podcasts I've already talked about in the past. Stuff You Should Know, How Did This Get Made, The X-Files Files and Thrilling Adventure Hour are still extremely worthwhile and fun.

The world of podcasts is expanding every day. It's actually overwhelming. Yet I support it by trying to listen to different one's on a regular basis. Harmontown and the Dead Author's Podcast are just a few more that I'm trying to work into my schedule.

Hopefully anyone not sucked into this world already is now intrigued to seek out a podcast that fits their interest. I guarantee there is a podcast out there devoted to your interests. And you know what, if there isn't already, you could make one yourself. That's the beauty of this "do it yourself" culture.

Until next time.

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