By Kaye Foley
With its growing audiences and unique star-making ability, the power of the podcast is undeniable. Podcasts — downloadable digital audio or video files — first appeared in 2003, but over the past few years the medium has experienced a boost in both popularity and options. Now it seems that everyone has a podcast — Shaq, Lena Dunham, even Snoop Dogg.
Yahoo Global News Anchor Katie Couric sat down with some of the top names in podcasting — Marc Maron (“WTF with Marc Maron”), Alec Baldwin (“Here’s the Thing With Alec Baldwin”), Anna Faris (“Anna Faris Is Unqualified”), and Jon Favreau (“Keepin’ It 1600” and “Pod Save America”) — to hear what drew them to turn on the mic and why they think people are tuning in.
“I think that the nature of this podcast, and also the nature of the possibilities of podcasting, is that there is an intimacy to it,” said comedian Marc Maron. “We’re not beholden to any real broadcasting rules. And this show is, you know, notoriously and famously a candid show.”
“I’ve done cable interviews — it’s Republican-Democrat, five-minute hit, someone spouts their talking points… You don’t really get much out of that,” said Jon Favreau, who was a speechwriter for former President Barack Obama. “With podcasts, you have the time and the space to let it breathe.”
According to Edison Research, an estimated 57 million Americans, or 21 percent of the U.S. population, listened to a podcast in the past month. While this is still a small audience compared with AM/FM radio listeners, the number is up from 12 percent in 2013.
Smartphones, along with more podcast apps, have made podcasts easier to consume on the go. Some experts credit the 2014 smash hit “Serial” with bringing podcasts to the mainstream. It’s also become pretty simple to start a podcast, especially since high-end equipment is relatively inexpensive.
“There are new technologies and devices coming out all the time that make podcasting and video and audio online easier,” said Jeff Jarvis, BuzzMachine blogger and professor at the City University of New York’s Graduate School of Journalism. “The advantage of podcasting is that anyone can do it, and now almost everyone is doing it.”
These days, listeners have a wide variety of options to choose from, including news, comedy, sports, murder mysteries, even scripted fiction. In 2005, iTunes had a few hundred active podcasts. By last year, it had over 350,000, with content in more than 100 languages.
With the confidence of investors behind the industry, it seems the power of the podcast will only continue to grow.
“I feel like I’m at the beginning of podcasts,” said Anna Faris, who stars in the CBS sitcom “Mom.” “People have been doing it for quite a long time. But I think it’s still in this massive growth period.”