Podcasting is the Internet’s Latest Dumpsterfire

How Podcasting transitioned from sharing to shilling

I’m not sure who to blame. I’m angry and annoyed and want a scapegoat. Podcasting has become, like so many other internet-based mediums, an ever-growing garbage pile. Blogging underwent the same transformation. What was once a unique and fun way for people with niche-interests to explore and share their findings has turned into “quick and easy” content created by those simply looking to gain some fame off of the latest craze.

Credit: nhpr.org

I want to blame Marc Maron. When he began his podcast WTF his life and career were in the midst of a death spiral. A messy divorce, losing his radio program and seeing his stand-up audience dwindle had left Marc facing a lonely, unemployed lifestyle. Sneaking into his old radio company’s studio, Maron recorded what would become the first episode of his podcast, propelling the comedian once again to worldwide fame and the chance to make his own television show.

Now every comedian feels as though they have to have a podcast. Andie Bolt from the podcast Bunker Buddies even said as much in a recent episode, stating that every comedian puts out these podcasts in the hopes of getting noticed, most of which are worthless. Rather than using podcasting as a way to express unique thoughts and opinions, this wave of comedians are only using it to boost their own brand. I want to blame Marc Maron, but it’s not his fault. He did something amazing. He showed the possibilities inherent in personal podcasting. It’s not his fault the rest of the world pulled those possibilities back into the muck.
Credit: herald-dispatch.com

I want to blame My Brother, My Brother and Me. “An advice show for the modern era,” the McElroy brothers answer Yahoo Answers questions as though they were queries in an advice column, giving excellent advice to absurd askers. They showed that it’s possible to build an audience so loyal that you can make a living as a “podcaster.” They weren’t the first people to do this by any means, but the insane dedication their fans bring to anything that the brothers produce has inspired wave after wave of similar attempts. Even the author John Green and his brother Hank, with their already famous Nerdfighter clan, copied the formula seeing the ease inherent in the concept. I want to blame MBMBAM but the brothers are too lovable.

I want to blame Mugglecast, a Harry Potter fancast that launched in 2005, the first year iTunes added podcasts to their software. They were true fans, creating a podcast not for the money or even fame (they had a listenership of 50,000 which was enormous in the early days), but instead because they loved the community of Potterheads that podcasting brought them into contact with. There are pictures of the Mugglecast crew with the various Wizard Rock bands like Harry and the Potters, The Whomping Willows, The Remus Lupins, etc. They were superstars of the Wizard world because their passion and love for J.K. Rowling’s creations shone through. And others saw this, saw the fame and the featured booths at Potter conventions and thought that they could get the same result without any of the passion.
The number of terrible fancasts that gain popularity is an insult to podcasts like this that started before “Audible” ad breaks had become routine. I want to blame Mugglecast, but I sat next to Ben Schoen, one of the podcast’s founders, on a bus ride when I was in middle school so I’ll let this one slide.
I’m going to blame us, the listeners. I’m not sure how or why but we started to accept and subscribe to low-quality podcasts. It’s like a sit-com without the laugh track. Is it actually funny or did we just laugh along because we thought we were supposed to? Just because a comedian has a podcast doesn’t mean it will be funny. Just because ESPN has a podcast doesn’t mean there aren’t better and more educated Sports podcasts further down the charts. Just because you love a book doesn’t mean a fancast about it deserves your time and attention. Many of the popular podcasts are just there to bring in money for their company. Scroll down a bit, find someone who cares about what they’re talking about. I’m not against podcasters making money; I contribute to the podcasts I’m subscribed to with monthly donations. I just prefer podcasts that started out of love for a subject, not out of a desire to build a career.

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