2014 was the biggest year for Podcasts to date. Of course, this came from massively popular shows: This American Life and Serial come to mind, but more importantly, it came from the incredibly long tail of smaller or even niche podcasts thousands of indie people create out there. Platforms like Soundcloud are to Podcasts what Tumblr is to blogs.
Podcasts are also incredibly popular because they are perfectly fit to the smartphone form factor. Not only the un-removable iTunes is a podcast player on every iOS device, but other popular applications like Marco’s Overcast are showing that there’s room in the shade of Apple. On Android too there are a lot of amazing apps like Player.fm or the oldtimers like Stitcher (or uPod).
The amazing feat about podcasts is that almost everyone knows about them and understands what they are… even though almost no-one knows that a podcasts is an RSS feed with media elements (the soundtrack mostly!).
For example, here’s the latest entry of our beloved Radiolab’s podcasts:
<item> <title>Radiolab Presents: Invisibilia</title> <link>http://feeds.wnyc.org/~r/radiolab/~3/CzhLHp0z_p4/</link> <description>The lines between boy and girl can be blurry but NPR's Invisibilia introduces us to someone with a very new idea of how blurry they can be.<img src="//feeds.feedburner.com/~r/radiolab/~4/CzhLHp0z_p4" height="1" width="1" alt=""/></description> <pubDate>Fri, 09 Jan 2015 17:26:17 -0500</pubDate> <guid isPermaLink="false">http://www.radiolab.org/story/invisibilia/</guid> <category>gender</category> <category>invisibilia</category> <category>psychology</category> <category>science</category> <category>storytelling</category> <media:content url="http://feeds.wnyc.org/~r/radiolab/~5/q91CLJH0xHc/radiolab_podcast15invisibilia.mp3" type="audio/mpeg" /> <media:description type="plain">Radiolab Presents: Invisibilia</media:description> <media:thumbnail url="https://media2.wnyc.org/i/130/130/c/80/1/invisibiliasquare.jpg" width="130" height="130" /> <itunes:duration>31:43</itunes:duration> <itunes:summary>Former Radiolab producer Lulu Miller and NPR reporter Alix Spiegel come to the studio to give us a sneak peak of their new show, Invisibilia. Invisibilia has an upcoming episode about categories, so Alix tells us a story about two very basic categories: boy and girl. We've heard lots of stories about the sometimes blurry boundaries between boy and girl, but Alix introduces us to someone who experiences those categories in a way that was totally, completely new to us.</itunes:summary> <description>The&nbsp;lines between&nbsp;boy and girl can be blurry but NPR's Invisibilia&nbsp;introduces us to someone&nbsp;with a&nbsp;very&nbsp;new idea of how blurry they can be.</description> <dc:creator xmlns:dc="http://purl.org/dc/elements/1.1/">WNYC, New York Public Radio</dc:creator> <itunes:explicit>no</itunes:explicit> <itunes:subtitle>The lines between boy and girl can be blurry but NPR's Invisibilia introduces us to someone with a very new idea of how blurry they can be.</itunes:subtitle> <itunes:author>WNYC, New York Public Radio</itunes:author> <itunes:keywords>Science,Technology,Philosophy,Education,radiolab,jad,abumrad,krulwich,Radio,Lab</itunes:keywords> <feedburner:origLink>http://www.radiolab.org/story/invisibilia/</feedburner:origLink> <enclosure url="http://feeds.wnyc.org/~r/radiolab/~5/q91CLJH0xHc/radiolab_podcast15invisibilia.mp3" length="0" type="audio/mpeg" /> <feedburner:origEnclosureLink>http://www.podtrac.com/pts/redirect.mp3/audio.wnyc.org/radiolab_podcast/radiolab_podcast15invisibilia.mp3</feedburner:origEnclosureLink> </item>
In a way, the podcast ecosystem succeeded where the rest of the RSS ecosystem failed: it was able to break through the glass ceiling of tech-aware crowd. My take is that this is almost only due to the fact that the word “Podcast” exists.
However, next time you hear someone tell you “RSS is dead”, just ask them about the latest podcast episode they listened to :)