Pure Expression Through Podcasting
A lot of people describe podcasts as the modern radio, but podcasts are so much more than that. The freedom of access, freedom of speech, and freedom of ideas afforded by podcasts is unmatched by any other medium with the potential reach and influence of a podcast. People are rapidly taking advantage of this medium, too, whether to express creative ideas or even to spread dissent. The ease and reach of podcasts have made them the new favorite for anyone trying to spread ideas, even if those ideas are rebellious in nature. Imagine a modern samizdat run by people who, instead of having to risk his or her life spreading messages, can spread his or her ideas further than ever from a safe spot. Truly, if someone wants to express themselves and reach as many people as possible while doing it, podcasting is one of the easiest and most effective way to do it on your own terms.
Having a voice
One of the greatest things about podcasting is how easy it is to start. Imagine someone trying to get on the radio 30 years ago. They’d need connections, possibly a college degree, and they’d need to compromise their vision to fit the vision of the network broadcasting their show. Now, imagine that same person trying to start a podcast. All it would take is a little bit of equipment , tools like Backtracks, and a will to get their voice out there. Making a great podcast is a bit more complicated than that, of course, but a person doesn’t need much more than a microphone and a computer to get started.
Without anyone to answer to, podcasters are much freer to express themselves than they would be on a traditional radio show or some other medium. Once a podcaster creates their content, people either choose to listen or they don’t. But unlike other mediums, a podcaster can continue to create content for their podcast as long as they’d like, even if no one is listening. If they are being true to themselves, however, the listeners will most likely follow. According to Joe Rogan, successful host of The Joe Rogan Experience, “when someone comes along and expresses him or herself as freely as they think, people flock to it. They enjoy it.”
Truth be told
Reaching an audience is about being truthful; truthful to yourself and truthful to your vision. Podcasts don’t have to be any one thing, so a podcaster’s vision could be serious, as is the case with “Serial” host Sarah Koenig, or sardonic, as is the case with “WTF” host Marc Maron. Regardless, however, truthfulness is key. Koenig, who investigates current and past court cases in detail on her podcast “Serial,” stresses that “as a reporter, you should be honest all the time.” When a person is delving into such serious material, it’s important to be truthful to be fair to the people who they are investigating. People respond to that sort of truth and honesty, which is part of why “Serial” has become so popular.
Even when a someone is looking to create comedy, though, truthfulness is important. Podcasts give people more freedom to explore that truth. According to Maron, who muses comically about the world with different guests each week on his podcast, “WTF,” “it’s easy to maintain your integrity when no one is offering to buy it out.” In podcasting, there’s no one looking over the artist’s shoulders, no one posting rules on the wall, and no one controlling the content. The podcaster is in complete creative control and can reach out to the audience on a more personal level.
A bullhorn for dissent
Podcasting is the purest form of free speech, so it’s only natural that podcasts have become a preferred medium for individuals with revolutionary ideas. People who would have only been able to communicate with audiences through self-published books, pirate radio shows, zines, etc. now have a much louder voice through podcasting. Self-published books and zines cost money to produce, distribute, and buy; pirate radio stations are illegal, do not reach very far, and are difficult for audiences to access. Podcasts, on the other hand, are cheap to produce, free to audiences, and can reach around the globe in seconds. As a result, podcasts are in many ways the voice of revolution and rebellion; the modern samizdat. People who in the past would have to whisper in secret, locked away in bunkers passing notes in the night, can now simply hook up a mic to a computer and project their voice around the globe to anyone who would like to listen.
Giving a louder, safer voice to dissenting ideas has had both a positive and negative effect on society. In places like America, dangerous rhetoric and foreign manipulation via vehicles like podcasts have created a resurgence of nationalism, racism, and xenophobia. In more restrictive countries, however, samizdat-style campaigns from human rights groups have led to great change, including revolutions in some places (like Egypt in 2011). It would be irresponsible to claim that podcasts are responsible for all of these changes, positive and negative, but it is undeniable that podcasting has made the communication of dissenting and potentially revolutionary ideas more accessible.
Podcasts are limited only by the podcasters desire to speak. A podcaster puts his or her voice out in the world, and audiences either respond to it or they don’t. Only if podcasters choose to try to monetize their content are they even beholden to advertisers or sponsors in any way. With just a voice, podcasters can create content that reaches millions of people, content that is censored only by the podcasters themselves. If someone is looking to express themselves and reach as many people as possible, podcasting is the way to go. So, to say that podcasting is the new radio is a bit limiting. Podcasting is to radio as poetry is to the novel. Podcasts don’t have to follow the rules, they don’t have to please advertisers; podcasts make a direct and uncensored connection between podcaster and audience. All it takes is a little bit of equipment, an idea or a story, and the desire to be heard.
If you want to break the rules, Backtracks will help you manage, measure, and grow podcast and audience.