The future of radio might be in your pocket.

The future of radio might be in your pocket.

 

As a kid I would spend hours in my room playing what I called “radio Station”. I would spin tunes and talk up the tracks like a DJ would on the radio. From that point on it was my dream to be on the radio. A few years later when I was flipping through the channels I came across a radio show that happened to be on TV. On the screen was this wild haired guy interviewing celebrities and occasionally having woman take off their clothes in the studio. I found out it was the E! channel version of the countries most popular and maybe most controversial, radio host, Howard Stern.  I was instantly hooked. A few months after that I overheard a kid in my 8th grade art class mention he was listening to Howard before he came into school that day. My ears instantly perked up and as soon as I got home I looked in the TV Topics, which had the radio schedules in the back, and found out that Howard Stern’s show was being broadcast on a local AM station. From that point on I stopped listening to the local guys that were on the radio, who now seemed like amateurs after hearing Howard and his crew at work on a daily basis. Since that time I probably have listened almost every day, which is a lot of hours spent listening to one show. I was heavily influenced comedically, by Howard and my dream was to get on the radio and do an honest and funny show like he was doing. As it turns out time was not on my side and the landscape of radio had changed. Radio stations no longer wanted an irreverent host who had opinions or maybe crossed the line with their content or comedy. I found out after going to college for radio that there would be very little room for me in the industry unless I wanted to host a conservative or sports talk show. I don’t consider myself conservative or liberal so that left sports, but I could not see myself talking about sports on a daily basis. As the years went by I tried my hand at stand up comedy with some success as far as audience response goes, but my heart was not truly in it as a performer. I didn’t like the format that stand up comedy presented. I had to for the most part have a set act ready and the audience expected a certain amount of jokes in a given set. I, being influenced by Howard Stern and later Adam Carolla, was more interested in an honest improvised delivery that short stand up sets would not allow. At the tail end of 2007 I had the idea of starting an internet radio show with my friend Mark. We had been doing stand up together off and on since 2001 and after what was ten years of friendship at the time we were sure our chemistry would give as an advantage as far as hosting a show went. Unfortunately, I wasn’t so sure how to pull this off and at the time it would be far more difficult and costly to have shows available online. The furthest I got was producing a promo for a show that would not see the light for about another three years. In July of 2010 we started our Hotshot Whiz Kids Podcast and have been putting out shows nonstop ever since.

In 2009 after Adam Carolla was fired from his terrestrial radio job, where he was a replacement for Howard Stern after he left for Sirius, he decided to start a Podcast. He had the means and now that he was unemployed, the time to start his own network. Podcasts were very new at the time and few big name celebrities had their own daily show. Within a few years his show would be one of the most downloaded shows in the world. Along with the likes of Marc Maron, Kevin Smith, Joe Rogan and others the medium exploded.  There are now thousands of Podcasts available on itunes and almost every comedian has their own or is a regular on one podcast or another. Meanwhile on terrestrial radio the shows are as boring and bland as ever. Vanilla hosts talking about the daily gossip and giving a traffic and weather report seemingly every other minute rule the airwaves. People mostly listen out of habit and not because what they are hearing is even remotely entertaining. Playing a recording of Letterman’s Top Ten list from the night before is about as far as their “comedy bits” go. If you scan your dial it may seem like it is hopeless but there is an underground network of talented people putting out content that rivals or is ten times better than anything heard on the radio. Hosts like us are not under the scrutiny of the FCC or meddling  program directors. Instead Podcasters have the freedom to say whatever they want and are not slaves to a clock or advertisers. Instead shows can pick and choose their sponsors who better fit their content and are directed to the show’s specific audience. As technology finally begins to catch up it is easier than ever for people to listen to podcasts. Millions of people can stream any podcast they want right from their smart phones, which changes the medium completely. In years past someone had to be strapped to their computer to hear internet broadcasts but now it is easier than ever to have new episodes of shows automatically downloaded right to their phones. In the next few years even entry level cars will come equipped with Wi-Fi which will enable shows and other internet content to be streamed right to our car radios. This development could spell the end of radio as we know it. Even with some of the biggest names in comedy offering shows, podcasts are still a niche medium with a very small audience compared to radio and television, but as the technology grows and younger people start to pick up on the medium we could see an even bigger explosion of Podcasts and a change in the public perception of the medium.
Right now it is still very difficult for new podcasts to get noticed. With hundreds of thousands of shows available and the ease in which the shows can be produced there are admittedly a lot of bad shows out there. As with any medium that is so easily accessible to the masses you will have your fair share of people who are a bit overconfident in their broadcast abilities. The market will sort itself out and I believe the most talented of us can and will be able to make a living as a Podcaster. Within five years you will start to see the biggest radio personalities leave the traditional airways for the unlimited freedom that the internet provides. Our children will be living in a far different technological world where television, radio and the internet will all merge into one medium that will be available wherever we go. The audiences will begin to fragment not unlike we are starting to see with cable television and each program or show will have it’s own audience. They will not have the huge audiences that broadcasters enjoyed in the 20th century, like Howard Stern who had an estimated 20 million listeners at the peak of his career, but instead we will all have our own smaller, but loyal audience which will allow for the best shows to prosper and we will see it become possible for Podcasting to become a career for the very best of us.

 

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