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The (Sort of) Growth of the Podcast

Patrick Breltenbach
Creative Commons

Podcasts weren't born last year with the arrival of Serial, the wildly successful story of an unsolved 1999 murder that you could hear solely on podcast.

Serial likely provided the first encounter with podcasts for a lot of listeners, but podcasts first entered the consciousness and our iPods ten years ago last weekend, when early adopters saw in them the next great media revolution. The New Oxford American Dictionary even named "podcast" the word of the year in 2005. What wasn't to love?

It turns out a lot. Early podcasts were hard to access. Most non-tech people didn't know they existed, advertisers didn't get them, and their deep association to public radio made them look less like the next creative frontier, and more like an alternate distribution medium for popular public radio shows like This American Life and Radiolab

Thanks to Serial, a renaissance may be underway. Edison Research reported in February that 17 percent of Americans listened to at least one podcast in the prior month, up from 14 percent in 2012. 


  • Nicole Taylor - host of Hot Grease, a podcast on Heritage Media Network
  • Matthew Lieber - co-founder and President of Gimlet Media
  • Jenna Weiss-Berman - Director of Audio at BuzzFeed.She previously produced for public radio  
  • Nicholas Quah - founder of Hot Pod, a podcasting newsletter. He also works in audience development at Panoply

Listen to these great podcast recommendations from our guests:


Mark Oppenheimer guest-hosted today's show. Chion Wolf is our technical producer.

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Betsy started as an intern at WNPR in 2011 after earning a Master's Degree in American and Museum Studies from Trinity College. She served as the Senior Producer for 'The Colin McEnroe Show' for several years before stepping down in 2021 and returning to her previous career as a registered nurse. She still produces shows with Colin and the team when her schedule allows.

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