‘Serial’ among Podcasts Gaining Popularity

Photo courtesy of Bill Ingalls, Wikimedia Commons

While many radio programs are faltering under the pressures of visual mediums, podcasts are surprisingly on the upswing, with a variety of programs that listeners regularly tune in to. A podcast is essentially Internet radio; the convenience they give people are second to none, and it is for this reason that they have succeeded in recent years.

Most recently, the podcast “Serial” has exploded in popularity following its October debut. The podcast was number one on iTunes before it was even on air. "Serial," which is a spinoff of another series, “This American Life,” hosted by Sarah Koenig, delves into a real-life story that is explored over the multiple episodes of the series. While a narrative idea like this is as old as radio itself, it has appealed to a wide audience and has been praised critically.

For the scientifically inclined, cultural icon and astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson offers his program “StarTalk.” This comedic segment not only jests with famous co-hosts, but invites many heralded scientists and thinkers to talk on the show, as Tyson himself has become because of his podcast. This coming April the show will take a slot on National Geographic’s television lineup. In the same vein as “StarTalk,” is the multi-platformed “TED,” which in podcast version is known as “TED Radio Hour.” This series, like the filmed versions of “TED,” invites speakers from around the world to discuss ideas, inventions and cultural issues challenging the world today.

National Public Radio’s (NPR) “Fresh Air” is a podcast hosted by Terry Gross that takes listeners into the minds of thinkers, as well as bringing lesser-known stories to light through unique and interesting interview subjects.

Comedian Marc Maron hosts “WTF” which is regarded as one of the most savvy comedic podcasts on the airwaves right now. Maron asks the larger questions in life while debating and chatting with other comedians, as well as celebrities, who offer insights which are not seen anywhere else. “Off Camera with Sam Jones” is similar to Maron’s program in that Jones interviews various celebrities, but discusses their lives before fame and their pursuits outside of their careers. Although this segment is filmed, it has found new life as a podcast which has garnered the majority of its appeal.

“99% Invisible” is an independently produced project from the mind of Roman Mars, who takes unconventional thoughts that usually go by without notice and brings them to life. The show, which originally focused on design and architecture, such as how cul-de-sacs have impacted society, now focuses on other questions in the world that do not necessarily need to be answered, but Mars delights in.

It is undeniable that there are podcasts that cater to a wide range of interests. Podcasts are overtaking the attention of society and turning people from screens to the simplicity of listening to people chat for entertainment. The creativity in which they are being presented is evolving continually and the competition has revved up significantly.